One of my favorite things about wine tasting events or wine exhibitions is the fact that I get a chance to sample a variety of wines before actually purchasing them. Another advantage of attending these events is the chance one receives to meet with winemakers, industry professionals and other wine aficionados.
A couple weeks ago I attended the 3rd Israel Wine Expo. Once every two years leading culinary magazines, the Israel Export Promotion Center, The Israel Trade Fair Center and others join forces to organize the biggest wine and alcohol event in the country.
The following list includes some of the new Israeli wines I recently sampled:
Barkan recently launched Shiraz 07 and Pinotage 07 of the winery's reserve series. Personally I preferred the Pintoage, offering dark berry fruits, roasted coffee and vanilla followed by mild smoky notes. Pinotage, a South African grape variety, is very versatile, pairs well with food and is showing excellent results in Israel.
While Bravdo did not exhibit at the show, I recently sampled their Merlot 2008. Deep ruby in color, full bodied, this red is showing pleasant aromas of dark and red berry fruits, thyme, and pepper along with hints of licorice and vanilla. Try pairing with a dish of herb crusted roast beef (cooked medium rare to medium) or a juicy sirloin steak.
A relatively new player, recently joining the Israeli wine industry, the Lueria Winery, situated in the northern village of Safsufa offers two blended reds, Rouge 2007 and the Grand Vin, 2006. Leuria's vision is to produce food friendly, low in alcohol, quality wines. Only 12.6% alcohol content, the Rouge is an interesting (yet slightly acidic) medium bodied blend of Sangiovese, Barbera and Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine should go well with tomato and meat based pasta dishes. I found the Grand Vin more elegant, offering layered aromas of black fruits, cherries, Mediterranean herbs and some earthy notes all leading to a pleasant finish.
The next one doesn't exactly fall under the 'wine' category, as it is produced from pomegranates rather than grapes. Nevertheless, the Pomegranate dessert wine from the Granada winery is very tasty and offers a fruity (and some say healthy) alternative to serve with your dessert. Granada's version is made from a pomegranate variety known as 'wonderful' and should be served slightly chilled.
Boutique wineries Chilag and Sea Horse shared a booth offering visitors a special joint venture blend named "60/60". The blend consists of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 45% Mourvedre and 5% Syrah grapes. I found Sea Horse's Chenin Blanc, "James", 2008 very enjoyable. This is one of the only varietal Chenin Blancs produced in Israel - the result, a very unique and aromatic wine.
I also sampled Chilag's recently launched varietal Petite Sirah. Ruby in color, reflecting the 24 months spent in oak, the wine is still firm showing red fruits, plums, herbs and pepper. Try cellaring for at least a few months and see how the wine develops.