Israel and Golan Flam in their vineyard 521.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Israel Flam, one of the principal father figures of the Israeli wine industry,
has been in the wine business for more than 42 years. During this time he has
witnessed enormous changes in the wine scene in Israel. He was the winemaker of
Carmel, the country’s largest winery. Now he is part of a small family winery
run by his sons and is seeing the wine industry from a totally different
Born in Russia, Flam and his family made aliya when he was
two years old after World War II. After serving in the paratroopers in the IDF,
he joined the the Israel Wine Institute. When he decided on winemaking as a
career, he traveled to South Africa to study at Stellenbosch Farmers Winery and
completed his studies at the Oenology and Viticulture Department of the
University of California at Davis. It is now expected for a serious winemaker to
study oenology abroad. Flam was the first young winemaker to do so.
returned to become part of the winemaking team at Carmel, being at the winery
when it produced the first Israeli varietal wines. From 1974 to 1995 he was in
charge of wine production at Rishon Lezion Cellars, then the country’s largest
winery. He was involved in the production of the famed Carmel Special Reserve
wines of the 1970s.
In 1995 he took over from Freddie Stiller and became
chief winemaker and technical director of Carmel Mizrahi.
This meant he
was responsible for harvesting up to 30,000 tons of grapes and managing the
winemaking of Israel’s two largest wineries of Rishon Lezion and Zichron
Ya’acov. If that were not enough, he was also responsible for the production of
items as diverse as wine, grape juice, brandy, vodka, arak, liqueurs, wine
vinegar and olive oil.
Many of the newcomers managing boutique and small
wineries have little idea of the logistics involved in managing operations on
such a gigantic scale.
In his later years at Carmel, Flam became part of
the rejuvenation of this traditional company. He managed and developed a team of
younger winemakers and was the liaison with Peter Stern, the famous Californian
winemaking consultant, who starting advising Carmel in 2002.
the building of Carmel’s new boutique wineries to prepare the company for the
future. These were Yatir Winery at Tel Arad in the Negev, built in 2000; Kayoumi
Winery at Ramat Dalton in the Upper Galilee, built in 2004; and the facility for
upperlevel wines built at Zichron in 2003.
Flam has encyclopedic
knowledge about the wine industry. It was therefore appropriate that he was
elected chairman of the Forum of Israeli Winemakers that existed at the
After giving the main part of his working life to one company, he
is now part of the family business, helping where he can. Flam Winery, founded
in 1998, has been a great success. The small winery is owned and managed by his
sons, winemaker Golan, Gilad and daughter Gefen.
Golan is the winemaker,
having studied in Italy and worked in Australia.
Gilad, a lawyer, is
responsible for the business and marketing. Their mother, Carmi, is the CFO,
keeping the finances under strict control. It is truly a family
Flam Winery is considered one of the best wineries in Israel, but
this is only one part of the family business. They are also wine importers, with
a company called Hagefen that specializes in the wines of Italy. The two
businesses are run side by side and can be considered complementary. Their success in producing world-class wines, combined with
their successful importing business, must be a source of great pride for Flam.
He is there, part of the team, but never interfering. He is quick to give all
the credit to his children, who have built the two businesses on their
initiative and skills alone.
The Flams show great attention to detail in
every aspect of their winery, be it in the area of winemaking, business or
marketing. They have the same approach for the presentation of the wines,
written material and the design of their beautiful winery in the foothills of
the Jerusalem hills. The whole operation is marked by intelligence, a pursuit of
quality and professionalism.
Israel Flam is a winemaker who has a breadth
of experience that is rare in the wine world. On one hand, he has produced 30
million bottles a year in the largest winery in the Middle East. On the other,
he has played a part in one of Israel’s finest boutique wineries. It was the
largest in Israel producing non-kosher wines; but from the 2010 harvest, Flam
wines will be kosher. Judging by Castel, its neighbors, whose wines became
kosher in 2003 with no discernible decline in quality, Flam wines will continue
to be among the finest in Israel.
Today Israel Flam has earned the right
to spend time with his grandchildren.
He is the father figure of the Flam
However, he is also the elder statesman of the Israeli wine
industry, possibly the only person to have witnessed all the changes that have
taken place during the most exciting period in the history of Israeli wine.Adam Montefiore works for Carmel Winery and regularly writes about wine for
Israeli and international email@example.com