Tuesday, September 1, 2015

The Wine Festival Quandry

In my last post, I wrote about some of the disappointing (from a wine standpoint) issues that presented themselves at the Jerusalem Wine Festival.

From the lack of quality of wine's being offered to the small turnout of wineries - from a Kosher or Israeli standpoint.

In fact, the number of wineries was down to 30, which in and of itself doesn't make for  a bad show, but given that in the past years there had been 45+, it is still disappointing. From among those 30, 20 were under Kashrut certification of some sort. 11 (consisting of both kosher and non-kosher)  were from outside Israel, this last point also is not necessarily a problem. As for the lack of premium wines - even this was augmented somewhat for the second through fourth days of the show from wineries such as Har Odem, Golan Heights, Bat Shlomo, Har Bracha and Barkan - each of whom did open wines from their higher level lables.

So the question remains: WHAT HAPPENED?

After speaking to some of the smaller wineries that had shown in previous years, the following answers are what I was given.

1) Structure
Each Wine Festival has an organizer (in this case, two retailers), who put on the event in order to: a) gain name recognition for themselves, b) promote their own sales and c) promote the wineries they work with. The sponsors will therefore 'invite' wineries that they work with and want to promote to participate. If the sponsoring retailers stop working with a given winery, that winery will no longer present at the event.

2) Cost of the Event
The Sponsoring retailers (in this case) have various expenses for location and advertising / marketing the event.
This expense is covered by various streams of cash flow:
- Cost to each winery to participate (usually between NIS 6,000 and NIS 10,000 depending on the sponsor and the size of the display)
- Entrance fees for the participating public (NIS 85 / person, also dramatically up over the past 4-5 years)
- Sales of wine at the event.

Many of the wineries that I spoke with mentioned that they poured on average of 150 bottles each at the festival. Combine that with the cost of the stand, and it gets to be too costly for many of the smaller wineries that produce less product.

The difference between this Festival and the February Kosher Festival is basically a commitment from the sponsor to purchase a large amount of wine from each label that the wineries open. Let's assume that there is a commitment made to buy one pallet of wine (600 - 750 bottles), for each label opened at the show. It now pays for a winery to open a lower-end wine as well as a medium wine and a high-end premium wine. They would pour samples from 50 bottles of a wine and guaranteed to sell 600-750 bottles, meaning they pour 1 bottle for every 12 sold.
If they don't get this guarantee form the sponsor, then it doesn't pay for them to open the bottles that cost more money.

But what about the marketing aspect? Don't the wineries want to put their best foot forward?

Of course, the answer is yes, which is why when it makes no economic sense, they don't show. What we are left with is wineries that a) have enough stock to pour the wine anyway (some can even be overstocked, meaning if 'we don't pour it and try to move it, we are gonna be stuck'), or b) smaller wineries who are not yet known to the general public or, c) foreign product who need to gain the market penetration in an already crowded environment.

Does that mean it's not worth going? Not necessarily.
It's still a great night out with friends!

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

The Jerusalem Wine Festival 2015

It is finally here!
Jerusalem's biggest event of the year, started with a roar, as the first wave of thousands of visitors came out to sample wines to their hearts content. The music played, the wineries poured and the people had a great night out in the uncommonly hot Jerusalem night!

Unfortunately - the great night was not complemented by 'great' wine, with a few exceptions. This years event, although grand in presentation, leaves a lot to be desired in my humble opinion. This is NOT to detract from the fantastic job of the organizers who as usual go all out and have done a great job as far as the event goes. Nor is it meant to detract from the wineries who are always pleasant and friendly, and really go out of their way to make sure you have a good time sampling their wares.

Rather it is due to the small number of wineries that are present!
Gone are the days of 45 plus wineries. That number was cut last year down to 30 because of the war, forcing the production into harvest season. This year again only 30 have turned out (and of those a full third are not under any form of Kashrut). Notably missing were Tavor, Tepperberg, Carmel, Yatir - All of whom had massive pavilions in previous years as well as Psagot, Lueria, Shilo, Ben Haim and many other smaller wineries.

Even Golan Heights and Galil are down in size to half of what they were last year.

Those that are there, are not pouring from their top lines (with a few exceptions) At Golan Heights you can taste from the Gamla Cabernet and Sanjiovese, The Gamla Shmura Rose and Brut and some Hermon series wines, and at Galil you can go for Alon, Pinot Noir and Meron.

At other wineries where you used to be able to get that special bottle from under the table, This is only happening mat two wineries this year - Bat Shlomo has the Betty's Cuvee which is very good, and if you get there at the right time, Or Haganuz is opening something special in the Namura label.

The other problem that I (and many other wine connoisseurs) got last night, was the extreme heat. again not the fault of the organizrers...
Red wines were being served at upwards of 25 degrees Celsius, which is never good!

All this said - there are a few places that are a must to visit:

Bat Shlomo is pouring the full range of their wines.

Tha Suavignon Blanc and Rose are in among the best in the country, The chardonnay is also very nice and buttery if that is to your liking, and as mentioned the Betty's Cuvee is a great red (when served at the right temperatures.

Or Haganuz also has a large range and I have yet to taste something bad from them. If you aren't familiar with this winery, you should get to know it!

Har Odem  is pouring the best selection of the show in my opinion. From the Valcanic Chardonnay (probably the best wine of the show) to the Reserve Syrah (a very unique wine) and the Inbar Port, every wine at this table is a hit!

Dalton is pouring two of the Alma Series ( a Semillion and the GSM (Grenache, Syrah and Mourvdre)), as well as the Fume Blanc.

Tulip and MAIA are both there pouring their wines all of which are great!

And then there are Gush Etzion, Har Bracha and Jerusalem - each pouring a new product:

Gush Etzion has a new Un oaked Chardonnay
Har Bracha has a new Cabernet
Jerusalem has a new Petite Syrah

These three for me were probably the best reason to go, as they are brand new products and well worth the prices.

All in all - If you are going for the atmosphere - it is well worth the NIS 85 entrance fee.
If you are going for the wine - there is good stuff, but you have to work to find them...

and of course - if you go - find me and say hi!

***** It is important to note that tonight (second night of the Festival), things dramatically improved tonight as 1) The temperature came down by about 10 degrees. and 2) Ramat Hagolan had 3 Yarden wines out (2T, Pinot Noir and Malbec) as well as Gamla Reserve Cabernet, Syrah, Syrah Rose and Brut.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Mulled Wine For the Cold Days Ahead!

As the winter hits in full blast later this week, one of our favorite ways of keeping warm is to wrap myself in a cozy blanket while sipping on a cup of Mulled Wine.
Mulled wine is a hot wine beverage made with mulling spices - or a variety of spices used for beverages.

Here is our favorite recipe:

2 clementines
1 lemon
200 grams brown sugar
6 cloves
1 TBLS cinnamon
3 bay leaves
1 tsp. nutmeg
2 bottles red wine

Peel the clementine and the lemon into large bits of peel, and add them together with the brown sugar into a large saucepan, and squeeze in the clementine juice. Add the cloves, cinnamon, bay leaves and nutmeg and stir in just enough wine to cover the mix. Simmer until all the sugar is dissolved and then bring to boil, and continue at a boil until it forms a syrup.
(it is important to use this small amount of wine here because boiling the wine will burn off the alcohol and if you use all the wine at this point, the final drink would be less fun!)
This will form a good thick base while allowing all the sugar and spices to blend with the wine.

Once the syrup is ready, turn the heat down to low, and add the rest of the wine. Let it simmer for 4-5 minutes, and then serve.

If you are entertaining, you can add lemon wheels and cinnamon sticks to the glass as a garnish.


Approx. servings - 10 
If you have any questions or want suggestions on which wines to use, drop by our store in Kfar Etzion, or call us.

Stay Warm,

Your Wine Specialists,
Eli & Ma'ayan