Jancis Robinson MW, the English wine critic and wine writer, visited Israel for a private visit but also found time to taste 55 of the best Israeli wines. She then went to visit and taste 14 wines of the Judean Hills Quartet, making 69 wines in total. She was accompanied to the tasting by Fiona Morrison, a fellow Master of Wine and owner of Chateau Le Pin from Pomerol in France, producer of one of the rarest wines in the world.
It was a special tasting because Robinson had only recently tasted Israeli wines, and hosted a visit of the Judean Hills Quartet in London. This is the prestigious consortium that includes some of Israel’s most prestigious and finest wineries, all producing wine from the Judean Hills region. The quartet includes Domaine du Castel, headed by Eli Ben Zaken, Flam Winery & the Flam brothers, Sphera owned by Doron Rav Hon and Tzora Vineyards, led by winemaker/ CEO Eran Pick MW, Israel’s first ever and to date only Master of Wine.
It was also special because in the past, Israeli wines were either tasted at Kedem Europe’s annual tasting, at a ballroom somewhere in London, along with other kosher wines, or the tastings were published before the Jewish Festivals or Holidays, typecasting Israeli wines as Jewish wines. So the fact Israeli wines are given focus for the second time this year without reference to Jewish holidays or the kosher aspect, is a watershed moment.
Jancis Robinson is arguably the number one wine critic, wine writer and wine communicator in the world. Robert Parker as wine critic and Hugh Johnson as wine writer, have also gained plaudits, but Robinson appears to effortlessly cover more ground than either of the other two. She is the author of classics that will be in every wine professional’s library, like The Oxford Companion to Wine, Wine Grapes and The World Atlas of Wine. She also caters for beginners with her ‘The 24 Hour Wine Expert’. She has been peerless at the top of her profession for over 35 years.
She posted the tasting notes in her website www.jancisrobinson.com . This is one of the most important websites in the world for wine lovers, wine professionals and connoisseurs. She commented: “I was struck by the dramatic improvement in Israeli wines. They seem to have moved on from simple, often particularly ripe, versions of international varietals and….there is a real determination among many to produce wines that are definitely local.”
The top scoring wine was Flam Noble 2013 with 17.5 points. (She scores out of 20). The other Israeli wines with 17 points included two wines from Tzora Vineyards, and one each from Castel, Clos de Gat, Margalit, Shvo, Sphera, Tabor, Yarden and Yatir. The highest scoring Israeli wine ever in Jancis Robinson’s data base is Sphera White Signature 2015 which received 18 points. For the complete scores and her tasting notes on every wine, her article on Israel and data base, you are encouraged to subscribe to the website.
The tasting was put together by the Aviram Katz, the sommelier of Basta Restaurant, who also is the wine critic for Time Out & Al Hashulchan, with the help of fellow sommeliers Uri Caftory, owner of Garrigue Restaurant, Shira Tsiddon, sommelier of the Norman Hotel and international sommelier, WSET educator, wine consultant and author of the New Israeli Wine Guide, Gal Zohar. They selected wines from no less than 40 different wineries covering nearly every possible category, (excluding sparkling wines & dessert wines) and they were divided into flights of four to six wines. This was a great feat of organization. The tasting was held in the private room at the Norman Hotel in Tel Aviv, recently winner of the award for the ‘Best Wine List in Israel’. Apart from the sommeliers, the tasting was attended by wine industry veteran Adam Montefiore, the wine writer for the Jerusalem Post and author of the sections on ‘Israel’ & ‘Kosher’ in Jancis Robinson’s The Oxford Companion To Wine.
The visit to Israel, focus on Israeli wines and coverage of the tasting on the Jancis Robinson website, should not be underestimated. It is a supremely important moment for Israeli wines.
Photo: Fiona Morrison MW. Back row, left to right: Gal Zohar, Jancis Robinson MW, Adam Montefiore. Front row: Uri Caftori, Shira Tsiddon, Aviram Katz