A maturing wine culture

As the sun sets, wine lovers sit at low tables and compare their drinks to the strains of light jazz from a live band.

Wine (photo credit: Courtesy)
(photo credit: Courtesy)
I’m standing, sipping a glass of red, in front of the Tabor Winery booth at the 10th annual Israel Wine Tasting Festival at the Israel Museum. Located in the museum’s outdoor sculpture garden, patrons flock from pavilion to pavilion, dodging between art installations and sampling the produce of the country’s many wineries. As the sun sets, wine lovers sit at low tables and compare their drinks to the strains of light jazz from a live band.
Tabor’s pavilion is massive, easily one of the largest at the festival. Standing on the wooden deck before the bar stands David Montefiore, the winery’s wine culture developer. He says that the wine festival, established in 2003 during the height of the second intifada, is a very good opportunity to expose his wines to quite a few people. Israel has a “maturing wine culture,” he says; a far cry from earlier generations who drank sweet red kiddush wine and little else.
“Then there was the boutique revolution about 20 years ago where everyone wanted over-sophisticated wines, which is fine, but everyone wanted very rich tannins, very condensed fruit, lots of oak, which are wines that are meant to go, to last five, 10, 15 years and are not always accessible [to many people’s tastes] when they’re sold,” he says.
“I think Israeli wine culture now is developing a palate for unoaked reds, unoaked whites, fresh whites, easy drinking wines that are just fun and palatable when they’re young as well as quality wines that will go the distance.”
A short distance away from the massive Tabor pavilion is a small table set up by the Ruth Vineyard, located in Kfar Ruth near Modi’in. A family-run business, the winery was established in 2001 and produces some 20,000 bottles of red a year.
“We get so many good vibes [at the festival] and for us it’s an opportunity to feel [out] our audiences,” says the winery’s Maayan Miara. Israeli wine culture is “amazing,” she adds. “It’s been elevating the last few years and it’s great. I think we have like 400 wineries [in Israel] at the moment. It’s wonderful, isn’t it?” Her boutique winery makes a very interesting desert wine, she says, that is made of a mix of a light cabernet to which brandy is added, giving it an alcohol content of around 17 percent. “You would feel the alcohol in two hours,” she says.
One of the more interesting additions this year was not a wine at all but rather the Sideffect hard cider.
Sweet and refreshing, it offers a hard cider that satisfied even in the small doses you get at a tasting. Gauche of me to say, but I think the star of the show for me was the cider. But then, I may be a philistine.