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Tel Aviv Wine Showcase Promises a Great Year Ahead

Wine professionals from around Israel recently gathered at the “2016 Sommelier Wine Fair” in Tel Aviv. Open only to industry insiders, the wine fair is the premier showcase of wine production in Israel.

Held in the elegant modern Tel Aviv Culture Palace complex, also home to the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra, the 2016 sommelier wine fair covered 3000 m2 with over 80 wineries. Thousands of quality wines from Israel and from around the world were on display to a fascinated audience of professionals, including restaurateurs, sommeliers, chefs, bar managers, hoteliers, buyers, suppliers and caterers. It was an opportunity for those professionals to see the latest developments in the Israeli winemaking with all the vineyards, the winemakers, the importers and the distributors under one roof.

The fair was not only for Israelis. Wine buyers from around the world came to see the latest in the ever-growing Israeli wine market. The Israel Export Institute reports a 6 percent increase in wine exports in the last year. The Asian market has embraced Israeli wines wholeheartedly. “The Japanese market is now our third-largest export destination,” explained Yael Gai, International Marketing Manager of the Golan Heights Winery. “Yarden Chardonnay has just been included on the first class wine list for Japan Airlines.” In addition to Asian wine buyers purchasing Israeli brands, a contingent of Japanese wine makers had a stall introducing Israeli wine buyers to this still unfamiliar product.

Many wineries took the two days of the fair as a perfect opportunity to launch their latest vintages. With everything from exclusive limited-edition wines for private collections to affordable offerings soon to be seen in your local restaurant, there are many new wines to watch out for.

The long-awaited Katzrin Blanc de Blancs 2000 has finally been released. After waiting 15 years to disgorge the 2000 vintage of Katzrin Blanc de Blancs, only 200 bottles of this unique wine have been produced. The Katzrin Blanc de Blancs offers less fizz than younger wines but it more than makes up for it in richness and complexity of aroma and flavor. From the glass, the aroma makes its way gently to the nose, carrying along with it characters of freshly baked toasty baguettes, lemon pie, tarte tatin, fresh flowers, dried fruits, green apples and a light smoky flintiness. With such a limited edition, each bottle is truly individual and to be sold only to collectors.

Yarden’s new offering for the Sommelier 2016 festival was the 2015 Yarden Pinot Gris. The wine lives up to all the expectations the Yarden label carries. A medium-bodied white wine with apple and pear flavors, the Yarden Pinot Gris is soon to be at a restaurant near you. Another favorite among Israeli wine fans, Gamla, launched their 2015 Chardonnay, Viognier. A brand-new blend for the label, it is eminently drinkable at a very consumer-friendly price.

Galil Mountain winery displayed the high-quality wines that have garnered them such an international following. They launched their 2015 Galil Mountain White and the 2014 Galil Mountain Red. The 2015 Galil Mountain White is a blend produced from Viognier and Sauvignon Blanc grapes and presents an aroma of refreshing fruit, with a balanced and pleasing acidity, while the 2014 Galil Mountain Red is a blend produced from Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot grapes and displays inviting aromas of ripe fruit, with a hint of tobacco and grass notes.

A surprise development for the festival was the announcement that Galil has redesigned emblematic white wine Avivim in response to market feedback. The majority of the blend is now the Chardonnay grapes with 18 percent Viognier. The bottle has also been completely redesigned to be more environment-friendly, and is now transparent and less dense.

Among the big names, the growing forces of boutique Israeli wineries were represented at Sommelier 2016. The Gvaot winery has received international interest following their investigation into indigenous breeds of grapes, the so-called “Bible grape.” However, it was more well-known breeds present at their booth. Gvaot launched the 2014 vintage Pinot Noir Reserve. After being aged for 12 months in oak barrels, this red wine presents a fruity, elegant, balanced flavor.

The advent of the Sommelier 2016 has had a huge impact on the Israeli culinary scene, with professionals able to discover new vineyards, to expand their professional knowledge and to taste wines from Israel and internationally. For wine lovers, it is a chance to see the latest developments and eagerly await their arrival in restaurant wine menus and wine stores around the world. With so many new wines arriving on the market, this year promises to be an exciting year for Israeli wines.

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