Founded in 1882 by Baron Edmond de Rothschild, owner of the infamous Chateau Lafite in Bordeaux, Carmel Winery remains one of the oldest and largest wineries in all of Israel. A key player in the Israeli wine game making up 50% of the country’s wine production, Carmel graciously gave me a sneak peek of their historic winery, where we sampled a diverse range of wines from their Single Vineyard, Private Collection, Appellation, Young Selected and Limited Edition labels.
Carmel Winery is the largest producers of Kosher wines in the world, with over 1,400 hectares of vineyards, producing 15 million bottles per year and exports to over 40 countries. Cooperatively owned and now celebrating their 120th harvest, in recent years, Carmel has experienced a rejuvenation. Once known for their sweet Kiddush “supermarket” wines and grape juice, they have diversified their repertoire, building new boutique wineries and looking to young, skilled winemakers and wine developers to assist in this wine revolution.
First we tried some wines from their ultra-premium Single Vineyard line, grown in the Kayoumi Vineyard. The Kayoumi Single Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 was produced from 100% Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, aged for 15 months in small French oak barrels. A full bodied wine, it had a deep dark purple color and aromas of spicy blackcurrant. The Kayoumi Single Vineyard Riesling 2010, made from white Riesling grapes grown at 780 meters above sea level was dry with citrus, green apple and lime aromas. Carmel’s Kayoumi Single Vineyard Shiraz 2008 was awarded the 2010 Decanter World Wine Award for a Rhone varietal in the upper price category.
Next we checked out some wines from Carmel’s second label, Appellation. Each variety has a different hand drawn label of animals that were found in Biblical Israel. First we tried the Appellation Carignan 2008, that came from a 35 year old Carignan vineyard, with including a small amount of Petite Verdot. It was aged for 12 months in French oak barrels, dark purple in color and cherry, raspberry and even ground coffee aromas. The Appellation Gewurztraminer 2011, with desert fox label, comes from grapes in the Upper Galilee and the wine cold fermented in stainless steel tanks. It had a nice balance of acidity and sweetness, with lychee, floral and citrus aromas. The Appellation Old Vine Petite Sirah 2006 won Decanter’s Wine of the Month award in July of 2010.
A winery deeply rich in Israeli history and culture, for those looking to taste and learn more about Israeli wines, a trip to Carmel Winery is a must.
For more information on Carmel Winery, check out Israeli wine blog Yossie’s Corkboard.