Winemaker Avi Feldstein has launched his new garagiste winery called 'Feldstein'. Most interesting is the Feldstein Dabuki 2015, a dry white wine.
Dabouki, (some like Feldstein spell it Dabuki), is an indigenous variety of the Holy Land. However unlike the other indigenous varieties being talked about, Dabouki was grown in Israel. Other varieties like Marawi/ Hamdani, Jandali and Baladi are grown in Palestinian managed vineyards, mainly in the Bethlehem and Hebron regions. Dabuki is also heavily grown in the Palestinian areas, but it is the only one of these varieties always grown in Israel.
At its peak, Dabuki was mainly grown in the Mount Carmel and Judean Shefela. The main use, apart from use as table grapes and as part of inexpensive white wine blends, was for distillation. In those days there was a large brandy market and the Dabuki was considered ideal for distillation for brandy and arak. When the brandy market declined and youngsters switched to whisky, then the old Dabuki vineyards were grubbed up.
However Avi Feldstein discovered a 60 year old Dabuki vineyard in the Alona Valley, in the eastern foothills of Mount Carmel. The grapes were hand harvested, the wine was fermented in stainless steel and the wine was left on its lees to encourage complexity of flavor. The result is not the best white wine on the market, but it is one of the most interesting and the most authentically Israeli.
Avi Feldstein is a creative winemaker with a proven track record as the legendary winemaker of Segal Wines, both when it was a small family winery and later, when it was purchased by the very large Barkan Winery. In those days he was most well-known for is Segal Argaman, an Israeli variety created in the 1980's.
The first winery to work with local varieties, like Hamdani, Jandali, Dabouki & Baladi, was Cremisan Winery. This is a Salesian monastery situated at Beit Jalla, near Bethlehem on the West Bank. The vineyards are their own and they have been making wine since the 1890's.. Their winemaker is Ricardo Cotarrella, the world famous Italian winemaking consultant. They are the most famous Palestinian winery and they use their own vineyards.
The first Israeli winery to work with one of these varieties was Recanati Winery, one of Israel's best wineries. They specialize in Mediterranean style wines. Their Marawi is made from a Palestinian vineyard near Bethlehem. An Israeli winemaker and Palestinian grower make a wonderful cooperation.
The Feldstein Winery though is a 100% Israeli affair. Israeli produced wines from Israeli nurtured vineyards.
The current wines on the market from these exotic varieties are:
Cremisan Baladi 2013
Cremisan Dabouki 2015
Cremisan Hamdani Jandali 2015.
Recanati Marawi 2015
Feldstein Dabuki 2015
Feldstein Shalem 2014 ( complex white wine made from Viognier, Sauvignon Blanc, Roussanne and Dabouki.)
These are wines which have received very creditable recognition. The Cremisan wines caused great interest at Vinitaly when launched and in a big surprise, an earlier vintage of the Cremisan Hamdani Jandali finished first in a tasting by Jancis Robinson MW of Israeli & Holy Land wines. The launch of the Recanati Marawi 2014, caused international interest from the likes of CNN and the New York Times and it also scored 90 points in Robert Parker's Wine Advocate. As for the Feldstein Dabuki, it may well be the best yet version of this variety.
Feldstein Winery also launched a further seven wines, all of which showed complexity and originality and they will be eagerly sought. However none will create the interest that his Dabouki does, unless it his Feldstein Argaman 2015, which is still in barrel. Something to look forward for!