It is a constant moan of those who like Israeli wines, that though they agree the wines are good, there is a problem in that they are too costly. Therefore it is particularly satisfying to see that Israel has two wines in The Wine Enthusiast’s Top 100 Best Buys of 2018. The Top 100 is open to wines in every wine producing country. Wineries everywhere want to be on it and Israel has succeeded in having two entries on a value for money list, which is not usually Israel’s best playing field.
The successful wines are the Hermon Mount Hermon Red 2016 produced by the Golan Heights Winery and Barkan Classic Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 produced by Barkan Winery. Mount Hermon Red finished in 5th place overall. This is the highest position an Israeli winery has ever held in one of these end of year ‘Best Of’ lists. The wine was priced at US$13 (in the USA) and scored 92 points, an outstanding score for a wine of this price. The Classic Cabernet Sauvignon was in 54th place, was priced at US$10 and scored 88 points.
These are actually two of the largest selling wines in Israel. Mount Hermon Red has been the biggest selling brand for many years and the Classic wine is second or third on the list depending on the month. Barkan Winery is the largest winery in Israel, Golan Heights Winery is the third largest. They are the two leading Israeli wineries in terms of export sales. Golan is represented in America by their subsidiary, Yarden Inc, and Barkan’s importer is Royal Wine Corp.
Why this is pleasing is that the wines receiving awards and gaining recognition internationally tend to be those which are more expensive. The wineries tend to offer the better wines for tastings and the focus of wine critics and journalists also tends to be on the so called ‘award winning wines’. It is good to see budget wines receiving focus for a change.
Wine Enthusiast is one of the most important wine magazines in the USA and their end of year ‘Top 100’ lists are eagerly awaited by wine professionals, connoisseurs and wine lovers alike. The Golan Heights Winery is based at Katzrin on the Golan Heights. Yair Shapira is the CEO and Victor Schoenfeld has been the head winemaker since 1992. Their main labels are: Yarden Katzrin, Yarden, Gamla (Gilgal in the USA), Hermon, Sion and Golan. The winery was founded in 1983 and is owned by a partnership of kibbutzes and moshavs (respectively collective & cooperative farming villages.) The winery was founded in 1983.
Barkan Winery is situated at Hulda (not far from Rehovot). Gilles Assouline is the CEO and Ido Lewinsohn (ex Recanati) is the head winemaker. Their main labels are: Superieur, Altitude, Assemblage, Special Reserve, Reserve, Classic & Premier. They also own the Segal brand, which is marketed separately. Barkan Winery is owned by Tempo Beverages, Israel’s largest brewery, that market brands like Goldstar, Heineken, Chivas Regal, Absolut, Pepsi Cola, Perrier as well as Barkan and Segal wines. The winery was founded in 1990.
The first revolution of Israeli wines was making world class red wines. The second was more recent – making really good white wines, with typicity and a sense of place. Maybe the third and most important revolution is making large production wines for the mass market, which are both good quality and excellent value. Congratulations to Golan Heights and Barkan wineries!