Boutique Wineries

Yonatan Sternberg explains what's behind a boutique winery and offers some tasting notes on a few of Israel's premiere boutique sized wineries.

Over the past 15 years, the Israeli wine industry has seen some dramatic changes. An industry which was once dominated by a handful of large wineries known primarily for producing relatively low quality table and sacramental wines, is now receiving credit and recognition from wine critics around the world.

In recent years, many new players have joined the local wine industry, which has got new vineyards and wineries springing up like mushrooms after the rain. From artisan and garage producers offering less that a thousand bottles per annum to boutique and medium size wineries, one can find wineries of all sizes and styles; some are guided by the winemaking traditions of the old world, while others offer wines which would most certainly be categorized as new world.

It's important to remember that unlike the world of fashion, where the word boutique is often synonymous with high quality and exclusivity, in the wine industry the word merely refers to the size and the amount of bottles produced by the winery. While some boutique wineries offer unique high quality wines, others often turn out to be quite plain and overpriced.

Here are my tasting notes for a few Israeli boutique wines:

Bazelet Hagolan, Reserve, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2004
Made from 100% Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, this wine showcases a deep purple, almost garnet color. This full bodied red is showing plenty of black berry fruits, along with hints of anise and oak, all leading to a long and elegant finish.

Sataf, Barood, Cabarnet Sauvignion-Merlot. 2005
Medium to full body and ruby tinted with shades of brown and orange, this red offers appealing aromas of dark berry fruits, pepper, dark chocolate and earth, all leading to a pleasant yet slightly acidic finish.

In my opinion, the wine won't benefit from long cellaring and should be consumed within the next couple years (at the latest).

Katlav, Wadi Katlav, 2006
This red is a blend of several varieties harvested in the nearby vineyards. The wine is medium-full bodied and offers layered aromas of plums, an array of berry fruits, along with a touch of oak and pepper.

In my opinion, the wine is not yet at its peak and would benefit from another year of cellaring. I also enjoyed a barrel tasting of the 2007 vintage, which holds much promise for the future.