Israel, Various Wineries

Apr 1, 2011
2011 / April 2011
Barely a decade ago, I would not have considered writing about Israeli wines. The effort was there; the quality was not. Despite the region’s wine history that dates back to biblical times, it was only in the 1980s and 1990s that Israel’s wine truly reinvented itself. With a surge in technological advancement and more young Israeli winemakers training abroad, many of the country’s nearly 300 wineries have now leaped across millennia and into the 21st century. And while their names may not be familiar, most of the grapes that make their wines are.

Take Dalton Winery’s Estate Shiraz 2009 ($18). Blended with small amounts of Petite Sirah, Merlot and Mourvèdre, it is a deep-shaded and intense wine with peppery tones in the aroma followed by a round body. The winery’s Fumé Blanc 2009 ($15) echoes Sauvignon Blanc’s characteristic grassy aroma and lively taste.

Galil Mountain’s Yiron 2006 ($22) is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah that is fruit-driven, balanced and smooth.

Domaine du Castel Grand Vin 2007 ($75) lives up to its name. It is a Cabernet Sauvignon-based wine that is elegant, multiflavored and well integrated. It is one of the finest Bordeaux blends I tasted among Israeli wines.

Yarden Odem Chardonnay 2008 ($18) exemplifies Israel’s strides. Whereas a few years ago it was over-oaked and out of joint, today it is a nicely balanced, flavorful wine. I was also impressed with Yarden Syrah 2005 ($25). It is full-bodied and polished with a lengthy finish.

Flam Winery’s Superiore Syrah 2008 ($51) is also made entirely of the single varietal. It is finely structured, and with its peppery nose and satiny texture, it evokes the essence of Syrah.

Israel has one grape that is its own. The red Argaman was created there by crossing Carignan and Souzão. Barkan, which calls itself Artisans of Red Wine (never mind that it also produces a commendable Reserve Chardonnay for $18), uses it as half its Barkan Classic Merlot-Argaman. The 2009 ($12) blend is earthy and forward and offers a distinctly new and different taste experience.

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