Five Fun Israeli Whites For Shavuot | The Jewish Week | Food & Wine

Five Fun Israeli Whites For Shavuot


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Five Fun Israeli Whites For Shavuot

Binyamina’s 2013 Reserve Chardonnay. Carmel’s 2014 Selected Emerald Reisling.

Whites are easy for Shavuot, the only Jewish holiday that gives dairy pride of place at the table.

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Shavuot is the day, according to tradition, when the Jewish people received the Torah. There are many venerable customs associated with this holiday: staying awake until dawn to study Torah, reciting the ancient liturgical poem “Akdamut,” and, of course, serving dairy foods at the holiday meals.  

While the braised briskets, pot roasts and roast turkeys that are staples during most Jewish holidays cry out for rich red wines, the fish, cream sauces, blintzes and cheesecakes that are typical Shavuot fare demand good white wines. So for a Shavuot edition of Fruit of the Vine, I’ve been tasting Israeli whites for under $20.

However, after tasting 11 recently released, moderately priced kosher whites from Israel, I was disappointed. Wines that in previous vintages had been quite good were showing poorly, and none of the wines were standouts. Yet there were five that were good, or very good, and any one would work for Shavuot.

One of the best wines was Binyamina’s 2013 Reserve Chardonnay. With a light to medium body, this crisp, fruit-forward, dark-straw-colored wine, made from Chardonnay grapes grown in the Galilee, has a bouquet of honeysuckle, honey and tangerines. Look for flavors of tangerines, Meyer lemons, oak and honeysuckle, with a note of spice at the back of the palate. Well crafted, this wine should drink well for at least another two years. 

Score B+ ($19.99. Available at Beacon Wine & Spirits 2120 Broadway, Manhattan, [212] 877-0028.)

Also very good was Carmel’s 2010 Appellation Chardonnay. Made from 100 percent grapes grown in the Galilee, the wine was a mixture of Chardonnay made in two different ways — one part was fermented and aged in stainless steel tanks, and the remainder was fermented and aged sur-lie in small French oak barrels. Tawny-straw in color, this light-to-medium-bodied wine has flavors and aromas of apples, heather and honey, with a note of fresh cream. Drink within the next 18 months. 

Score B/B+ ($15.95 Available at Skyview Wine and Spirits, 5681 Riverdale Ave., Riverdale, [888] 759-8466.)

The surprise wine of the tasting was Carmel’s 2014 Selected Emerald Riesling. A crossbreed of Riesling and Muscadelle created at the University of California at Davis, Emerald Rieslings were intended to be Riesling-like wines that could be produced in warm climates; the grape has been widely planted in Israel. However, in my experience, Israeli Emerald Rieslings tend to be flabby and charmless. So I was shocked when I found out, after my blind tasting, that this lively little wine was made from Emerald Riesling. A blend of 60 percent Emerald Riesling and 40 percent Chenin Blanc, all grown in the Shomron (northern West Bank), this light-bodied, straw-colored, crisp, off-dry wine has flavors and aromas of mandarin oranges, nectarines and honey, with just a hint of roasted yams.

Score B/B+ ($9.97 Available at Wine Library, 586 Morris Ave., Springfield, N.J., [973] 376-0005.)

While overall 2014 seems to have been a disappointing vintage for Israeli Sauvignon Blanc, two wines in the tasting were exceptions. Tabor’s 2014 Adama Sauvignon Blanc is a straw-colored, light-bodied wine made from grapes grown in the Galilee. With a fruity nose — redolent of kiwifruit, lychee, peaches and pineapples — the wine tastes of grapefruit and lychee. Simple, crisp and refreshing, this wine should be consumed within the next year. 

Score B ($19. Available at Bottlerocket Wine & Spirit, 5 W. 19th St., Manhattan, [212] 929-2323.)

Also worth seeking is Arza’s 2014 Charisma Sauvignion Blanc. Made from grapes grown in the Galilee, this light-bodied, straw-colored wine has a faint but pleasant nose of pineapple, gooseberries and honeysuckle, with a slightly earthy note. Look for flavors of apples, lemons and gooseberries. Structured with a nice level of acidy, this wine should be drunk within the next six to eight months.

Score B-  ($11.99 Available at Chateau de Vin, 544 Central Ave., Cedarhurst, L.I., [516] 374-9643.)


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