The Tasting Panel magazine

January / February 2017

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Page 36 of 148

36  /  the tasting panel  /  january/february 2017 In Defense of… Israeli Wines I should preface this defense by divulging that I am actually writing this from Tel Aviv, Israel. I'm cur- rently on an Israeli Wine Industry Enrichment Trip sponsored by The Guild of Sommeliers. But prior to leaving the U.S., the topic of my travel plans to Israel would come up among some of my guests at The Boarding House—my family, friends, etc.—and the first thing that everyone would say was, "Israeli wine, really? Is it any good?" Most Americans seem to place Israeli wine on par- allel with kosher wine (i.e, Manischewitz). Although a lot of Israeli wine is indeed kosher, from the wine- makers' prospective quality always comes first. They may choose to be a kosher winery, as large portion of their sales is attributed to the kosher market. A far cry from Manischewitz. I'm here to say loudly in defense of Israeli wines: Yes, indeed, they are very good fine wines. In fact, they've exceeded my expectations, as well as every- one else's on this trip. I lived in Israel, actually, off and on for eight years, and I vividly remember trying numerous Israeli wines and thinking, "They are okay but nothing to write home about." Now, I am literally writing home about them. The industry has not only improved vastly but is finally maturing. The oak has become more restrained, and the varieties are being paired more expertly to the diverse terroirs. It seems funny to categorize a country with a wine history dating back 3,000-plus years as a modern, New World wine industry, just now coming into its own, but that's what it is. After centuries of being occupied by other cultures, especially the 1,500-year- long Islamic rule (Muslims do not consume or propagate wine/alcohol), there were literally no indigenous varieties or old vines left standing. There was no trace of a wine culture when the modern state of Israel was born. Outside of Carmel Winery, established in 1882, founded by Baron Edmond de Rothschild, there wasn't anything until the modern age of Israeli wine, which only began in the 1980s. Israel is a very young wine industry inside a very old, history-rich country. Even though the industry is still yet in its infancy, there is an unbelievable quality to the wines, which will only continue to improve. Israel is a rising star, and I'm ecstatic to be here and watch it blossom. by Kelly Peterson Bates, Beverage Director/Head Sommelier of The Boarding House, Chicago Kelly Peterson Bates, Beverage Director/Head Sommelier of Chicago's Boarding House in El Kosh Vineyard, Dalton Winery, on the border with Lebanon in the Galilee Heights region of Israel. Want to contribute In Defense Of an industry trend? Email for your chance to contribute a letter.

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