Barkan Winery: My Annual Visit With Tasting Notes (K)

By: Daniel Rogov more »

?By: Daniel Rogov

Yesterday (Tuesday, 13 April), I made my way to the Barkan Winery at Kibbutz Hulda there to do tastings of both the Barkan and the Segal Wines which share the same facility. All-in-all I tasted some 33 wines, those including new tastings, re-tastings and barrel tastings.

A few words about the two wineries:

Barkan: Founded in 1990 by Shmuel Boxer and Yair Lerner with the buyout of the former wine and liqueur producer, Stock, the winery was first located in the industrial area of Barkan, not far from Kfar Saba on the Trans-Samaria Highway. In 1999 Barkan began planting extensive vineyards in Kibbutz Hulda, on the central plain near the town of Rehovot, where it now has a state-of-the-art winery. From mid-2008, the full operations of the winery have been at Hulda. Under the supervision of winemakers Ed Salzberg, Yotam Sharon and Irit Boxer, the first of whom studied in California, the second in France, and the third in Australia, this is now the second-largest winery in Israel, with current production at close to ten million bottles annually.
Barkan, whose main ownership is now in the hands of the soft-drink company Tempo, has a current investment exceeding $20 million, that including the winery, the adjoining vineyards (1500 dunams owned jointly by the winery and the kibbutz, making this the largest single vineyard in the country), a a new barrel room and a visitors? center that is currently under construction. Barkan is also the parent company of Segal Wines.
The winery releases varietal wines in four series: Superieur, Reserve (of which the Altitude wines may be considered a sub-label), Classic and Domaine. The winery also produces several private label wines including those in the Derekh Eretz series for the Wine Route chain of shops. In addition, the winery is currently developing a vineyard of 150 dunams (75 acres) at Mitzpe Ramon in the Negev Desert, and will release wines from there under the label Negev Project.
In my 2011 books Barkan will make the move from three to four stars, those based largely on the upper-level series and the improvement in their more popular series.

Segal: Established in the 1950s as Ashkelon Wines and later taking on the name of the family that owned it, in 2001 the company was bought out by Barkan Wineries, but kept its name. Under winemaker Avi Feldstein, with quality vineyards in several regions of the Upper Galilee, and operating now in Barkan?s state-of-the-art facilities at Kibbutz Hulda, the winery is now producing several excellent wines, including Single Vineyard and Unfiltered wines, both from Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. Other series are Ben Ami, Marom Galil (including those wines labeled Single and Fusion), Rechasim, the single-vineyard Dovev varietal wines, Batzir and the popular-priced, entry-level Shel Segal series. The winery relies on Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Argaman, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Emerald Riesling and French Colombard grapes, and current production is about 1.5 million bottles annually, of which nearly one million are in the Shel Segal series. Segal comfortably continues to earn its four stars in my wine guides.
Not included in my tastings were the wines in the entry series of both wineries: Barkan’s Classic and Segal’s Ben-Ami. Those wines will be making their way to my tasting room in the quite near future and I shall post separately about those.
My thanks to winemakers Yotam Sharon, Irit Boxer and Avi Feldstein for a fine tasting and their good company as well as to Shmuel Boxer who later accompanied us to lunch. Senior winemaker Ed Salzberg could not be present because he was undergoing knee surgery. I wish him a rapid and full recovery.


Barkan, Sauvignon Blanc, Reserve, 2009 (Advance Tasting): Bright light gold in color, medium-bodied, with fruits muted at first but opening nicely in the glass to reveal appealing citrus, grassy and herbal notes all with a tantalizing hint of celery seed. Drink now-2011. Score 89. K (Tasted 13 Apr 2010)

Barkan, Chardonnay, Reserve, 2009 (Advance Tasting): Light gold, slightly muted when first poured but opening in the glass to show green apple, pear and green almond notes. Medium-bodied, with an appealing hint of bitterness on the finish. Drink now-2011. Score 88. K (Tasted 13 Apr 2010)

Barkan, Pinotage, Reserve, 2007: Oak aged for 12 months, dark garnet and concentrated, with purple plum and blackberry notes along with sweet and spicy notes that run through this medium- to full-bodied wine and gently tannic wine. Drink now. Score 87. K (Re-tasted 13 Apr 2010).

Barkan, Pinotsage, Reserve, 2008 (Barrel Tasting): Potentially the best Israeli Pinotage to date. Dark garnet, full-bodied, with gently gripping tannins. Now aging in Amerian and French oak, showing full-bodied, with aromas and flavors of blackcurrants, plums and figs, those supported nicely by notes of sweet herbs and briar. A fine example of the variety, reminds me of the wines of Beyers Truter in South Africa (and believe me, that is a compliment). Drink from release-2013. Tentative Score 90-92. K (Tasted 13 Apr 2010)

Barkan, Carignan, Reserve, 2007: Made from grapes harvested from 25 year old vines, super-dark royal purple in color, medium- to full-bodied, and reflecting its 10 months in oak with soft, gently gripping tannins and sweet and spicy cedar wood. On the nose and palate blackberries, wild berries and purple plums, those supported nicely by hints of bitter-sweet chocolate. Blended with 8% Cabernet Franc, finishes long and generous with appealing mineral notes. Drink now-2012. Score 88. K (Re-tasted 13 Apr 2010)

Barkan, Shiraz, Reserve, 2007 (Advance Tasting): Youthful garnet in color, medium- to full-bodied, with silky tannins integrating nicely, opening to show wild berry, plum and peppery notes and, on the moderately long finish a note of licorice. Drink now-2012. Score 88. K ( (Tasted 13 Apr 2010)

Barkam. Merlot, Reserve, 2007 (Advance Tasting): Opens with a floral and fruit-rich nose, goes on to reflect its 14 months in oak with light spicy wood and soft tannins to support generous raspberry and red currant fruits, those complemented by notes of spices, dark chocolate and finally, on the long finish, cigar tobacco. Drink now-2012. Score 89. K (Tasted 13 Apr 2010)

Barkan, Cabernet Sauvigon, Reserve, 2007 (Advance Tasting): With a bit of bottle-time under its belt, showing better than at an earlier tasting. Dark and ripe, medium- to full-bodied, reflecting its 20 months in barriques with light notes of spices and vanilla and now well integrating tannins. On the nose and palate black cherry, currants and a light smoky note, the intensity rising on the finish. Drink now-2012. Score 88. K (Re-tasted 13 Apr 2010)

From here it was on to re-tastings of the wines in the 2007 Altitude Series as well as the 2006 Superieur wines. In all cases my tasting notes hold firmly from earlier tastings.

Barkan, Cabernet Sauvignon, Altitude 412, 2007: Made entirely from Cabernet Sauvignon grapes primarily from the Avnai-Eitan vineyard on the southern Golan Heights and developed largely in in new French oak for 14 months. Medium- to full-bodied, in the direction of full, with soft tannins integrating nicely and a moderate reflection of spicy cedar wood from the barriques in which it aged, opens to show a fine array of blackcurrant, blackberry and blueberry fruits, those on a lightly spicy background that calls to mind mint and tobacco. Coherent, long and quietly elegant. Drink now-2015. Score 90. K (Re-tasted 13 Apr 2010)

Barkan, Cabernet Sauvignon, Altitude 624, 2007: Cabernet Sauvignon as a Mediterranean Cabernet Sauvignon should be. Made from grapes from the Alma vineyard in the northern Galilee, oak aged in new French oak for 14 months, showing deep garnet towards royal purple. Full-bodied, with silky tannins and notes of spicy oak, those in fine balance with the fruits. On the nose and palate blackcurrants, blackberries and notes of licorice, all with a tantalizing overlay of bitter orange peel. Long and generous. Give this one some time and it will show notes of vanilla and Oriental spices. Approachable now but best from 2012-2016, perhaps longer. Score 92. K (Re-tasted 13 Apr 2010)

Barkan, Cabernet Sauvignon, Altitude 720, 2007: Made from grapes from the Dovev winery, in the northern Galilee on the Lebanese border. With a nose that might make you think you were about to sample an cocktail of fresh herbs and wild shrubs, with aromas of garrigue, basil, eucalyptus and citronella, those melding nicely first to raspberries and red plums, then to more traditional Cabernet fruits, those including cassis and blackberries. On the long finish a generous note of bitter-sweet chocolate. Approachable now but best 2012-2016. Score 91. K (Re-tasted 13 Apr 2010)

Barkan, Shiraz, Superieur, 2006: Dark garnet, medium- to full-bodied, a soft, round wine with silky tannins integrating nicely and showing a generous array of raspberries, red currant and chocolate aromas and flavors, those opening to reveal a gentle note of smoked sawdust. Tannins and light leathery notes rise on the generous finish. Well crafted. Drink now-2012. Score 91. K (Re-tasted 13 Apr 2010)

Barkan, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2006: A full-bodied blend of 90% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Merlot aged for 18 months in primarily new French barriques. Dark ruby towards garnet, opens with generous oak and firm tannins, those subsiding in the glass and opening to reveal a light note of vanilla from the wood and then traditional Cabernet blackcurrants and blackberries, those along with notes of blueberries and mint and at what one moment seems to be a hint of lead pencils and another a cigar box note. Well crafted. Drink now-2013. Score 90. K (Re-tasted 13 Apr 2010)


?Segal, White Fusion, Marom Galil, 2009 (Advance Tasting): A blend of 60% Chardonnay and 40% French Colombard, those exposed to minimum wood. Light gold in color, aromatic with citrus, green apple and hints of bitter almonds. A fine quaffer. Drink now-2011. Score 87. K (Tasted 13 Apr 2010)

Segal, Chardonnay, Marom Galil, Single, 2008: Lightly oaked, deep gold in color, medium- to full-bodied with fine balancing acidity and a hint of mint on the nose. On the nose and palate tropical and summer fruits on a lively background. Not complex but a good quaffer. Drink now-2011. Score 86. K (Tasted 13 Apr 2010)

Segal, Red Fusion, Marom Galil, Single, 2009: A medium-bodied, softly tannic, unoaked blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon (60%, 25% and 15% respectively). Dark and well extracted, with ample berry, black cherry and cassis aromas, a young, easy to drink wine. Drink now-2011. Score 86. K (Tasted 13 Apr 2010)

Segal, Merlot, Marom Galil, Single, 2007: Dark garnet, medium-bodied, a blend of 85% Merlot and 15% Cabernet Sauvignon. Oak-aged for 14 months, showing soft tannins and spicy wood, both integrating nicely to highlight blackberry and blueberry fruits on a lightly spicy background. Drink now-2012. Score 87. K (Tasted 13 Apr 2010)

Segal, Cabernet Sauvignon, Marom Galil, Single, 2007: Reflecting its 18 months in oak with gently gripping tannins, vanilla and a hint of Oriental spices. Super-dark garnet, medium- to full bodied showing traditional Cabernet blackcurrant, blackberry and black cherry notes. Moderately long. Drink now-2012. Score 88. K (Tasted 13 Apr 2010)

Segal, Cabernet Sauvignon, Special Reserve, 2007: At my request, a special tasting of the mevushal version of the above reviewed wine. Dark garnet, medium- to full-bodied, with firm tannins and a very generous hint of oak. On the palate jammy and near-sweet blackcurrant, blackberry and wild berry notes and on the finish a light note of blackstrap molasses. Drink up. Score 84. K (Tasted 13 Apr 2010)

Segal, Merlot, Rechasim, Dovev, 2004: Showing very nicely indeed. With its once firm tannins now well integrated, and now showing the promise of its youth. Dark garnet, medium- to full-bodied, with aromas and flaors of purple plums, black cherries and blackberries, those complemented by notes of spicy oak and, on the long finish hints of espresso and bitter-sweet chocolate. Generous and mouth-filling. Drink now-2012. Score 91. K (Re-tasted 13 Apr 2010)

Segal, Cabernet Sauvignon, Rechasim, Dishon, 2005: My earlier tasting note holds firmly. Garnet toward royal purple, medium- to full-bodied with fine concentration. Generous spicy wood and soft tannins part to reveal blackberry, purple plum and currant fruits, those with appealing spicy and herbal notes lingering comfortably on the finish. Drink now?2011. Score 89. K (Re-tasted 13 Apr 2010)

Segal, Cabernet Sauvignon, Unfiltered, 2005: Blended with 10% Merlot, aged partially in partly new, partly used French and American oak for 30 months, showing full-bodied with generous but gently mouth-coating tannins, the wood and the tannins in fine balance with the fruits. With almost liqueur-like notes of kirsch and cassis, those yielding comfortably to notes of purple plums and pepper. Long and generous. Drink now?2012. Score 90. K (Re-tasted 13 Apr 2010)

Next in the tasting order Segal’s Argaman wines of 2006 and 2008. When I first tasted the 2006, I wrote that it was a nice but not excellent wine and, because of the grape and the way the wine was made predicted its demise in the next year or so. Still a nice wine and indeed winemaker Avi Feldstein was right in that it is not falling apart. Not yet at any rate. I look forward to another tasting next year. For those interested, my original tasting note appears at the very end of this post.
As to the 2008 ? a different story altogether.

Segal, Argaman, Rechasim, Dovev, 2006: Made by fermenting the Argamon on the lees of Merlot grapes, super-dark, almost impenetrable royal purple in color, with still dominant spices and smoky wood, tannins that are a bit chunky and jammy plum and berry aromas and flavours. Not complex but drinking well. Drink now. Score 85. K (Re-tasted 13 Apr 2010)

Segal, Argaman, Rechasim, Dovev, 2008 (Barrel Tasting): I confess that I’m still having trouble finding charm in the Argaman grape but if it does exist Segal seems to be bringing it to its best. As one expects from this grape, super-dark and almost impenetrable garnet towards royal purple, with super soft tannins and notes of smoke coming not from the grape but from the oak in which it aged. On the nose and palate somewhat amorphous blueberry, blackberry and cassis flavours (not much in the way of aromatics here). Soft and round, perhaps best thought of as either a curiosity for sophisticated consumers of as a fine entry-level wine. Drink from release. Score 85. K (Tasted 13 Apr 2010)

And Finally, A Barrels Tasting

Thanks to the curiosity and inventiveness of the winemakers, Barkan continues to experiment with different kinds of oak, and the last part of our tasting was not so much a barrel tasting but a “barrels tasting” ? that is to say in four sets tasting wines that had been harvested on the same date, fermented in the same stainless steel tanks and then treated to different kinds of oak. My tastings thus not to much of the wines themselves (all from the 2008 vintage and each ranging in quality from very good to excellent) but a judgement of the impact of the various oak barrels.

Set 1: Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 from the vineyard at Kiryat Anavim.
(a) In Troncais oak – darker in color, with more green notes and brighter acidity
(b) In Nevers oak ? more generous but still soft tannins from the oak, showing quiet hints of spices

Set 2: Cabernet Sauvignon, 2008 from the Dovev Vineyard
(a) In Troncais oak – Showing generous fruit, soft tannins, a few green notes, a hint of vanilla and appealing Oriental spices
(b) In Taransaud oak ? Like Clint Eastwood, “lean, clean and mean”, with notes of green, gently gripping tannins, notes of roasted herbs

Set 3: Merlot, 2008 from the Dovev Vineyard
(a) In Sirgue oak ? dark, with dusty and spicy oak and firm, somewhat chunky tannins
(b) In Dentes oak (an oak previously unknown to me) ? minimal oak influence, barely felt notes of smoke and spices

Set 4: Cabernet Sauvignon, from the Dishon Vineyard
(a) In Trancais oak- clean fruits, soft tannins, light spices on nose and palate
(b) Alliler oak ? deepest oak influence, showing firm but yielding tannins, spices, smoke and grilled herbs
(c) In Gamba oak ? a gentle oak influence, spices and smoke felt but not at all imposing. Eleganc
(d) In Taransaud oak ? green, spicy and roasted herbal notes. Generous oak but not at all overpowering

P.S. For those interested, my original tasting note for the 2006 Argaman wine reviewed above:

Rechasim, Argaman, Dovev, 2006: Dark, literally impenetrable royal purple in color and medium- to full bodied, one might be tempted to think this wine was made entirely from Argaman grapes (a cross between Carignan and Sauzao) but that is not quite the case. Argaman may boast fantastic depth of color but is, to be charitable, lacking in most other qualities (e.g. tannins, aroma or flavour), so to give this wine the “push” it needed, it was fermented on the skins of Merlot grapes and then aged in French and American oak barriques, half of which were new, for 18 months. It might not be unfair to say that while we can credit the Argaman grapes for the wine’s deep color, the tannins, flavours and acids came from the Merlot and the oak. Despite all of which, the spicy and smoky wood proves somewhat dominant, the tannins come out as just a bit chunky (i.e. country-style) and the plum and berry flavors prove jammy and perhaps just a bit too near-sweet. Interestingly, not a bad wine so much as it is a highly stylized wine that many may enjoy. My estimate is that this is not a wine meant for cellaring, its elements never coming together fully and perhaps destined to collapse within the next year or two. Drink now. Score 85. K

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