A review of the Saslove Aviv Marriage and the Bruichladdich Single Malt “Kosher” Cask along with a free offer from the International Wine Review.
By Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon
Washington Jewish Week August 22, 2012
Wine lovers across the Jewish community have long recognized Israel’s wine industry’s accomplishments, and tend to rejoice every time some nonkosher wine critic notices, too. While this cheerleading tribal affinity is both welcome and positive, it also has the perhaps less welcome side effect of contributing to the notion that Israeli wine is strictly a Jewish ethnic interest, undeserving of wine-store shelf space beyond the “kosher” section. Of late, however, there are strong signs that interest in the Israeli wine scene is growing beyond just the Jewish demographic.
The most recent edition of The International Wine Review, for example, is focused on the “New Wines of Israel” (report #32). This is a publication for the serious wine imbiber, uninhibited by any religious or ethnic diet or restraint. The IWR has put together a highly detailed 36 page report providing an in-depth look at Israel’s fast-growing and dynamic wine industry, including 250 wine reviews. As the report notes: “While Israel is small, it has a remarkable number of highly trained and talented new and veteran winemakers, who are committed to improving the quality and authenticity of their wines.”
Note to our readers: the publishers of IWR have generously agreed to share this detailed exploration of Israeli wines gratis. Their report can be accessed at: http://iwinereview.com/WinesofIsrael.php. For more information about IWR and subscriptions visit www.i-winereview.com.
Playing more to the attentions of the already devoted Israeli wine lover, we thought we’d also point to a new book that might be of interest: the new third edition of The Wine Route of Israel edited by Eliezer Sacks, Yaron Goldfisher and Adam Montefiore (Cordinata Publishing; NIS 149; around $38). This beautiful coffee table book is a lavish, full-color, comprehensive review of the Israeli wine scene, with photographs of wineries, winemakers, and vineyards from across Israel (kosher and non). The last English-language edition was published in 2008, so this is a totally fresh revamp, with contributions from Peter Stern (original winemaker of both the Golan Heights Winery and the Herzog and Baron Herzog line of American wines), Dr. Peter Hallgarten from the U.K. (a wine importer, who was the first in Europe to market Israeli wines outside the kosher niche), Dr. Arkadi Papikian, (wine consultant, current winemaker of Amphorae, and former winemaker of Dalton Winery), Professor Amos Hadas, (author of The Vine & Wine in the Archaeology of Ancient Israel) and Michal Dayagi-Mendels, (author of Wine & Beer in Ancient Times).
Besides profiling every large and small Israeli winery from Adir to Zion, the book offers various informative essays on the ancient and modern Israeli wine scene including an essay on kosher wine, on the Israeli wine history from 3000 BCE to 2011, an account of the wine roots in the Old City, a detailed breakdown of Israel’s grape varietals and wine-growing regions, relevant statistics on production and consumption within Israel, and much more. Currently only available in Israel in Steimatzky book shops, the Duty Free bookshops at Ben-Gurion Airport and in many an Israeli winery shop/visitors’ center. It’s well worth checking out.
One of the wineries reviewed by the IWR, and obviously featured in The Wine Route of Israel, is Saslove located at Kibbutz Eyal, 30 minutes north of Tel Aviv. Originally from Canada, Barry Saslove switched careers from computer engineering to winemaking in 1991, eventually establishing the Saslove Winery in 1998. Saslove sources his grapes from the Upper Galilee, and even constructed another facility on Kibbutz Tzuriel to be closer to their vineyards. Saslove’s middle daughter, Roni, shares her father’s enthusiasm and passion for wine and joined him as assistant winemaker.
The Saslove Winery currently releases approximately 80,000 bottles annually under the early-drinking “Aviv” label, the barrel-aged “Adom” series (which is also released as a “Reserve” in better vintages), as well as a dessert wine. The winery became kosher certified with the 2010 vintage. So while awaiting the arrival of Saslove’s premium Adom series we recommend the currently easier to find, early-drinking Saslove Aviv Marriage 2010, a blend of the classic French varietals Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot with some Nebbiolo added as well. Red fruit, cedar and chocolate aromas lead into well integrated plum, blueberry, dark cherry, herb and coffee flavors with a moderately lengthy, very pleasant finish.
Spirits-wise, we thought we’d stick with Israel – well, sort of – and revisit the now hard-to-find, yet still available via the internet:
Bruichladdich Scotch Islay Single Malt Carmel Winery “Kosher” Cask (46 percent abv; $130 last we looked): This handsome, enjoyable whisky was distilled in 1989, aged for most of its life in used bourbon casks and then was finished – Bruichladdich calls it ACE’d or “Additional Cask Evolution” – with several months in used wine casks from the Carmel Winery in Israel (used cabernet sauvignon casks), and was finally bottled in 2007 after 18 years of cask ageing. It had limited release in London, New York, Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Interesting to note that Bruichladdich was founded in 1881, and Carmel was founded in 1882. It has smooth, complex, delicate and inviting notes of vanilla, cream, honey, caramel and a light peppery touch on the finish. No trace of peat, but a lovely and now sadly collectable (expensive) whisky. Makes us wish for more such Scotch-Israeli cooperation. L’Chaim!