Judean Hills Quartet tasting
Israeli wine has, at best, no perceptible brand awareness. And yet the quality of the wines from this quartet of producers all based in the Judean Hills just outside Jerusalem was very high indeed.
These are classic, European-style, food-friendly wines that deliver finesse more than power - sophisticated and complex, they have an international pedigree but a local accent.
The Judean Hills have everything you could want for winemaking - Mediterranean climate, shallow terra rossa over poor-quality limestone or dolomite soils and high altitude. The only challenge is excess sun exposure and heat which is managed through maintaining a leaf canopy.
This region also has vintage variation and in a good year like 2015 when everything comes together, the results are spectacular.
The quality is reflected in the prices; £30+ for most, and more for the "C" Blanc. Like other emerging areas, prices are high at the bottom due to small quantities but low at the top due to lack of brand awareness.
Tzora Vineyards Shoresh Blanc 2015 (100% Sauvignon Blanc) aromatic and leesy, pure and elegant; Bordelais in style. Substantial with good underpinnings; long, deft, textured and linear. Very Good.
Sphera White Concepts - Riesling 2015 aromatic and floral with honeysuckle and beeswax; ripe fresh yellow stone fruit, candied pineapple pieces and lime zest. Mosel-esque but with more warmth. Long and substantial, pure and deft. Very Good.
Sphera White Signature 2015 (100% Chardonnay) fresh and elegant, delicately oaked with good underpinnings. Flinty and mineral; tight yet harmonious. Very Good.
Flam Classico 2014 (Bordeaux blend plus Syrah) lifted and floral with dried green herbs, sweet spices and fresh, juicy cherries and bramble fruit; long with fine tannins and a mineral backbone. Deft and elegant. Very Good.
Castel Grand Vin 2014 (Bordeaux blend) focused and intense nose, muscular and precise with spices, black-cherry and dark berry fruit; Pure, precise, linear and mineral with very fine tannins. Complex, muscular and athletic. Very Good Indeed.
Tzora Vineyards Misty Hills 2013 (CS, Syrah) lifted and aromatic with ripe dark fruits, cool mint, minerality and peppery spice; supple and full with an inky texture. Fresh, elegant and drinkable with a balanced harmoniousness.
Flam Superiore 2006 (Syrah, CS) complex mature Medoc-esque nose of bell pepper, rosehip, old leather and spice cupboard leading to raspberry and tobacco leaf with ripe dark berries, spice and liquorice. Supple, harmonious and fresh with good underpinnings.
Drinking very nicely now, this is just at its peak.
Castel Grand Vin 2008 (Bordeaux blend) ripe bramble fruit and spice; vibrant and youthful, it is just ready; harmonious and fresh with fine tannins and just a hint of bell pepper and rosehip aromas coming through. Very Good.