Wijn is in Israel, zowel vergeleken met wijn hier als met sterke drank daar, relatief duur. Daarom heb ik voornamelijk het goedkope spul leren kennen, en dat is geen feest. Wijn is echter in opkomst en dat zal ook de prijs steeds verder doen drukken, zeker van de niet-koshere wijn.
Ancient land, new wines
By JENALIA MORENO
By JENALIA MORENO
Copyright 2009 Houston Chronicle
June 20, 2009, 2:38AM
June 20, 2009, 2:38AM
Inside a candlelit room at a west Houston Italian restaurant, the Israeli government sought to change Israel's international image with help from one of the world's oldest industries: wine glasses and glasses of wine.
The government recently teamed up with its wine industry and U.S. importers to promote the beverages made from grapes grown on the land immortalized by biblical figures Noah, Samson, and David and Goliath.
These days, Israel is known more for conflict and tension than for its wines, local Israeli government officials said.
"Israeli wine can help rebrand Israel," said wine importer Richard Shaffer, who is working with the government by hosting wine-tasting parties.
Wine production began in Israel millennia ago, Shaffer said, peppering his wine dinner speech with biblical references.
In the last quarter-century, wine experts have rediscovered Israel, a promised land with less than two dozen wineries. Today more than 200 dot the nation's landscape, said Shaffer, the owner of the Chicago area's Israeli Wine Direct, which works with Israel's boutique wineries.
The government's promotional campaign that sponsors wine tastings across the nation may have already helped Israel's wine exports to the U.S. because they increased to 150,200 cases last year from 146,500 cases in 2007, according to De-partment of Commerce numbers.
That comes at a time when the global recession and a weakening of the U.S. dollar contributed to a 5 percent decrease in U.S. imports of all wines by volume last year, compared with 2007.
Israel sold $12 million worth of wine to the U.S. last year, up from $11 million in 2007, according to the Israeli government.
Touting the quality
Educating consumers that quality wine can hail from Israel is an obstacle.
"It's just funny you had never heard of Israeli wines before," said Carol Hunton, who attended a four-course dinner paired with Israeli wines Tuesday at Carmelo's.
She described the Pelter Trio 2006 paired with the rigatoni with porcini mushrooms and veal ragu dish as rich and soft.
"We in the restaurant business are always looking for something new, something to bring to our customers," said the restaurant's owner, Carmelo Mauro, who hails from Sicily.
Local wine critic Denman Moody tried eight Israeli wines during a breakfast at Carmelo's.
"They were all surprisingly good," he said, describing a Pelter Sauvignon Blanc 2007 as not like drinking grapefruit juice, but more in between the flavors of tropical fruits and peaches.
Not all kosher
Another obstacle Israel faces in growing the industry is convincing consumers and shopkeepers that not all Israeli wine is kosher.
Kosher wines must be made under the supervision of a rabbi, contain only kosher ingredients and processed using equipment certified by a rabbi.
No preservatives or artificial colors can be added to the wine, among other restrictions.
They are typically served during Jewish holidays but are snubbed by some wine aficionados.
"Some people even refer to it as vinegar," said Roee Madai, the consul for economic affairs at the Israeli government's Houston office.
Savvy wine drinkers are fatigued by yet another wine from California, Argentina or Chile, Madai said.
"Israel for them is something unique, niche, sexy," Madai said.
As Israeli wines become more popular, promoters hope retailers will showcase Israeli wines by country, much like Italian, French and South African wines have their own shelves at stores.
Roberto Fleischer, president of Houston's Fleischer International Trading, stopped by the The Tasting Room in Uptown Park recently to try Israeli wines. He's considering distribut- ing some of the wines lo-cally.
"I think it's a very good niche for us," he said.
Some good, some not
Web designer Fred Sodergren was already familiar with some Israeli wines after a recent trip to Israel.
"I had some bad wines, and I had some very good wines," she said during the event at The Tasting Room.
One of the wines served at that event was the Flam Classico 2006 made by Gilad Flam and his brother, the second generation of their family to make wine.
"We are giving the world a different taste with our wine," said Flam, from his home winery between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.