Wine Talk: The critic & the sommelier

Long overdue, a new and electronic version of ‘The New Israeli Wine Guide’ was recently published.

Grapes (photo credit: Courtesy)
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Israel deserves a good wine guide, like any other wine producing country. Third party reviews that have credibility not only help consumers make difficult choices about what to buy but also provide a useful measuring stick for wineries. There are so many bloggers writing about wine these days, that it is sometimes hard to know, whom to take seriously.
A previous wine guide was published by the legendary wine critic, Daniel Rogov, z’l. He was originally the wine and food correspondent for the Jerusalem Post, and published his ‘Rogov’s Guide to Israeli Wines’ every year for eight consecutive years from the 2005 edition. His guide has been an outstanding advocate for brand Israel, being sold on the shelves of many of the world’s most famous book stores. However, since Rogov passed away, Israel has been without a credible wine guide.
There are wine books about Israel. ‘The Wine Route of Israel’ and ‘Wines of Israel’ (both published by Cordinata) are reasonably up to date, but more about wineries than individual wines. ‘The Ultimate Rogov’s Guide To Israeli Wines’ by Daniel Rogov (Toby Press) and ‘The Bible of Israeli Wine’ by Michael Ben Joseph (Modan) are still available and though much of the text is outdated, some of it is still relevant and of interest. However a guide on current wines is missing…… that is, until now.
The mantle has been taken up by Yair Gath and Gal Zohar, respectively, a wine critic and sommelier. In what is a sign of the times, they have published an electronic version of what they call ‘The New Israeli Wine Guide.’ The result may be regarded as a success, partly because of the quality and respectability of the two people involved.
Yair Gath, (his surname, pronounced Gat, is appropriately the Hebrew for ‘wine press’), is the wine correspondent for Israel Hayom, which has arguably the most regular wine column amongst the leading daily newspapers in Hebrew. He is fun loving, experienced and knowledgeable and skilled enough to manage to write at his reader’s level, without attempting to bamboozle with exaggerated wine talk.
Gal Zohar is an international sommelier, wine educator and wine consultant, with a fast growing reputation. He has experience in both London and Israel. He is extremely knowledgeable, very innovative and modest to a fault. He was recently a wine judge in the International Wine Challenge, representing Israel in the world’s largest wine tasting competition. He is the consultant behind the wine initiatives of the iconic Israeli chef, Yotam Ottolenghi, in London.
Obviously both have the ability to taste, comment and write a guide, but what sets them apart is that they both have the all important credibility that makes their views worthwhile. They have formed an ideal partnership for this project. They use their expertise modestly. The scores are not too prominent, the tasting notes are not too flowery and each wine has a short pithy descriptive heading which is light but also helpfully revealing. In order to compile the guide, Gath & Zohar tasted more than 300 wines from the leading 100 wineries, and arrived at what they consider the ‘Best Seventy Wines in Israel’. The tastings were conducted blind, under the strictest and most professional conditions possible.
Many people used to comment on the high scores given by Daniel Rogov. In this new guide the scores are noticeably more conservative. However it is of course meaningless to compare scores between different critics. Rogov’s scores were only relevant when compared with other Rogov scores. Likewise with Gath & Zohar, the scores of a particular wine are only meaningful when compared to scores they themselves give to other wines.
To wet your appetite, the top twenty Israeli wines in the guide, (or rather, the leading eleven reds and nine whites), are listed below.
Ninety points (90)
Noble 2008, Flam (NK)
Garage de Papa 2010, Lewinsohn (NK)
Shiraz Kayoumi 2008, Carmel Winery 
Eighty Nine + points (89+)
Yatir Forest 2009, Yatir
Eighty nine (89)
Ayalon Valley 2008, Clos de Gat
A 2010, Adir 
Misty Hills 2010, Tzora
Cabernet Franc 2010 Margalit  (NK)
Montefiore Red 2012, Montefiore
Petite Sirah 2009, Vitkin (NK)
Syrah Yarden Avital Slope 2008, Golan Heights Winery
Ninety points (90)
Shoresh 2012, Tzora 
Eighty nine points (89)
Neve Ilan 2011, Tzora
Eighty eight points (88)
Sauvignon Blanc Reserve 2012, Dalton
Sauvignon Blanc 2012, Pelter (NK)
Garage de Papa Blanc 2012, Lewinsohn (NK)
Chardonnay 2010, Clos de Gat 
Semillon Elkosh 2012, Dalton 
Semillon-Sauvignon 2010, Midbar (NK)
Eighty seven to eighty eight points (87-88)
Flam Blanc 2012, Flam 
NK = Not kosher
This joint venture between the wine critic and sommelier is professional, very worthwhile and warmly recommended. If you wish to receive the complete New Israeli Wine Guide, contact [email protected] and request a copy. It is available in both English and Hebrew, so if you prefer an English version, remember to ask for it. Alternatively visit the Facebook page:
Adam Montefiore works for Carmel Winery & regularly writes about wine both in Israeli and international publications. [email protected]