Press Coverage for IWPA and Israel Wines

The fruit of the fine: From. Israel, with love

TEXAS JEWISH POST *SINCE 1947
December 22, 2011
By Michael Precker

You may already know that Israeli wines are getting better and better, garnering awards and praise from connoisseurs around the world.

Now you may be seeing a lot more of them around here.

"Our goal is to build a category," said Louis Zweig, a senior vice president at Glazer's, the Dallas-based company that distributes alcoholic beverages in Texas and 12 other states. "It's the. right thing to do in terms of our support for Israel, but the good news is that these wines stack up with any wines you'll drink from all over the world. We're very proud to bring these to Dallas."

Zweig spoke Dec. 14 at a winetasting luncheon at Glazer's headquarters to show off some of Israel's finest vintages, and to spotlight a new effort to offer more of those wines at stores and restaurants in North Texas.

The new initiative wasn't originally part of a master plan for Glazer's, one of the country's largest wholesalers of wine, spirits and, beer. Sheldon Stein, the company CEO, said he was visiting Israel last year for a wedding when friends suggested he check out the local wine country.

"We went to some wineries and I said, 'Wow. We've got to show people these wines. This is something great that people just don't know about.'"

That result was Israel Wine Week in Dallas the week of Dec. 11, during which Glazer's and Royal Wine Corp., a New Jersey firm that imports many of Israel's leading brands, brought two leading figures from the Carmel Winery in Israel for meetings and tastings with local businesses and aficionados.

"Some consumers just want wines from the traditional places like Italy and California," said Lior Lacser, Carmel's chief winemaker. "But some people are always looking for a new exotic source, and that's us."

At the luncheon, Lacser introduced nearly a dozen wines from Carmel and its affiliated wineries, and the assembled oenophiles seemed impressed with the offerings.

"I was absolutely blown away by the quality, the depth and the complexity of the wines," said Melanie Ofenloch, who writes a blog at DallasWineChick.com. "I learned a lot and I hope people will be willing to give them a try. I think they are going to be pleasantly surprised," she said after the tasting.

That's the kind of enlightenment Royal Wine associate vice president Wayne Feldman is aiming for. "For a long time, when you heard about Israeli wines you'd think, eh," remarked Feldman, who is based in the Dallas area. "You just don't know how great they've become."

More than 200 wineries are scattered throughout Israel, including many small boutique wineries. Royal Wine Corp. recently established the Israel Wine Producers Association to coordinate marketing efforts for the leading brands.

Feldman said he is planning a local campaign to convince chain stores and specialty shops to add an Israeli shelf, and restaurants to include Israeli options on their wine lists.

"That's our challenge right now," he said. "Then we're going to educate the wine consumer."

Carmel, which was founded by Baron Edmond de Rothschild in 1882, was long known in Israel as an everyday wine, nothing to brag about - or to export. That changed in last couple of decades, as Israeli palates became more sophisticated, its winemakers became more ambitious, and the awards started piling up.

The wines sampled at the luncheon carried suggested retail prices ranging from $18 to $ 87 a bottle, with most between $20 and $30. "If you compare them to others at that price level, they stand up very well," Zweig said.

Lacser and Feldman acknowledged that part of the challenge of gaining a foothold in the wine world is overcoming the unfair stigma of being kosher. Though nearly all of Israel's wines are kosher, "I don't want them in the koshersection," Feldman said. "A lot of people think kosher wines are sweet wines used for holiday purposes. I want them in the Israeli section,"

Lacser added that he is proud his wines are kosher, "but that has nothing to do with the quality. They just happen to be kosher."

Alfonso Cevola, the import wine director at Glazer's and an expert in Italian wine, offered another motivation for the new effort to promote Israeli wines. Winemaking in the Holy Land dates back to biblical times, he said, and Israeli vineyards today are building on a tradition that dates back thousands of years.

"We owe it to the spirit of winemaking to pay attention to these wines," he said.