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Tuesday, December 10, 2019

After several weeks of trying some really exciting high-end wines (more on that in the coming weeks), it felt great to get back to my bargain-hunting roots and try some wines at incredible value from a legendary Israeli winery. I immediately thought to recommend them for upcoming holiday season gatherings.

Carmel Winery, Israel’s first modern era winery, was founded in 1882 by Baron Edmund de Rothschild. Today it is the largest in Israel. The winery works with 108 families of growers who manage vineyards across Israel; from the Galilee and the Golan Heights in the north, to the Negev in the south. Grapes come from some 3,500 acres of top vineyards.

With Carmel Private Collection, a new label release to the American market, Carmel has launched three red wines at or under $15; a “Winemaker’s Blend,” a shiraz, and a cabernet sauvignon, all bottled in 2018. All three wines were aged for 8 months in French and American oak. All three wines are mevushal, and all three are deep, dark, beautiful wines, perfect for drinking young, though I would recommend to open them to breathe for at least an hour before enjoying. The wines have been made by Carmel’s chief winemaker, Yiftach Peretz, himself a legend in the Isreali wine world; Peretz is also the winemaker for Yatir, Carmel’s highest end brand.

The bottles show nostalgic images of Carmel’s Zichon Yaa’kov wine cellars, built in 1890, that visitors still enjoy today.

My favorite was the Carmel Private Collection Cabernet Sauvignon 2018, made with grapes from the Galilee. This ruby-garnet colored wine had sweet aromas of fresh herbs, black cherry and chocolate on the nose. Once mellowed out, it was warm, oaky and smooth. A real treat.

The Carmel Private Collection Winemaker’s Blend was also quite special, with aromas of new leather and tobacco leaf. The grapes were also from the Galilee. It is comprised of 50% merlot and 50% cabernet sauvignon. Again, it needed a little time to mellow out, but once it did, I found the taste and finish very pleasing, with a lot of dark berries, and a slight hint of vanilla and oak at the finish.

Finally, the Carmel Private Collection Shiraz 2018, made from Shomron grapes (some of my favorite wines are from the Shomron!), was the most fruit-forward of the three; that typical Israeli fruit-bomb wine we all love to talk about and buy for our tables, and it certainly needed the least amount of time to breathe. The taste was of blue and black berries and fresh notes of herbs. A shorter finish than the cabernet, but no less pleasing. This is a fantastic table wine, perfect for serving with salmon and other fresh fish or roasted chicken.

Find these wines at incredibly low prices this season. I’ve seen them as low as $13.99 which is truly an incredible QPR (quality-price ratio). These are reliable wines, ready to drink right now, and perfect for bringing to Chanukah parties. They will also stand on their own as aperitifs and with pasta and beef, and represent Israel proudly at any holiday parties to which they are invited.

By Elizabeth Kratz