We often categorize the wine world into two camps: Europe is the Old World and all other winemaking regions are the New World. But what about places where wine culture was born? In Israel, where the Fertile Crescent meets the Mediterranean and wine was produced 5000 years ago, let’s call this the “Ancient World.”
Over millennia, Israel earned a reputation for quality winemaking as the wines that were essential to their livelihood and culture were sent west to empires in Egypt, Greece, and Rome. So important was wine to their culture that even King David had a sommelier!
What is Israel’s signature wine style?
The “modern era” of Israeli winemaking began in the late 1880’s when the Baron de Rothschild of Château Lafite emigrated to Israel and planted Bordeaux varietals in Mt. Carmel. Today, internationally-recognized and award-winning wines continue that legacy. Inspired by tradition, and spurned by innovation, a new generation of Israeli winemakers are combining global training with creativity and viticultural expertise.
Winemakers are focused on producing wines that are uniquely Israeli and not beholden to any rules or stylistic regulations. As a result, wines are as diverse and versatile as the country’s geography—showcasing both a proud legacy of using Bordeaux varietals and Rhone varietals for which Israel’s Mediterranean climate is well suited. Both blends and single varietal wines abound, many with a focus on sustainability, and a trend toward elegance and restraint. And while most consumers assume Israel makes only sweet, Kosher wines, only a minority of producers invest in this costly and restrictive certification process.
How do you pair Israeli wines?
Within Israel’s landscape of stunning beauty and variation are six distinct wine growing regions: the sandy Coastal Plan, the volcanic Golan Heights, the stony Biblical hills of the Central Mountains, the elevated peaks of the Galilee, the verdant valleys of the Judean Foothills, and the blooming desert of the Negev. It is not surprising that wine from such varied geography leads to endless food pairing opportunities!
Savoring a trio of Somek wines, a boutique winery led by women winemaker Hilan Dahan, and from Mt. Carmel—the site of the first plantings by the Baron de Rothschild—let’s experience just how food-friendly these wines are:
• White Road: Named after the ancient Roman path which is paved through the Somek Winery Bikat Hanadiv Vineyards, this white Rhone-style blend of 50% Roussanne, 40% Chenin, 10% Viognier, has vibrant aromas and flavors of pear, honey, citrus and butter. Full-bodied with a long, mineral finish, pair this wine with savory appetizers, grilled fish and chicken.
• Rosé: A familiar Provencal-inspired blend of 50% Grenache and 50% Syrah, this medium-bodied, crisp, yet creamy wine exudes strawberry, stone fruit, and citrus on the nose and palate. Pair is all-year round with salty tapas, sushi, and ethnic dishes.
• Bikat Hanadiv: Named after the valley in which the vineyards are planted, this Bordeaux blend comprised of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc and 5% Petit Verdot, is reminiscent of Baron de Rothschild’s famous Château Lafite. With aromas and flavors of chocolate, plums and tobacco, this full-bodied wine is perfect match for roasted pork, filet mignon, and rack of lamb.
Do you want to experience these timeless, “ancient” wines?
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Salud and L’Chaim!