Israel Flam ? from Mass Market to Boutique

03/10/2008
Israel Flam, one of the main figures of the Israel wine industry, left Carmel Winery. more »

Israel Flam ? from Mass Market to Boutique

Israel Flam, one of the main figures of the Israel wine industry, left Carmel Winery ? Societe Cooperative Vigneronne des Grandes Caves (Agudat Hacormim) after no less than 35 years service. During this time he had overseen enormous changes in the wine scene in Israel. Now he is part of a small family winery run by his sons and seeing the wine industry from a totally different perspective.

Born in Russia, his family made aliyah when he was two years old after the Second World War. After serving in the paratroopers in the IDF (Israeli army), he then joined The Israel Wine Institute under the management of Frenchman, Charles Loinger. When he decided on winemaking as a career, he traveled to South Africa to study at Stellenbosch Farmers Winery & completed his studies at UC Davis ? the Oenology & Viticulture Department of The University of California at Davis. Today it is commonplace for Israelis to study oenology abroad, Israel was arguably the first young winemaker to do this acting as a pioneer to those that followed.

He returned to become part of the winemaking team at Carmel, being at the winery when they produced the first Israeli varietal wines from Cabernet Sauvignon & Sauvignon Blanc. From 1974 ? 1995 he was in charge of wine production at Rishon Le Zion, Israel?s largest winery. He was involved in the production of the famed Carmel Special Reserve wines of 1976 & 1979 ? Israel?s first international class wines.

In February 1995 he took over from Freddie Stiller & became Chief – Winemaker & Technical Director of Carmel Mizrahi. This meant he was responsible for harvesting up to 30,000 tonnes of grapes and managing the winemaking of Israel?s two largest wineries of Rishon Le Zion & Zichron Ya?acov. If this was not enough he was also responsible for the production of products as diverse as wine, grape juice, brandy, vodka, liqueurs, wine vinegar & olive oil! Many of the newcomers managing boutique & small wineries have little idea of the logistics involved in managing operations on such a gigantic scale.

In his later years at Carmel, he became part of the rejuvenation of this traditional company. He managed & developed a team of younger winemakers & was the liaison with Peter Stern, the famous Californian winemaking consultant, who starting advising Carmel in January 2004. He oversaw the building of Carmel?s new boutique wineries to prepare the company for the future.

Israel Flam has encyclopedic knowledge about the wine industry ? far & above his Carmel responsibilities. It was therefore appropriate that he was elected as chairman of the Forum of Israeli Winemakers, when it was formed.

After giving the main part of his working life to Carmel, he is now part the family business: Flam Winery. The boutique winery is owned & managed by his sons, winemaker Golan, Gilad, & daughter Gefen. It has received international recognition, including being awarded two stars to three stars in the Hugh Johnson Pocket Wine Book 2008, which made it the third ranked Israeli winery in the book. In the Tom Stevenson Wine Report of 2004, Flam?s wines were ranked amongst the 100 most exciting wines in the world. Their success in producing world class wines combined with their successful importing business, Gefen Bros., must be a source of great pride. His children are happy to receive the benefit of the knowledge of Israel?s most experienced winemaker. He is there, part of the team, but never interfering

Proof of the ability of Israel Flam the winemaker was emphasized with two international awards Carmel received in 2004 just before he left Carmel. First, his Muscat of Alexandria Late Harvest 2000, a wine he developed, received a Gold Medal in the Muscat du Monde competition in France. Then in the ultimate compliment, Private Collection Ramat Arad 2000 finished first in a Wine Spectator tasting of all the best Israeli wines in September 2004.

Israel Flam is a winemaker who has a breadth of experience rare in the wine world. On one hand he has produced 30 million bottles a year in the largest winery in the Middle East. On the other has played a part in one of Israel?s finest boutique wineries, possibly largest in Israel producing non kosher wines.

Today he spends time with his grand children and is the father figure of the Flam Winery. However he is also the father figure of the Israeli wine industry, possibly the only person to have overseen all the changes there have been in during the most exciting period in Israeli wine for 2,000 years.

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