More than 200 Israeli and kosher wines were exhibited last week at Europe’s largest kosher wine tasting, the Kosher Food & Wine Experience. Winemakers and producers were on hand throughout the evening to offer tastings of their recently released wines, and over 800 guests enjoyed an extensive kosher buffet alongside the wide range of Israeli and kosher wines.
The worldwide market for kosher wine is considerable, and growing. In France, it's worth some $65 million; the US produces a million kosher bottles a year. While about half the world’s kosher wines are from Israel, it is made everywhere – France, Italy, Spain, Argentina, New Zealand, California, Oregon. Champagne Laurent-Perrier, Bordeaux châteaux such as Clarke, Giscours, Léoville-Poyferré, Pontet-Canet and Valandraud, all make kosher versions of their top wines. Some wineries, such as Spencer Hill in New Zealand, have no Jewish connection but make kosher wine to answer market demand.
In order to be kosher, the making of the wine must be supervised by a Sabbath-observant Jew or rabbi. The processes are the same – although all ingredients used, from yeast to egg-white finings – must be kosher as well. Even if the wine is mevushal (literally, “cooked”), so that it remains kosher when handled by gentiles, modern flash-pasteurization methods mean no diminution in quality.
Carmel Winery, the largest winery in Israel, was one of some 30 producers presenting wines for tasting at Sheraton Grand London Park Lane, including four IWSC medal-winning wines – Carmel Mediterranean 2012, Chardonnay Admon Vineyard 2014, Shiraz Kayoumi Vineyard 2012 and Malbec Admon Vineyard 2013.
Adam Montefiore, the world’s leading expert in Israeli wines, led a masterclass at the event on the ‘Wines of Israel: Mediterranean Inspiration’, where attendees tasted eight Israeli and three kosher wines while learning more about the vineyards of Israel, from the Golan Heights in Galilee to the Yatir Forest in the Judean Hills.
Montefiore was keen to stress Israel’s place in the Mediterranean: “Most people outside of the Kosher world think that Israel’s part of the Middle East, but our appellation is the eastern Mediterranean. It’s not so strange that we have great olive oil, we make wine, we have good food and vegetables. You should think of Israel as more Mediterranean than Middle East.”
Israel has a rich history of 5000 years of winemaking and over 300 wineries throughout, around only 70 of which are commercial (boutique wineries that harvest more than 50 metric tonnes - enough wine to export). It enjoys a Mediterranean climate with some of the longest harvests in the world, stretching from mid-July to the first week of November, creating an enormous diversity of wines.
“I like to think we’re the quality representative of the eastern Mediterranean. Israel is a very diverse climate with very diverse wines, and a lot of investment in quality. I wouldn’t say we’ve arrived, but if you look back where we were 30 years ago, where we are today, and where we might be in another 30 years, we’re certainly going in an upwards direction. It’s very, very exciting to be part of it”, Montefiore concluded.