Interesting things are happening at Segal Wines. They have launched four new wines in their portfolio. There is a Wild Ferment Chardonnay 2018 & Wild Ferment Cabernet Sauvignon 2017, and a Whole Cluster Syrah 2017 & Whole Cluster Pinot Noir 2017. In each instance, the name used explains the winemaking process. This continues the change of direction for one of the more historic names in Israeli wine.
The Segal family were distillers in White Russia from 1787. Two brothers came to Israel in 1925 and as distilling experts, were coopted to open the distillery in the Templar community of Sarona. This was done in agreement with the Teperberg family. The Segals were the distillers and the Teperbergs the distributors! In 1950 they founded a winery which was called Askalon Wines (the misspelling was theirs) in Ramle and had their offices in the Yemenite Quarter in Tel Aviv. They also became importers under the brand name Carmei Zvi. Eventually they changed the winery name to ‘Yayin Shel Segal’, ie Segal’s Wine.
In the Israeli wine trade, the Segals were chiefly known for their innovative labels, quality red wines and pioneering imports. Segal were bought by Barkan Winery in the year 2000 and ceased to be a family winery. In this incarnation the winery was very associated with the winemaker Avi Feldstein, who made their famous Unfiltered Cabernet Sauvignon and award winning Argaman. Later Barkan was purchased by Tempo Beverages, Israel’s leading brewer and a total beverage company with brands such as Goldstar, Heineken, Chivas Regal and Pepsi Cola. Since then the Segal brand really became known just as another label of Barkan Winery, though it continued to be marketed separately. There was a confusing number of labels and names, but their inexpensive Segal Red became one of the largest selling wines in the country and they even started producing grape juice under the Segal name. The winery really lost its individual character, at the same time as the Barkan-Segal combined was becoming the largest winery in the country.
With the appointment of a new CEO, Gilles Assouline, and a new winemaker, Ido Lewinsohn, they have decided to relaunch the Segal label as the more natural, ‘wild’ and ‘more Israeli’ label. They launched a Petit UF Cabernet Sauvignon (Unfiltered), and a Free Run label last year (with a Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Chardonnay). Now they have supported this innovativeness by launching wines produced by wild fermentation and whole cluster pressing. The label and logo has been redesigned and the brand re positioned – though the cheap supermarket wines and grape juice still exist.
Out of the new wines the best buys are the Free Run Merlot, Wild Ferment Chardonnay, which retail at 60-65 shekels and the Whole Cluster Pinot Noir, that retails at 110 shekels. The Free Run Merlot is juicy, mouth filling and refreshing, The Wild Ferment Chardonnay is a perfectly balanced modern style Chardonnay with the right balance of fruit, a touch of oak and great acidity. A good food wine. The Whole Cluster Pinot Noir has nice weight, good red berry fruit, herbal notes and again a refreshing finish. The innovation continues to the labels. The Whole Cluster wines have a wax capsule and a clean white label with the name only faintly embossed.
It is a welcome change to write about a leading winery being innovative and creative. All credit to Gilles and Ido.