With more than 150 small and large wineries using state-of-the-art equipment, the Israeli wine industry has already gained a reputation with consumers from all around the globe.
An increasing number of quality vineyards are planted each year at different locations from the Golan Heights to the Negev desert, yielding fine grapes for making better wines.
Rosh Hashana is the time of the year when wine sales are at their peak, with 20 percent of the annual sales, and most wineries choose the holiday as the time to launch new products. Below is a list of recently released white wines giving good value for the money, which might upgrade the holiday dinner into a feast. (All wines are kosher unless indicated.)
Chateau Golan, Sauvignon Blanc 2004: A limited edition of 2,900 bottles was crafted by winemaker Uri Hetz to this series of 100% Sauvignon Blanc grapes harvested in two different vineyards on the Golan Heights.
With delicate aromas of peach, pear and wild flowers, this is an excellent choice for fans of Sauvignon Blanc. It is light and refreshing, and has a soft finish. NIS 120 (not kosher).
Saslove, Blanc de Noirs 2004: Crafting such unique wine requires not only exceptional grapes but also a talented winemaker. In his family-operated boutique winery, Barry Saslove makes this white wine from Cabernet Sauvignon red grapes. The fruit underwent a gentle press to extract the least amount of color out of the skins, and then fermented for three months at low temperature. The resulting wine offers lovely flavors of exotic fruits, apple, lemon and layers of cherries and strawberries. Only 560 bottles of this wine were produced, and can be purchased in the top wine stores or at the winery. NIS 140 (not kosher).
Carmel, Chardonnay, 2004, regional series: This is one of the two premium wines launched by Carmel this year. With grapes from vineyards in the Upper Galilee, this medium-bodied wine shows fresh aromas and flavors of melon and green apples, with just a hint of vanilla. NIS 57.
Carmel, Gewurztraminer, 2004, late harvest: A single vineyard dessert wine bursting with floral and citrus blossom scents. The grapes are from Sha'al vineyard in the Golan Heights, and bring up rich and complex flavors of litchi and apricots, balanced by fresh acidity. NIS 55.
Dalton, Sauvignon Blanc Fume, 2004: Starts off with litchi, grapefruit and grassy flavors, which gradually build into impressive smoky notes from the barrel. On the palate, this wine is round and balanced with a pinch of fresh fruits. NIS 34.
Binyamina, Chardonnay, 2004, Special Reserve: A flavorful wine notable for its crispness and acidity, which makes it drink bright in the mouth. Flavors range from citrus fruits through apples to melon, while oak adds a nice layer of vanilla. The smooth finish continues for a long time. NIS 50.
Binyamina, Viognier, 2004, Special Reserve: Native to the slopes of France's Rhone Valley, the Viognier (pronounced vee-OH-nyay) has been planted much more extensively around the world since the early 1990s. In search of expanding its variety, the Binyamina winery planted a vineyard of this white grape a few years ago at Moshav Alma in the upper Galilee. This 100% Viognier shows its typical apricot and grapefruit flavors, along with spicy notes and fruity aromas. The mouth feel is luscious with moderate acidity, and a long fruity finish. NIS 69.
Golan Heights Winery, Golan Muscato, 2005: The first Israeli wine of the 2005 harvest. A young and fresh dessert wine made of Muscat Caneli grapes grown in Geshor vineyard on the southern Golan Heights. Filled with tropical fruits and citrus aromas, this wine is very aromatic, and low in alcohol. Serve it cool with a rich cheesecake or fruit salad and expect a pleasant surprise. NIS 32.