Margalit Winery has concentrated on what it does best, namely Bordeaux varieties for years, and has consistently been in the top three or four red wine producers in Israel. The production at 20,000 bottles has stayed the same for years.
However Margalit Winery has recently launched a few surprises. Yair Margalit and Assaf Margalit, father and son, hosted a couple of prestigious tastings at their winery in Binyamina for journalists and sommeliers to show some new wines.
Firstly was their GSM wine made from their new Zichron Ya’acov vineyard. The Margalit Paradigma 2015 is made from 50% Syrah, 30% Mourvedre and 20% Grenache. It was released a few months ago, but is still new enough to be of interest to the guest tasters. This is their first wine made from Mediterranean varieties and it has a beautiful perfumed aroma.
Next was a new Riesling made from the 2016 vintage again from the Zichron vineyards. The wine is off dry and was aged for a short time in old oak barrels. It was always a wish of Assaf Margalit to make a varietal Riesling and the result has been eagerly awaited by Riesling lovers.
Then most interestingly, was a new white wine called Margalit Optima 2016. It is a blend of 75% Chardonnay and 25% Margalit Blanc. Margalit Blanc is an unknown and unidentified mutation that occurred naturally in their Cabernet Franc vineyard in Binyamina. They discovered a lone white grape vine in the red vine vineyard. Unusually some of the grapes in a bunch were red and others white. Yair Margalit, curious as ever, sent a sample for DNA tests at the University of Davis at California. They initially came back and said it was Sangiovese and then later, after testing again and said it may be Colombard. However there was no certainty and this particular DNA did not match anything in their data base.
The Margalits decided to propagate this vine and planted it in their Zichron vineyard. It is possibly a mutation of Cabernet Franc and Colombard but is unknown, so the nursery began to refer to it as Margalit Blanc.
The characteristics of this new variety are a flowery aroma and piercing natural acidity. The wine tastes initially like an acidic Chardonnay but after half an hour in the glass the aromas developed. A fascinating wine.
Last but not least, Yair Margalit has produced a Californian Enigma. The Israeli Margalit Enigma is the winery’s famous Bordeaux blend based on Cabernet Sauvignon. Whilst on a sabbatical in California to update his books on winemaking, Yair could not resist making a wine. The result is the Yair Enigma, Napa Valley 2012 a blend of 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Petit Verdot and 8% Cabernet Franc. There were only two barrels made. It is a beautifully balanced wine with the full ripe fruit aroma characteristic of Napa Valley but with a nice elegance to it too. It will be expensive, is rare and will be sought after by collectors.
Margalit Winery was founded in 1989 by Dr. Yair Margalit. It was Israel’s first quality boutique winery and became Israel’s first cult wine. Yair is one of the father figures of the quality wine revolution in Israel. Now his son Assaf Margalit is the winemaker and he is considered one of Israel’s most talented young winemakers. They have three vineyards which are wholly owned. At Kadita, in the foothills of Mount Meron at 800 meters altitude, they grow Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Petite Sirah. The soil is volcanic. At their Binyamina vineyard on the coast they grow Cabernet Franc on terra rossa soil. Now they also have their new Zichron Ya’acov vineyard where they grow Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre, Chardonnay , Riesling and Margalit Blanc. The soil is limestone. The winery’s production is now 30,000 bottles a year.
At the tastings, Yair and Assaf Margalit were accompanied by their wives. Irit Shenkar, legendary restaurateur and ex owner of the famous Keren and Dixie Restaurants is Yair’s wife and Nomi, Assaf’s wife, is the treasurer and bookkeeper of the winery. Oded Shoham and Rami Livni were also present. They have been an integral part of the Margalit team for many years. Oded is marketing manager and Rami is part of the production team. The latest addition to the team is Debby Sion, ex education manager of the Golan Heights Winery, who will be the hostess at the winery, advancing activities there.