The Best of Both Worlds
According to my research, the terms Old World and New World (in connection with wine of course) originally referred to geographical regions, but they have come to include viticulture practices, winemaking methods and philosophies, and of course wine styles.
Being an ancient-modern country, it’s hardly surprising that both styles are represented aplenty here in Israel.
Last month I attended two wine events that to me characterized the different styles quite clearly. The first was the Saluté Wine Festival in Tel Aviv on October 3rd and the second was the 15th annual Judean Hills Wine Fair on October 24th.
Both events were held at picturesque locations – the former at the site of the Old Train Station (HaTachana) near the historic Neve Tzedek neighborhood in Tel Aviv, and the later at Mini Israel near Latroun – but the styles of the wines were, for the most part, rather different.
At Saluté the wines were largely New World in character, being rather fruit forward, bold, and assertive. For the most part, the crowd was young, and interestingly, many of the wineries were rather young as well. From the comments I heard, the Tel Aviv crowd enjoyed the wines very much – New World style wines for a modern city – makes sense to me.
A telling example is the Eden Winery’s Wild Red 2010, a blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Merlot, aged for 18 months in oak barrels. The wine is medium bodied and very fruity, with a rather short finish. Quite similar (to my taste, at least) was the Shamaim Winery’s Cabernet/Merlot (50/50) blend, barrel aged for 24 months. In both cases, strong bold wines, with little in the way of nuance or subtlety.
An exception at Saluté were the wines of the Tanya Winery, one of the older and more established wineries at the festival. Vintner/winemaker Yoram Cohen tries to balance the best of Old World and New World and I’d say he’s succeeding rather well.
The Judean Hills wines were definitely more Old World in style, which is altogether fitting for such an ancient region. The event was also less crowded and more laid back, probably because the venue was larger.
A good starting point is the Kadma Winery where winemaker Lina Slutzkin has revived the age old practice of fermenting wine in huge clay vessels. It is believed that this is the method that was originally used when wine was first produced in the Levant.
Ze’ev Dunia of the Seahorse Winery also takes an Old World approach by producing wines that are rich in nuance and undertones, and that age gracefully. Seahorse’s Elul blend of Cabernet, Syrah, and Petite Sirah illustrates this well. Well integrated and nicely balanced, with rich but subtle dark fruit flavors and a lingering finish, this wine is a pleasure to drink.
I suppose you can tell which style I prefer. But with something like 300 wineries and winemakers in Israel today (I really must update my wineries map) the range of wines is huge, and there’s certainly something (usually a lot of somethings) to suit most any taste.
In a country where once there were few choices in so many things, from clothing styles to cars to floor tiles, it’s terrific that there is now such a variety of almost everything, and I am thrilled with today’s broad spectrum of wine. I don’t have to like it all, and neither do you, but there’s plenty that puts a smile on my face, and hopefully yours too.
Old World? New World? As far as wine is concerned, I’d say Israel is the best of both worlds.