IsraWinExpo 2012 attracts international crowd

Once every two years leading culinary magazines, the Israel Export Promotion Center, Haim Gan (founder of the Grape-Man Wine Center in Jaffa), the Israel Trade Fair Center and others organize the biggest wine and alcohol event in Israel – the IsraWinExpo.

IsraWinExpo 2012 takes place on Feb. 21, 22 and 23 in Tel Aviv, with the first day open to the professional crowd – dealers, importers, bartenders, sommeliers and restaurateurs. The event is open to the public on Feb. 22 and 23, and for 70 shekels ($19 Cdn) guests receive a complimentary wineglass and 10 wine-tasting vouchers to be presented at booths. Of course, additional tasting vouchers can be purchased separately.     

While Israel has other wine events and fairs of varying sizes and styles, including Sommelier, the Israel Museum Wine Festival, Raanana Wine Festival, Judean Hills Wine Festival and, most recently, an event dedicated to kosher wines, + Wine Seven Two (a play on words as Israel’s international calling code is +972), the IsraWinExpo is the only one that also has a true international orientation, attracting buyers, distributors, wine journalists and other industry professionals from around the world.

I recently met with Adam Montefiore, wine development director at the Carmel Winery and an unofficial ambassador of the Israeli wine industry. With so many wine events, how does a winery decide where to focus its efforts and which ones to participate and exhibit at? “Wineries decide to enter if it is a good place to enhance image and a good place to meet, shmooze and scout for potential business,” Montefiore says. “It also provides the winery and its staff with an opportunity to meet with the end consumer.” 

How do you see the IsraWinExpo’s role in promoting awareness of Israeli wines abroad? “IsraWinExpo is truly the showcase for the Israel wine industry and therefore is important for Israeli wineries and international buyers alike.”

An additional bonus in attending these wine-tasting events or exhibitions is the fact that one gets a chance to sample a variety of wines before purchasing them. Industry statistics show that a significant percentage of annual wine sales in Israel and Jewish communities around the world are made in the months leading up to Passover. The IsraWinExpo can be a good opportunity to conduct some tasting and make up the wine list for the festive holiday meals.

The event includes wineries from across the country, including Avidan, Alexander, Binyamina Winery, Carmel Winery, Domaine Ventura, Galil Mountain Winery, Golan Heights Winery, Gvaot Winery, Or HaGanuz Winery, Recanati, Ramot Naftali Winery, Saslove, Tulip, Teperberg 1870, Tishbi Winery, Vitkin Winery, Shiloh Winery and others.

Following are notes about some of the wines that I have tasted over the past few weeks. Most are available for tasting at the show, and as for the others, well I guess you will have to find a different opportunity to taste them:

Adir, ‘A’, 2009 – a new release from the Adir Winery comprising 60 per cent Shiraz, 35 per cent Cabernet Sauvignon and five per cent Cabernet Franc, concentrated purple in colour, medium bodied, a bit firm when first poured and then opens to suggest dark berry fruits, orange peel, plums and rosemary. Those followed by notes of vanilla and toasted oak leading to a long and satisfying finish. If you happen to be up north, the Adir visitor’s centre also showcases Adir’s excellent dairy products – ask for the goat-milk ice cream and you are in for a treat.          

Binyamina, Reserve, Shiraz, 2008 – 98 per cent Shiraz and the balance Viognier, a blending style that is rather popular in the northern parts of France’s Rhone Valley, dark ruby in colour, full bodied, on the nose and palate ripe, dark berry fruits and fresh herbs followed by notes of roasted coffee beans and dark chocolate, all coming together nicely and leading to a long finish.

Carmel, Single Vineyard, Kayoumi, Shiraz, 2008 – again mostly Shiraz with just a dash of Viognier – the Viognier helps to stabilize and enhance the colour of the wine and also adds to the overall aroma profile. Fifteen months in barriques, dark ruby with purple reflections, full bodied, the wine suggests pleasant aromas and flavours of blueberries, dark cherries, plums and aromas of “cool” green herbs (mint or eucalyptus come to mind), those followed by notes of chocolate and black pepper. Toasted oak is evident but not overpowering, resulting in an enjoyable, well-balanced wine. The 2006 version of this label received a Regional Trophy at the Decanter World Wine Awards 2010, one of the most prestigious awards by an Israeli wine.

Galil Mountain, Galil, Alon, 2009 – After recently re-branding some of the winery’s labels, Galil Mountain unveiled new wines from the 2009, 2010 and 2011 vintages. The Alon blend comprises Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot grapes. Bright purple in colour, full bodied, the wine is rather fruit forward, opening in the glass with concentrated slightly jammy aromas and flavours of red cherries, ripe plums and blueberries followed by notes of dried herbs, sweet coffee, cloves and toasted oak leading to a mouth-filling finish. With some resemblance to the winery’s flagship Yiron blend, yet a bit more on the fruity side, the Alon 09 is very approachable, and even my friends who declare that they are far from being wine enthusiasts, mentioned that they enjoyed the wine.        

Golan Heights, Yarden, Gewürztraminer, 2011 – 100 per cent Gewürztraminer grapes from vineyards situated in the Golan Heights, the wine is showing generous typical varietal aromas and flavours, including white flowers, lychee, tangy passion fruit and warm spices leading to a pleasant finish. Serve chilled, and if you leave the bottle out, use an ice bucket, as the wine warms up in the glass and a slight alcoholic sensation becomes evident.

Golan Heights, Gamla, Sauvignon Blanc, 2011 – 100 per cent Sauvignon Blanc grapes from the Golan Heights, traditionally this has been one of the best buys in its price range, and the 2011 is up to par with previous releases. Light straw in colour, suggesting very fresh aromas of lemons, kiwi, sour green apples and slight grassy notes, leading to a pleasant finish.

Or HaGanuz, Elima, 2010 – an interesting wine from an interesting winery – Or Haganuz (a kabbalistic name meaning the “hidden light”) is managed and operated by the residents of a haredi co-operative village (similar to a kibbutz) bearing the same name. With production levels at some 100,000 bottles annually, and with a large percentage intended for exports, Or HaGanuz in collaboration with winery consultant Arkadi Papikian recently released a special wine made without sodium bisulfite (used in most commercial wines to prevent oxidation). Bright ruby in colour, medium-full bodied, slight alcoholic sensation on the attack, the wine suggests tart plums, cherries, blackberry fruits and dry herbs with a medium-pleasant finish. Due to the lack of sodium bisulfate, the wine should be stored in a temperature of 6 C to 13 C.

Tzuba, Harmony, 2009 – a new release from the Tzuba Winery situated on Kibbutz Tzuba in the Judean Hills. 60 per cent Sangiovese and 40 per cent Syrah grapes, each developing separately for eight months in French oak and an additional six months after assembling the final blend. Bright red in colour, medium bodied, with aromas and flavours that bring to mind cherries, red and black berry fruits along with notes of dry herbs and flowers. A medium-long finish with a slightly bitter aftertaste overall, the Harmony 09 is very easy drinking and enjoyable wine.