Thanks to the diverse land and a large community of devoted winemakers, Israel has long been regarded as an up-and-coming wine country. Now wines from that region are starting to get the attention they deserve—both in Israel and beyond. With these wines showing up in shops and restaurants across the country—including many here in Boston—Israel may have truly arrived.
To find some must-have Israeli wines for this Passover season, I consulted Dan Sigel of Royal Wine Corp. His company is the largest importer of Israeli wines to the U.S., and they’re good at what they do: In the April issue of Wine Enthusiast, 30 of their Israeli wines scored over 90. (For those of you not familiar with the magazine’s systems of rankings, that’s pretty darn good.)
Israel is about the size of New Jersey and has all five microclimates, which according to Dan makes for varied and creative wines. While the pool of quality Israeli wines expands far beyond this collection, this is a good place to start.
Note: I found all of these wines at The Butcherie in Brookline, but call your favorite wine store to check their availability.
This medium-bodied wine features hints of dark berries and mint, and a smooth, crisp finish. It’s a crowd-pleaser; fans of New Zealand pinot noir will love this wine.
About the winery: Barkan Winery was founded in 1990 and is now the second-largest winery in Israel. It uses grapes grown in the Negev and is earning some major Boston wine cred with its addition to The Gallows’ wine list later this year.
Shiloh Mor Dry Red Wine 2010
This is a lively, unique and sophisticated blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Barbera grapes.
About the winery: This is an Israeli wine with Boston roots: Shiloh Winery’s winemaker Amichai Lourie’s family is originally from the Brookline/Newton area. (His grandfather worked at Temple Emanuel in Newton for 30 years.) His family moved to Israel when he was 4 years old. When an injury prevented him from continuing his job in construction, he turned a hobby into a career, and is now the top mevushal winemaker in Israel (with a proprietary mevushal machine).
Tabor Adama Cabernet Sauvignon 2010
This is rich and round-bodied, with black forest fruit, cassis and blueberries, and notes of chocolate, vanilla and coffee. It’s the gold-medal winner at the Eshkol Hazahav Wine Awards (Israel’s top wine competition).
About the winery: Tabor Winery is situated in the heart of the fertile Galilee, in the foothills of Mount Tabor, which is a meeting point of four different types of soil. It’s considered one of the fastest-growing and fastest-improving wineries in Israel, and last year produced more than 1.5 million bottles.
Segal’s Fusion Chardonnay Colombard Dry White Wine 2013
This is fruitier than your average Chardonnay, thanks to the Colombard grapes. It’s dry, crisp and complex, with distinctive melon and the tart balance of Colombard and the full body of Chardonnay.
About the winery: The Segal family emigrated from Russia in 1925 and became prolific distillers. In 1954, the family decided to concentrate on wine production. Their success led to Segal Winery’s acquisition by the Barkan Group in 2001, where it’s managed as an independent winery with its own unique production process.
Carmel Winery Selected Sauvignon Blanc 2013
This is well-balanced, with aromas of peach and lemon peel, and flavors of ripe stone fruit, citrus and lemon curd. It was named a “Best Buy” in Wine Enthusiast’s April 2015 issue.
About the winery: Carmel Winery, founded in 1882 by Baron Edmond de Rothschild, is thought of as the winery that shaped the modern Israeli wine industry. It’s the largest winery in Israel and the largest producer of kosher wine in the world.