A few weeks ago I tasted my first Israeli white wine, a superb un-oaked chardonnay from Pelter. You can find that review right here, and buy the wine right here. This time I opened a red from the Judean Hills, which is on the road between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.
Israel is undergoing something of a wine renaissance, or a re-emergence if you prefer. Since 1984, the world has begun to take notice of quality wines coming from the Golan Heights area as well as the Judean Hills region. Luckily for us Americans, procuring wines from there is getting ever-easier thanks to some great importers and websites. I was able to get some examples of both red and white wine, beginning my exploration of the styles which Israel's unique terroir lends itself to. During my research on this wine, I found some good background information about the Judean Hills on a blog dedicated to Israeli wines. Click here to go check it out.
Featured in this latest blog is the 2006 Tzora Neve Ilan Single Vineyard from the Judean Hills. A blend of 70% cabernet sauvignon and 30% merlot, this echoes some of the best Bordeaux that I've tasted. Neve Ilan vineyard lies on the western slopes of the Jerusalem hills (same as the Judean hills), at about 2000 feet above sea level. Hot days, cool nights and persistent sunlight allow the vines to ripen at a steady, reliable pace. After harvest and vinification, the wine rests for 18 months in French oak barrels.
As I pour this beautifully light cloudy-garnet wine, I noticed that it softens towards the edges. For me, a clear indicator of the nearly five year age. Color is very important to a wine, something I've been reminded of recently and a resolution even, for me to pay more attention to in my blog. The 2006 Neve Ilan is beautiful, somewhere between a young, racy wine and one that's had time to mature in bottle.
My first sniff caused me to stop and ponder the scents emanating from the glass. This wine has a bouquet different from what most of us drink every day, even if we have similar blends of cabernet and merlot. I hit on primary notes of damp, dark earth, herbs and cedar spice. Building the rest of the bouquet were sour cherries and black currants. The proportions felt right and the balance was remarkable, an indicator of high quality. Despite the two varietals being common, the nose of the 2006 Tzora clearly showed the effects of terroir.
Upon tasting the Neve Ilan, my palate descended into a world of earthy herbs, spices, a melange of crushed blackberries, currants and black cherries all swished around with a fine grained tannin sensation. If that descriptor makes you want to try the wine, good. I really think this is a well put-together wine and the finish, smooth and with a hint of oak, left me leaning back and smacking my lips with satisfaction.
For about $27, Tzora's offering easily compares to similarly priced Napa Valley and Chilean offerings. I recommend buying from Israeli Wine Direct, click this link to go directly to the Tzora page. A few shekels (or dollars) gets you a QPR-beater and a wine that will go great with lamb and beef dishes. While this might not be kosher, a cured meat and cheese plate would be superb with the Neve Ilan as well. Tzora did a wonderful job with this wine, I'm happy to grade it a B+ and a BUY recommendation. I don't think you'll be disappointed.
This wine was received with the intent to review.