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Originally written April-94. Updated April 95.


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:


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

85		$140

84		$150

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 wine!
  • 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 people pay!

    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 ready.
    (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... ???


    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. Upgrade!)

    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. Downgrade!)

    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 years.

    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? yak@yakshaya.com

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