Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Wines of Israel tasting, 6.5.10

On election day, noch a rare tasting of wines from 16 Israeli producers, large and small at the Landmark Hotel, London. There we renewed our acquaintance with luminaries such as Yair Margalit of the Margalit Winery whom we had met in 1996 and Sharona Belogorovsky of the Vitkin winery who had shown us around and given us a wonderful tasting in 2008. We also met Shmuel Boxer who heads Binyamina and some of the Tishbe clan as well as others. All these personalities are hugely knowledgeable, sophisticated and charming.

Despite a good turnout, it was not clear if much in the way of commercial progress would arise from this serious and well organised initiative. As we found on our visits to Israel, the price of Israeli wine is high due to the exchange rate and the lack of economies of scale.

Nonetheless, producers would like their wines to be represented abroad if only to increase awareness of what they are achieving. The wines themselves vary from mediocre to very good indeed but none is any better than 1st class Californian which they resemble perhaps only too closely. We very much hope deserving producers find agents and distributors here and elsewhere. We should have the choice of drinking Israeli wine for diversity’s sake.

We didn’t have the time to taste all the wines but the following made as good an impression as ever, showing consistency as well as excellence;

Binyamina Dovev Argaman

Margalit Cabernet Franc

Vitkin Carignan,

Petite Sirah

and Riesling

Doron Belogorovsky told us although one of the smallest wineries in Israel Vitkin use the greatest number of grape varieties (over 20). We asked him if any Rothschild plantings from the 19th century were still in existence but he said that there were hardly any vines over 20 years old in Israel because as soon as vines begin to yield less they are grubbed up and the vineyard replanted anew such is the pressure on agricultural land.

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