Shopping for wine

As more and more people are developing a taste for good wine, the number of serious wine stores is also growing around the country.

Wine shop 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Wine shop 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Wine retailing used to be in kiosks. The wines would be displayed on the top shelf, untouched for years, covered in dust and, more often than not, in direct sunlight. No wonder wines were not so well regarded in those days.
The first serious wine shops in Israel were Avi Ben in Jerusalem and Super Drink in Ramat Hasharon. They were the first retailers to stock a full range of wines and to employ staff that knew how to give expert advice and tastings.
The real revolution came in 1993 with the opening of Derech Hayayin (the Wine Route). This was an international style wine shop on Hahashmonaim Street in Tel Aviv. It raised wine retailing to an international standard. All the wines were laid down horizontally as should always be the case. The storage temperatures were correct, and the range of wines was unequaled.
It was opened by the Shaked family, who were the distribution agents for the Golan Heights Winery.
The establishment of this store coincided with two explosions on the domestic wine scene. Firstly, the number of Israeli wines increased dramatically as more and more new wineries were founded, and as a result of the wine boom each winery decided to produce more and more wines. Secondly, import restrictions were relaxed, and the shop suddenly had to find space for the new wines from all the major wine-producing countries.
On at least two occasions, Derech Hayayin has been redesigned and expanded to create more space. In its latest incarnation, what was previously a wine shop expanded to include spirits and specialist beers as well. A customer seeking advice will find expert staff who can offer advice on imported or Israeli wines.
Wine connoisseurs should not miss a visit to the cellar, where many of the world’s most prestigious wines lie waiting for the eagle-eyed collector.
Apart from main Derech Hayayin in Tel Aviv, there are other branches in Ra’anana, Ramat Hasharon, Savyon, Modi’in, Ness Ziona and the new “G” complex in Tel Aviv.
A second major wine store group is Wine & More, previously known as Hinnawi. It has branches in Jaffa, Tel Aviv, Herzliya Pituah, Petah Tikva, Rishon Lezion, Hod Hasharon, Yehud and the Airport City complex. Its main shop window is the store on Carlebach Street in Tel Aviv. It also has a large stock of Israeli and imported wines. There you will always receive the warmest welcome. It is a very large shop. In one corner, there is a cheese counter with one of the best selections of imported and Israeli cheeses available in Tel Aviv. In another corner is a branch of the famous Hinnawi butcher. So if you want to buy an excellent steak to go with your wine purchase, you can do so.
The main branches of Derech Hayayin and Wine & More in Tel Aviv are within five minutes’ walk of each other. Many of the wines they list do not overlap, as they import separately and the Israeli wines they represent are not the same. Visit both and you will receive a fairly comprehensive idea of what is available in Israel today, and you will be able to compare prices.
Avi Ben was the pioneer in Jerusalem. He created a quality retail system with an excellent range of the best Israeli wines. He not only trained staff to sell to Israelis but also specialized in providing service in English to tourists. Of the shops mentioned, this is the one most geared to the tourist and the kosher customer.
Avi Ben now has branches in Nahalat Shiva and Mahaneh Yehuda in Jerusalem and also in Mevaseret Zion. Quite apart from his success over the years, Avi Ben is also part organizer of the Jerusalem Wine Festival held at the Israel Museum every August.
The most original and exciting newcomer to wine retailing is Bin 281, on Tel Aviv’s Dizengoff Street. This complex is retailing taken to the 21st century. It has the feel of a slightly crowded New York liquor store. On the ground floor is the shop, which has a good selection of imported and Israeli wines.
The wines are all well kept, and the service is very professional.
There is an attractive seating area outside, where one can uncork the latest vintage, sit with friends and watch the world go by.
On the second floor there is a wine bar with a great atmosphere.
You can buy wines from the shop at the standard retail price and enjoy them in the bar with a small corkage charge. Alternatively, there is an attractive menu of wines by the glass. The bar food is simple but totally appropriate.
A basic choice is available, made from high-quality ingredients.
(It is not kosher.) On the third floor is a beautiful room with a large tasting table and a well-equipped mini-kitchen. It is ideal for private tastings and catered events. Bin 281 is interesting, different, and I thoroughly recommend a visit.
Adam Montefiore works for Carmel Winery and regularly writes about wine in Israeli and international publications.
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The wine shops mentioned:
Derech Hayayin
90 Hahashmonaim Street
Tel Aviv
Tel: (03) 561-9263
Super Drink
45 Usishkin Street
Ramat Hasharon
Tel: (03) 5497707
Wine & More
25 Carlebach Street
Tel Aviv
Tel: (03) 624-0458
Avi Ben
22 Rivlin Street
Tel: (02) 622-3031
Bin 281
281 Dizengoff Street
Tel Aviv
Tel: (03) 544-4281