Israel?s premier wine tasting competition is Eshkol Hazahav, (the Golden Cluster). It has become a fixture in the Israel wine calendar over the last twelve years. The results of the 2014 competition were recently announced at an event held at the Peres Center for Peace in Jaffa, overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. The impressive building was founded to celebrate and continue the lifeswork of Israel?s current President, Shimon Peres. The competition was organized by Studio Ben Ami, owned by one of Israel?s most distinguished sommeliers, Avi Ben Ami.
The evening started with an original idea of tasting young, unfinished red wines from different vineyards and regions. This was followed by a presentation given by Carlos de Jesus, a director of Amorim, the dominant cork producer. Then there was a panel discussion on the subject of export to the United States. The discussion was led by Tzachi Dotan of the Israel Wine & Grapes Board and the panelists were Dafna Sternfeld from the Israel Export Institute, Adam Montefiore (Carmel Winery), Doron Rand (Ella Valley) and Noam Jacoby (Recanati Winery).
As the sun set over the Mediterranean, finger food was provided on the terrace close to the sea, and there was an opportunity to taste white wines. Then representatives of the Israeli wine trade gathered in the auditorium to hear the results, announced by Adv. Nachman Cohen Tsedek and Haim Spiegel of Dan Hotels.
In past years the gold medals have largely been dominated by certain wineries, often the Golan Heights Winery, Carmel or Tabor. Last year one winery, Carmel, took home no less than nine gold medals. That was an unprecedented result. However this year, it was a year for smaller wineries to shine. There has never been such a wide and varied list of prizewinners. The most gold medals were won by Binyamina Winery. They won three and were followed by Golan Heights Winery & Recanati with two each. The most medals were won by Carmel Winery, which won seven.
However the wineries that took the attention were newish wineries like Jezreel, Kishor, Montefiore and Vortman, which succeeded on the national stage by winning trophies, against all the established wineries.
The other noticeable feature was the number of wineries from the central mountains, (otherwise known as Judea & Samaria or the West Bank), that won medals. They between them won four gold medals, and no less than a total of eleven medals in all. This included wineries such as Gvaot, Gush Etzion, Psagot, Shilo, Tura and also Arza & 1848, east of Jerusalem.
The competition judged 233 wines from fifty two wineries and the wines were blind tasted by thirty judges. The winners of Gold Medal Trophies were as follows:
CHARDONNAY CATEGORY: Chardonnay Odem Vineyard, Yarden 2012
GEWURZTRAMINER/ VIOGNIER: Gewurztraminer Reserve Binyamina 2012
WHITE VARIETIES: Riesling Kayoumi Vineyard Carmel 2012
WHITE BLENDS: Shfeya Valley Vortman 2012
CABERNET SAUVIGNON UP TO 100 ILS: Cabernet Sauvignon Gamla Shmura Golan Heights 2011
CABERNET SAUVIGNON MORE THAN 100 ILS: Cabernet Sauvignon Psagot 2011
MERLOT UP TO 100 ILS: Merlot 2nd Generation 1848
MERLOT MORE THAN 100 ILS: Merlot Reserve Recanati 2011
SYRAH UP TO 100 ILS: Shiraz Reserve Binyamina 2011
SYRAH MORE THAN 100 ILS: Syrah Mount Odem 2012
RED BLEND UP TO 100 ILS: Montefiore Red 2013
RED BLEND FROM 90-100 ILS: Savant Red Kishor 2012
RED BLEND MORE THAN 120 ILS: Special Reserve Recanati 2011
CABERNET FRANC: Cabernet Franc Lonely Oak Gush Etzion 2008
PETITE SIRAH / CARIGNAN: Carignan Jezreel Valley 2012
OTHER RED VARIETIES: Petit Verdot Ramat Naftaly 2011
AGED REDS: Cabernet Sauvignon Yarden 2005
DESSERT WINES: Gewurztraminer Late Harvest Binyamina 2012
Wineries up to 10,000 bottles
CABERNET SAUVIGNON: Cabernet Sauvignon Braniki 2012
MERLOT: Merlot Red Sea 2010
BLEND: Red Rock Red Se 2010