Israeli Wine Gets a Makeover
Inon Elroy, Economic Minister to North America, at Wines of Israel Launch Event in NYC - May 15, 2019.
At your favorite wine store, do you find your Israeli wines shelved under a “kosher” label next to wines from California, Argentina, or France? The first-ever Wines of Israel national marketing campaign aims to change that. The campaign is an initiative of the Israel Export Institute, supported by the Israeli government and the participating wineries in partnership with their U.S. importers.It hopes to win the general American public’s hearts, minds, and palates over with the best that Israeli viniculture has to offer.
Alex Haruni, proprietor of Dalton Winery, remarked that conflating Israeli wines with Kosher wines negates their provenance and bundles them with wines with which they share no connection. He emphasized that Israeli wines should be appreciated for their distinctive traits, like some of the wines that are being made from local ancient grape varietals being revived today alongside classical European varietals of grapes (“which probably originated in our region”, he added). According to Haruni, Israeli wine makers are trained in the finest schools in the world, combine old- and new-world wine making styles, and are in touch with the latest trends and current wine styles, such as natural wines, low-sulfur wines, and native fermentation, and use techniques for soil sustainability and natural alternatives to chemical pesticides.
The misperception of Israeli wines as catering only to the kosher niche is just one of the challenges Israeli wines face in reaching a wider audience in the United States. Another is what Haruni called the “who knew?” challenge—the surprised response that casual American wine drinkers have when first encountering high-quality Israeli wines. Although the United States is the Israeli wine industry’s biggest export market, Haruni sees this typical ignorance about the quality of Israeli wines as a sign of the limited exposure that American consumers have had to them.
Wines of Israel Launch Event, May 15, 2019 in NYC
To redress the obstacles facing Israel wines in the U.S., food industry PR firm Colangelo & Partners, who are spearheading the campaign, plan to recast Israel as a Mediterranean wine region, like Southern France or Italy, emphasizing the distinctive terroirs of the Israel wine map—Galilee, Golan Heights, Coastal Plain, Judean Foothills, Central Mountains, and Negev highlands—each with its own soil, climate, and character.
At the campaign’s launch event in May at Kubeh restaurant in Greenwich Village, industry insiders and reporters were invited to taste the newest and best Israeli wines showcasing the broad diversity of wine varieties and styles and high quality of Israeli winemaking. Among the dozens of bottles on offer, guests could discover gems such as Segal’s unfiltered Cabernet Sauvignon Galil, boutique winery Somek’s Reserve 2009, a blend of Cabernet Franc, Crignan, Syrah, and Petit Verdot, and the Recanati Reserve Wild Carignan, a wine made from dry-farmed Carignan grapevines left to grow wild in the vineyard.
So in the coming months, expect to see the some oenological hasbara giving Israeli wine its time in the sun.