Israel should focus on Syrah

Despite domestic demand for Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, it is Syrah could be Israel’s star variety think some of its leading winemakers.

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The Hula Valley in Upper Galilee, photo: Dalton Winery

Speaking to the drinks business at the annual Kosher wine and spirits tasting hosted by Kedem Europe, Alex Haruni, owner of Dalton Winery said that Syrah/Shiraz “should have been planted first”.

“I think some of the Cabernets and Merlots can be pretty leafy,” he said, “the Shirazs are significantly better.

“We didn’t understand the potential at first, until we started planting it about 10 years ago.

“Shiraz should’ve been planted first. However, commercially it’s more difficult as people drink more Cabernet more than they do Shiraz, it’s not called ‘King Cab’ for nothing”.

“It’s a new variety in Israel,” agreed Gilad Flam of Flam Winery who had previously told db that the variety had “good potential” in Israel and that, “in the Upper Galilee we have nice, stony soils and can get good results.”. However, he added, “people want Cabernet and Merlot.”

“I think it enjoys the hot weather more,” Haruni continued, “And I believe it does well everywhere,” adding that his winery had recently planted a new plot further down towards the Judean Hills.

There are some exceptions, countered Yakov Berg, CEO of Psagot, notably in his region in the hills above Jerusalem, apparently the highest Israeli wine region at 900 metres above sea level.

“Our soils are more elegant and the altitude helps us with freshness in,” he explained when talking about his Cabernet.

3 Responses to “Israel should focus on Syrah”

  1. Mark Cohen says:

    Shiraz …. syrah, is this common sense?
    I have just returned from Israel where I tasted a lot more Cabernet and merlot, than Syrah, but the Syrah I tasted looked very impressive.
    I did not see too many leafy Caberents either, and was surprised at the fruit ripeness, and elegance of many of the wines.

    Shiraz was uncovered in Persia, which is a neighbouring country to Israel, almost, so not surprising, it would suit the climate and terrain.

    • Rupert Millar says:

      Mark

      I agree, the Syrah/Shiraz question does need to be sorted out. Some Israelis use the former others the latter. Cabernet and Merlot are the predominant varieties and are made extremely well – Eli Zakon’s Domaine du Castel wines are a good example. However, from all the Israeli wines I’ve tasted, it is the Syrahs that really seem to shine and show lovely fruit whereas too many of the Cabs and Merlots can tend towards being too “hot” in terms of alcohol or have fruit which is a little tired.

      As mentioned in the article, Syrah was only planted recently and it is only just coming to people’s attention how good it could be there so I hope they begin to focus on it a lot more. Of course, as is also mentioned, the domestic market wants and expects Cab/Merlot when it comes to wine so one can’t blame the producers from supplying the demand. Market maturation should help the Syrah plantings along.

      Rupert

    • Mark, hi.

      Shiraz/Syrah was not discovered in Persia, that’s a myth. Recent studies have shown that the grape is in fact indigenous to France.

      Best,

      GG

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