Israel’s wine industry gets international recognition from US critic

Israel’s wines have come of age after world leading wine critic Robert Parker declared 14 Israeli wines to be world class vintages in his first review of the country’s industry. The significant recognition is widely seen as an exciting new …

Israel’s wines have come of age after world leading wine critic Robert Parker declared 14 Israeli wines to be world class vintages in his first review of the country’s industry. The significant recognition is widely seen as an exciting new stage in the development of Israel’s burgeoning wine trade.

Everyone in Israel already knows the country has some excellent wines, but now the secret is out after leading US wine critic, Robert Parker, reviewed wines from 40 Israeli wineries, and awarded 14 wines top scores of over 90 points.

In the review, Parker – widely considered the foremost authority on wines worldwide – gave top marks of 93 points to two Israeli wines the red 2003 Yatir Forest from the Yatir Winery and the 2005 Gewurztraminer Heights Wine Yarden, a dessert wine from the Golan Heights Winery.

Other wines that tipped the 90 points scale included wines from Domaine du Castel, Pelter, Tulip, Tzora Vineyards, and Clos de Gat.

“This is a very exciting development for the Israeli wine industry,” said Adam Montefiore, from Carmel Winery. “This is the highest possible third party recognition. When someone like Parker tastes Israeli wines and says they are good, then it’s official.”

In the world of winemaking, wines that score more than 90 points are considered world class wines of exceptional character and complexity. In the past, much to the frustration of the country’s wine industry, only one Israeli wine scored more than 89 points in a review by the Wine Spectator magazine.

This is the first time Parker has tasted Israeli wines and many regard it as a breakthrough not just in terms of recognition, but in putting the kosher label to rest. “Israel’s image in America is of a country selling kosher wines for the Jewish market,” Montefiore told ISRAEL21c. “In Parker’s tasting six of the best wines and 11 of the leading 14 wines just happened to be kosher. He himself points out that this label is not relevant to the quality of the wine. This is massive.”

The most successful wineries in Israel were the 100-year-old Carmel, which founded the wine industry in Israel, and it’s wholly owned subsidiary Yatir, a boutique winery autonomously run by Australian wine maker, Eran Goldwasser, which together achieved over 90 points for four wines; Domaine du Castel, a winery in the Judean Hills, which scored over 90 points for all three of its wines; and the Golan Heights Winery, set up in 1983 using Californian techniques, and its subsidiary Galil Mountain, which together achieved scores of over 90 for three wines.

“Carmel has been making wine for over 100 years, and for most of that time we were considered to be making kosher wine for religious purposes.
This has a certain baggage,” said Montefiore. “Ten years ago we started our own revolution and our success now is evidence of the changes that have occurred at the winery.”

He added that Parker’s results, which show Israel to be the best wine producer in the Eastern Mediterranean, also showed recognition for new vineyards in regions outside of the Golan and the Galilee, which have traditionally been considered the best regions for wine in Israel.

The wines selected for the tasting were chosen by a panel including Israeli wine critic Daniel Rogov, former sommelier, Avi Ben Ami, and wine personality, Yair Hajdu.

In the report on Israel’s wines, Mark Squires, a veteran of Robert Parker’s team wrote: “The corner has been turned qualitatively. Israel has a real wine industry that deserves consumer attention. These are attractive wines with typicity and some distinction. Many are classic and charming and the best will impress anyone.”

“This is very exciting but we shouldn’t get over excited,” warned Montefiore. “If you look at where we were 15 years ago we’ve made enormous progress, but we still have a long way to go.
Now we have to look at where we could be in another 15 years.”

Israel’s top wines according to Robert Parker:

2003 Yatir Winery Yatir Forest 93
2005 Golan Heights Winery Gewurztraminer Heights Wine Yarden 93

2006 Tzora Vineyards Or Dessert Wine 92
2004 Domaine du Castel Grand Vin 92

2005 Domaine du Castel ‘C’ Blanc du Castel 91
2003 Golan Heights Winery Katzrin Yarden 91

2003 Galil Mountain Yiron 90
2003 Yatir Winery Cabernet Merlot Shiraz 90
2004 Carmel Winery Limited Edition 90
2005 Tulip Syrah Reserve 90
2004 Pelter Shiraz T Selection 90
2005 Domaine du Castel Petit Castel 90
2004 Clos de Gat Syrah Sycra 90
2005 Carmel Winery Gewurztraminer Sha’al Vineyard 90