Originally written April-94. Updated April 95.
THE ISRAELI WINE SCENE
by Yak Shaya
The Israeli Wine-Price Madness
The wine scene in Israel has improved dramatically over the past few years,
especially for red wines. The best 'big' winery, The Golan Wineries, producing
excellent world-class Cabernet Sauvignon, has forced the older monster
cooperative 'Carmel Mizrahi' to come up with better quality wines. The demand
for quality wines by ever growing circles of wine-educated public has
encouraged quite a few private wine-growers and wine-makers to start their own
boutique operation. Though quantitatively insignificant, these boutique
wines add healthy dimension to the competition. So everything is fine, right? WRONG!
In every "normal" country in the world, competition means price cuts and happy
customers. Here it is the other way around! "If he can sell his wine for
$20-30 why can't I?" that's the motto. This is true for the current vintages.
When we want to buy an older bottle (a good Israeli CAB needs 6-8 years to
open up) things really get outrageous. And I mean unbelievably so!
Here is the retail price list of Golan wines, effective April 1995:
YEAR YARDEN CAB GAMLA CAB YARDEN MERLOT
92 $20 $13 $15
91 $23 $17 $23
90 $30 $27 $33
89 $43 $33 $53
88 $50 $33 $80
87 $60 $50
86 $100 $67
To celebrate the first decade anniversary of the winery, a special limited
edition of a Bordeaux-like blend called 'Katzrin 90' was issued early 1994 and
sold for $32. It's all gone by now.
In 1988 (The only year) Botrytis attacked by chance a plot in a Sauvignon Blanc
vineyard and an excellent "Late Harvest" was made. It is sold for $30.
The Yarden CAB is the flagship wine. It has beautiful color, intense aroma,
good but not overwhelming oaky bouquet, hefty body, and delicious complex
fruity taste when the rich tannins are opened. This wine always need time.
My assessment of the recent vintages:90 - No quite ready yet. As I am a simple sole, I can't tell how a
harsh tasting wine will taste in three-four years time.
89 - Surprisingly open now. delicious and fruity, the currently tastier Israeli
88 - A bit less fruity and more complex then the 89. Still not totally open.
87 - Comparatively dull with an unpleasant dry after-taste.
86 - Inconsistent. Some very good bottles and some mediocre ones.
85 - This wine is really great but at $140 ...??? and it's not even a 'single vineyard' wine.
The Gamla CAB is Yarden's poorer brother. It is softer, smoother, less demanding
and easier when young. Quite good and comparatively better value.
The Merlot is a joke! If you look at the price-table you'll see that
year-for-year, the Merlot is much more expensive the the Yarden CAB. Take it
from me, this wine should sell for $5 and even then I wouldn't buy it. The
reason for the crazy prices is simple. They just started it in 88 so the
quantities are small, so it's relatively rare, so people like rare things, so
We have a saying in Hebrew which more or less translates as "Suckers never die
- they are just being replaced all the time". Well, in the wine business in
Israel they are not even replaced, they keep coming for more at ever higher
prices (myself included!).
Some Tasting Notes
Following is a short survey of the best Israeli wines I have tasted (i.e
drank) during the last couple of years: (Marks are 0-20)
YARDEN CAB-SAUV by Golan Wineries
All Yarden Cabs are typical Israeli Cabernets: good deep color, strong forward
berries and vanilla nose, full bodied, oaky but savory on the palate. Usually
need years to open-up. Serious wines!
1990 - current price $17, paid $15, Mark 16 (??? too closed to tell)
All elements are there. Hard-to-medium tannins, still unpleasant, far from
(April '95 - Still closed, but good balance promises great future. Upgrade!)
1989 - current price $30, paid $15-$17, Mark 17
Surprisingly open now. delicious and fruity, the currently tastier Israeli wine!
1988 - current price $50, paid $15-$23, Mark 17
A bit less fruity but more earthy and complex then the 89. Quite open now.
1987 - current price $60, paid $26, Mark 13
Comparatively dull with an unpleasant dry after-taste.
1986 - current price $100, paid $50, Mark 14
Ready but inconsistent. Some excellent bottles and some only very-good.
1985 - current price $140, paid $60-$92, Mark 18
Heavenly!! The 85 is really great, probably the best Israeli ever, I think it
has all the character of a truly top world-class wine. Beautiful color,
perfumed, multidimensional bouquet, strong yet delicate mouth-filling taste
that lingers. but at $140... ???
CAB-SAUV PRIVATE COLLECTION by Carmel-Mizrahi
This is a real pearl the big cooperative winery make once or twice in a
decade. I never tasted the older ones (76, 79, 83).
1988 (9500 bottles) current price - N.A, paid $20, Mark 15
Paler then YARDEN, delicate bouquet, soft oily-smooth taste. Approachable
even now but will develop to higher spheres in the future.
CAB-SAUV by Yair Margalit
This relatively new 'boutique' winery produces excellent wines in very small
quantity from one vineyard in the Upper-Galilee. The Cabernets are blended
with 5% Petit-Syrah from a bunch of wild grapes found in the vineyard.
1993 (tasted from the barrel) current price ?, paid $25 Mark 16
This is going to be his best wine! Rich, powerful, full of taste even now!
(April '95 - Already bottled. Delivers the barrel promises of last year.
1992 (3000 bottles) current price $17, paid $17, Mark 13
Just came out. Red-violet color, still very closed on the nose, typical fruity
but tannic taste, must wait.
(April '95 - A wine that started unbalanced will never become good.
1991 (2500 bottles) current price - $25, paid $17, Mark 13
Good solid color, pronounced raspberries vanilla and oak nose, fruity herby
taste, maybe not enough acidity to balance strength. Be better in a couple of
Don't know, never tasted.
1989 (All gone), paid $30, Mark 17
Nice color. Fruit, spices and herbs both on the nose and on the palate. An
unusually tasty wine full of flavors. The 93 maybe similar (I hope...).
Reach Me? firstname.lastname@example.org
Jacob "Yak" Shaya.