Drink Like King David (or Jesus)
Recanati’s Marawi is an Ancient Varietal
Recanati’s Marawi is an Ancient Varietal
An exciting new wine from Recanati is a white wine made from a grape called Marawi.
Known as Hamdani around Bethlehem and Jerusalem, it is believed to be an ancient, indigenous grape varietal, one kept alive through centuries of Arab Muslim rule because it was grown for eating rather than for wine production.
To make their Mawari wine, Recanati sourced these grapes from a vineyard near Bethlehem, grown by a Palestinian Arab Muslim, whose identity is kept secret, according to the New York Times account, to protect against reprisals from fellow Palestinian Arabs for “collaboration” with Israelis. Recanati plans to plant their own Marawi vineyards and cultivate them expressly for wine production to improve and better control the quality.
The first vintage of Recanati’s Marawi was 2014, and attracted significant international attention as it was thought to be the sort of wine that King David or Jesus might have drunk. It was widely considered more significant for its provenance than its taste, but received positive reviews all the same. Regardless, the current vintage is 2015 – which is a shmittah vintage, and I finally had a chance to taste it, along with a handful of other Recanati current releases.
A note on shmittah (from the Hebrew root word meaning “to let go” or “release”): The Torah mandates that every seventh year be designated as a rest or sabbatical for the Land of Israel itself, and the earth is to lie fallow and agricultural cultivation is forbidden. The seventh-year produce of Israel is imbued with an additional level of holiness known as “kedushat shvi’it” (“holiness of the seventh”) because the “seventh” or shmittah year is considered sanctified to God, and so is subject to additional restrictions and regulations. If concerned or confused about shmittah wines, consult your kashrut authority for guidance.
A little while back, Recanati’s Gil Shatsberg informed me that Recanati decided to try to sell its shmittah wines in the US for a change. “From talking with kosher wine retailers in the US,” he noted, “we got a clear sense that they consider kosher consumers much more educated and aware about shmittah, and so are able to avoid mistakes … we are going to export shmittah wines. We are handling it cautiously; the wines will have different barcodes from our regular wines, and it will be clear to anyone who buys them that they are buying a shmittah year, which is a big deal… For those stores who [mostly cater to the Orthodox community and so] won’t handle shmittah wines, we had set aside huge amounts of the 2014 vintage—so no accounts will have to forgo Recanati wines.”
And now, without further ado, a few words on current Recanati selections:
Recanati, Marawi, Judean Hills, Israel, 2015 (SRP $35): Fresh and bright, leading with a pleasant and engaging whiff of chenin blanc-like wet wool, behind which are aromas, and then concomitant flavors on the palate of ripe honeydew melon, grapefruit, apricot, pear, jasmine, and guava. Light and charming; vibrant acidity, with a rich mouthfeel, and a lengthy, slightly citrusy finish. Delightful. (I’ve heard reports from others of lackluster acidity, but when I tasted it was very lively indeed.)
Recanati, Yasmin White, 2015 (Suggested retail pricing, or SRP, $12; mevusahl): a refreshing, simple 60/40 blend of chardonnay and sauvignon blanc, with pleasant fruit and floral notes. An easy, very quaffable, everyday wine.
Recanati, Yasmin Red, Galilee, Israel, 2015 (SRP $12; mevushal): this enjoyable if simple blend of 80% cabernet sauvignon and 20% merlot delivers berry fruit aromas and flavors with some appealing herbal notes, and a touch of smoke on the finish. An easy, everyday wine.
Recanati, Merlot, Galilee, Israel, 2014 (SRP $17): this appealing, balanced, robust if straightforward wine offers aromas and flavors of black cherry, raspberry, some intense coffee bean, light vanilla, and cloves with some lovely minty notes, especially on the finish.
Recanati, Wild Carignan Reserve, Judean Hills, Israel, 2014 (SRP $50): still settling down, but already wonderfully complex and coming into balance, this medium bodied red has some initial smoke that clears soon enough to offer aromas and flavors of red currants, slightly peppery raspberry, cherry, blackberry fig and a touch of eucalyptus, and all with a subtle earthy undercurrent. The tannins are still quite strong, but the brightness, purity and fruit shine through; the finish is lengthy and very appealing.