Italy, France, California … Israel? The first three are well known wine regions, but Israel is now staking a claim to have its name included among the best. Just in time for Passover, the AJT spoke to Larissa Nahari, vice president of marketing of The River Wine about what people should look for when trying an Israeli wine this year. With The River Wine importing from several Israeli wineries, as well as kosher vineyards in Italy and California, the company has become pretty well versed in the world of kosher wine and, as of late, many of their wines are available in Atlanta.
“We started working in the Atlanta area in the last year, and there has been an amazing reception to the fact that there are new choices in kosher wine, especially in time for Passover,” Nahari said.
With the diverse climate in Israel, Nahari explained that Israeli wine can be incredibly varied and often features unique or less common grapes and blends than wines from other countries.
“You’re getting a little bit more that are obscure grapes or ones that you don’t ordinarily see that happen to grow well in the climate,” she said. “For instance, Beit El just released a Marselan and there are very few of those, but it turned out to be an amazing wine.”
For Passover, Nahari noted that there are two distinct kinds of wines that tend to sell well.
The first, called “seder wines,” tend to be lighter and are perfect for drinking four glasses at the table.
“These wines tend to be more entry level, like Tishbi’s Cab-Syrah blend. It’s very light, it’s fresh and a very easy to drink red wine,” Nahari said.
The latter are special occasion wines, which, while less common with the ceremonial meal, many people enjoy breaking out later in the week to celebrate.
“You do have a lot of other meals throughout Passover in addition to the seders,” she said. “People do like to bring out their really special wines. We do see a lot of people looking for those higher-end, unique wines for their holiday meals.”
Nahari also discussed the growth and changes to the Israeli wine industry and offered her thoughts for those looking to sample some Israeli labels. In particular, she pointed to the ingenuity of Israeli winemakers, who are unafraid to try something new.
“It’s really all about being inventive, and seeing what works,” she said. “They really are coming out with things that are a little bit different than what you’d see from other regions.”
She pointed to Tishbi’s Petit Verdot, which is made from 100 percent Petit Verdot grapes — traditionally used in a blend and not solo. In this case, thanks to Israel’s warm climate, the traditionally spicy, concentrated grapes are somewhat more mellow and develop interesting flavors such as licorice.
Nahari added that there are some challenges in getting Israeli wines to consumers, particularly when they’re only displayed on kosher shelves.
“We really want Israeli wine to be seen as its own category,” she said. “These wines should be seen for what they are as wine, not just for being kosher, because a lot of consumers never walk over to the kosher shelves.”
In terms of her advice for those looking to reach beyond the ordinary and try Israeli wines, Nahari’s recommendation was very simple.
“Don’t be afraid to try something new this year,” she said. “You can try a cabernet from all different parts of the world, but it’s not often you can try something from a totally new area or a completely new grape to you.”
Tishbi Estate Single Vineyard Petit Verdot: The full-bodied, Judean Hills wine is produced from the high quality first press juice. The grapes are fermented for two weeks with their skins at a controlled temperature to preserve nature’s wide range of flavors. The wine is unfiltered and barrel-aged for 12 months.
Tishbi Vineyards Cab-Syrah: Mevushal. This young, fruity red wine displays fresh strawberry aromas with a hint of herbs. Produced entirely in stainless steel vats.
Beit El Marselan: 100 percent Marselan: The wine has dark cherry fruit and classic notes of creme brulee, butterscotch, coffee and bittersweet chocolate. The aromatics are accented by a soft and creamy mouthfeel. These are 300 cases of a wine that will be remembered!
For those looking to try Israeli wine in Atlanta, they are available at Kroger, Tower Beer, Wine & Spirits and at The Kosher Gourmet.