web analytics
November 28, 2015 / 16 Kislev, 5776
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘wine’

Tapping into the Future of Winemaking

Sunday, September 20th, 2015

By Rachel Gross

The New York Times called it ‘not merely good but brilliant.’ For the Daily Telegraph (UK,) it created an ‘experience contemporary and aspirational.’ The last glass is ‘as fresh as the first’ promises the Washington Post.

What is this revolution overtaking the wine drinking world?

Wine on tap.

We’re all used to beer coming out of a tap in bars and restaurants. Most of us still expect to come from a bottle, possibly covered in dust and served to our table by an accented waiter. But just as our telephones are no longer affixed to the wall and our cameras don’t have film, the world of wine making is moving on.

wine on tap 1

Oxygen is a winemaker’s worst enemy. The oxidation of wine changes the subtle balance of flavors, rendering a world-class wine nothing more than expensive vinegar over the course of time. The bottling process is designed to effectively cut the exposure of the wine to oxygen to nearly nil. It’s remarkably effective… until the bottle is opened.

Finishing a bottle of wine in one sitting might not be an unwanted burden for some of us. Wineries have produced small 350ml ‘couples bottles’ that are half the size of a regular bottle for those of us who want to limit our intake. But it presents a problem for restaurants.

Restaurants want to offer their customers the option of buying wine by the glass but this means opening a bottle of wine at the risk the rest won’t be finished before time renders it undrinkable. Bottles of wine ‘by the glass’ are often open in restaurants for a few days before they are finished, which means that some customers will be receiving a reduced quality of wine. Restaurant owners are still forced to discard wine that was unused within a few days. This extra overhead means customers pay a higher price per milliliter for a single glass of wine than for a whole bottle.

Enter a solution to the whole issue – wine on tap. By serving wine on tap, restaurants are able to serve a single glass of high quality wine. With aluminum kegs, gas lines and special refrigeration system (similar to the system used for beer on tap,) wine can now be kept at peak quality for up to a month, which is more time than enough time for a busy restaurant to finish the 10 liter supply.

Not only does wine on tap guarantee a consistent quality of wine, it is much better for the environment. By doing away with glass bottles, their packaging and transportation, kegs of wine come at a much lower cost to the environment. A ten liter keg can be filled and refilled for up to ten years. If you’re not altruistic enough to switch away from bottles just to help the environment, wine on tap comes at a much lower cost to the consumer. With much lower overheads, wine on tap can bring a glass of wine within the same price bracket as a glass of coke.

As Israel is known as the start-up nation, it is little surprise that the latest trend to take over the winemaking world would be also found in Israel. With a well-respected reputation in Israel and internationally as a producer of high quality wine, the Galil Mountain Winery is spearheading a move to bring this new technology into Israel restaurants. The winery is changing the face of wine consumption in Israel with a pilot program that started in five of the most popular restaurants around Israel, which is due to expand to 50 in the next three months.

1,400-Year-Old Wine Press Mysteriously Appears in Jerusalem

Sunday, May 17th, 2015

By Michael Zeff

While jogging in a Jerusalem neighborhood park, a local Jerusalemite stumbled upon an ancient ruin which hadn’t previously been there.

The Jerusalem resident immediately reported the strange discovery to the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), who confirmed that they had no archaeological excavations going on in that neighborhood or any knowledge of any ruins.

After arriving at the scene, IAA archaeologists were surprised to discover a 1,400 year old wine press fully and meticulously excavated and exposed to the world.

“Our team was shocked,” IAA spokesperson told the Tazpit News Agency, “They saw a carefully exposed ancient wine press where none existed before, where not a single archaeologist has ever even been digging”.

The mystery kept bothering IAA officials, until the IAA team who took over maintenance of the site discovered that the ancient wine press had been discovered and excavated by local children.

The neighborhood kids, it appears, are avid archaeology fans and at first were simply “playing pretend” in the forest surrounding the neighborhood, until their game turned into reality.

The children were commended by the IAA for their care of the ruin, and the gentle work they put into exposing the wine press while carefully preserving it at the same time.

Ancient Grape Seeds in Negev May Help Re-Create 1,500-Year-Old Wine

Thursday, February 12th, 2015

Archaeologists have discovered 1,500-year-old grape seeds in the Negev Desert for the first time and which were used to produce “the Wine of the Negev” — one of the finest and most renowned wines in the whole of the Byzantine Empire.

A joint study by University of Haifa and the Israel Antiquities Authority at the Byzantine city of Halutza (found the seeds that were of a variety that did not survive to present days.

“Our next task is to recreate the ancient wine and perhaps we will then be able to reproduce its taste and understand what made the wine of the Negev so fine,” said the excavation director, Prof. Guy Bar-Oz of the University of Haifa.

“The vines growing in the Negev today are European varieties, whereas the Negev vine was lost to the world. Our next job is to recreate the ancient wine, and perhaps in that way we will be able to reproduce its taste and understand what made the Negev wine so fine,” he added,

Archaeologists know of “the Wine of the Negev” or “Gaza Wine” — named for the port it was sent from to all corners of the empire — from historical sources from the Byzantine period. This wine was considered to be of very high quality and was very expensive.

No one knows what made it so fine because the variety did not survive.  In earlier excavations in the Negev, archaeologists found the terraces where the vines were cultivated, the wineries where wine was produced, and the jugs in which the wine was stored and exported, but the grape seeds themselves were not found until the new discovery.

The archaeologists found the ancient grape seeds in one of the Halutza refuse dumps that were preserved almost completely intact and now mark the boundaries of the ancient city.

The researchers found a particularly high concentration of fragments of pottery vessels used for storage, cooking and serving, which included a significant number of Gaza jugs used for storing the ancient Negev wine. The archaeologists also found a wealth of biological remains, including bones of Red Sea fish and shellfish from the Mediterranean that were imported to the site, which indicated the vast wealth of the Byzantine city residents.

The next stage of the study is to join forces with biologists to sequence the DNA of the seeds to discover their origin.

The archaeologists are asking, “European varieties require copious amounts of water. Today it is less of a problem thanks to technology, but it is unlikely that was the case 1,500 years ago. It is more interesting to think of local grape varieties that were better suited to the Negev. Maybe the secret to the Negev wine’s international prestige lay in the method by which the vines were cultivated in the Negev’s arid conditions.”

What Did King David Drink? Israeli Wine Researchers Aim to Revive Ancient Libations

Wednesday, October 1st, 2014

ARIEL, West Bank (JTA) — The small cardboard box in Elyashiv Drori’s palm looks like it’s full of black pebbles.

Closing the box quickly, he explains that it cannot be open for long. The pebble-like pieces, which were uncovered in an archaeological dig near Jerusalem’s Old City, are in fact remains of a kilo of grapes stored nearly 3,000 years ago. They were preserved under layers of earth from the era when David and Solomon ruled over the Land of Israel.

Next to his laboratory at Ariel University, Drori — an oenophile who has judged international wine competitions — already has barrels of wine made from grapes that have grown in Israel for two millennia. Finding a living sample of the 3,000-year-old grapes will be the next step in his years-long quest to produce wine identical to that consumed in ancient Israel.

“It’s not interesting to make chardonnay in Israel because there’s chardonnay that comes from California,” said Drori, the agriculture and oenology research coordinator at the Samaria and Jordan Rift Center of Ariel University. “But if you can make wine in Israel that isn’t elsewhere and that connects to the history here, that’s much more interesting.”

Today there are hundreds of Israeli wineries, but they largely use varieties of grapes that are indigenous to Europe. By finding and growing grapes native to Israel, Drori hopes to bring Israeli winemaking back to its roots.

One major hurdle: The area’s past Muslim rulers prohibited alcohol consumption for centuries, and many indigenous grape varieties all but fell out of use. But some of the grape varieties survived.

Cremisan Cellars, a winery outside Bethlehem run by Italian monks, has produced a dry white wine called Hamdani Jandali that is made from two species indigenous to the area. Drori has found mentions of Jandali and Hamdani grapes in Second Temple-era texts from 2,000 years ago, and is preparing to showcase kosher wines made from the grapes at a festival next summer.

With funding from the Jewish National Fund as well the city and national governments, three years ago he sent a team of Ariel masters’ students on treks across Israel to find grapes growing in the wild. After three years of searching across the country — with tips from hikers who had seen wild grapes — the students found 100 varieties of grapes unique to Israel. Of those, at least 10 are suitable for winemaking.

“I understood how much local species are connected to their countries,” said Yakov Henig, one of Drori’s student researchers. “Every nation has its species, and we have a culture and tradition of making wine. This is connected to our identity.”

Drori’s next goal is to match the wild grapes to grape seeds and remains found in ancient archaeological sites. If a seed has survived the centuries with its shape intact, Udi Weiss, an archeo-botanist at Bar-Ilan University, will create a 3-D scan of the ancient grape seed and determine based on its shape whether it matches grapes that grow now.

“We want to get to a place where there will be a kind of fingerprint for the species we found all over Israel,” said Weiss, who works with Drori. “My hope is that I can say that a sample is exactly the shape of a seed I found in David’s City in Jerusalem.”

To tackle the challenge of grape remains whose shapes have been distorted, Drori has enlisted Mali Salmon-Divol, a biologist specializing in DNA analysis who has begun sequencing the genomes of the indigenous Israeli grapes. Once Salmon-Divol has a record of each species’ DNA, she will sample the DNA of the ancient grapes and see how they line up.

California Earthquake Wreaks Havoc at Chabad House

Monday, August 25th, 2014

The 6.1 earthquake that jolted northern California in the middle of the night Sunday upended furniture and scattered broken glass at the Napa Valley Chabad Jewish Center.

“It was very violent—not a gentle rolling quake, but more of a jolting traumatic experience that shocked us out of sleep at 3:20 a.m. and lasted for about half a minute, Rabbi Elchonon Tenenbaum told the Chabad website.

The rabbi, his wife and five children were not injured.

Tenenbaum said he waited outside with his neighbors until daybreak before going back into his home and Chabad center, where power had been lost, to survey the damage. Upended furniture and broken glass prevented him from accessing some rooms, including his office. A disaster recovery fund was quickly established for those wanting to help out.

“I went to check up on people in the area and found that they were in a similar situation,” he added. “Their houses are standing, but everything inside has been ruined. Thank God, this happened in the middle of the night when we were in our beds and not in other parts of our homes, where heavy bookcases fell over.”

The Chabad website reported, “Tenenbaum says that waking up in the middle of the night with his children screaming amid violent banging and shaking helped him picture what life must be like on a regular basis for people living in Israel, where Hamas has been firing rockets from Gaza for much of the summer.”

“It is really surreal,” he said. “There are some stores that are functioning as usual, and others have been completely destroyed for now. Some streets are buckled, and others are just fine. Some people have broken water mains or leaking gas pipes, and others do not.”

Many residents in the area, famous for its wineries, are crying over wine spilled from barrels that were broken from the earthquake.

The largest quake to hit the San Francisco area in 25 years, it caused several injuries, including three who are in critical condition, set off fires and knocked out power.

Napa’s downtown historical areas sustained irreparable damage.

Samaria Wines Receive International Acclaim in France Despite Boycotts

Tuesday, December 31st, 2013

A French wine competition has awarded the Psagot Boutique Winery of Samaria gold stars for each of its eight wines that are a continuation of the Biblical tradition of wine production in Israel.

Established in 2003 by Yaakov and Naama Berg, the Psagot Boutique Winery is located in the Binyamin hills north of  Jerusalem ,which served as the cradle of wine-cultivation in Biblical times. The winery’s vineyards are planted on ancient limestone terraces at a height of 3,000 feet above sea level, alongside the community of Psagot, located south of Beit El and Ofra in Samaria.

Editorial note: A 2011 Washington Post article suggested that the labels on the Berg bottles say they are from Psagot, Israel, containing wine produced from vineyards planted on ancient limestone terraces in the “northern Jerusalem hills” and aged in French oak barrels stored in an ancient cave.

When asked, Berg “shrugged off suggestions that the labels mask the wine’s origin in an Israeli settlement in the West Bank.”

“This is a geographical definition, not political,” he says of the reference to the Jerusalem hills. “When it comes to wine, the geographical area is critical, like Napa Valley” in California. As for the reference to Israel, Berg said that he is subject to Israeli law and that his winery is built on state land.

Energetic founder and chief executive of Psagot Winery Yaakov Berg.

Energetic founder and chief executive of Psagot Winery Yaakov Berg.

In keeping with ancient history of the location, the Psagot Winery ages its wines in an ancient underground cave that was used for wine-making in the Second Temple period. The cave was discovered in the process of establishing the winery in an area where remnants of ancient vineyards still exist.

The annual French wine competition is held by 1001degustations.com, a wine site that was created by French wine producers in order to promote international interest in wines and wine production.

The Psagot wines competed against scores of wines sent from wineries across the world including leading wine-producing countries such as France, Italy, Spain, Germany, Australia, USA, South Africa and Argentina.

All eight of the Psagot wine entries placed in the competition, either in first, second or third place, a special feat for the Israeli boutique winery according to the founder and CEO, Yaakov Berg. “We sent all our wines to the competition and they all received awards,” Berg told Tazpit News Agency.

Psagot’s red wines, Prat and Shiraz, were awarded gold stars as well as the Judges’ Favorite Award. The grading is based on the criteria of color, aroma and taste and is decided by a jury composed of wine producers, sommeliers, oenologists, and restaurant owners. On the competition’s website, Psagot’s Prat wine was noted for its pleasant fragrance and fruity flavor, while the judges described the Shiraz as an elegant delight.

The Psagot Winery has won accolades in Panama, England and the United States among other countries. Because the competitions use blind tasting of wines to prevent bias, the Psagot wines have an equal opportunity to win like all the other wines. “Otherwise, politics would just get in the way and our wines would have no chance,” Berg told Tazpit.

The Psagot winery produced 200,000 wine bottles this year following a successful grape harvest in 2012. Most of the bottles have been exported abroad to various countries.

“This recent win is special because it shows the world what the land of Israel is made of. Two-thousand years ago, our people produced good wines in the same region, and now we are back home doing the same,” Berg said.

Archaeologists Find Largest, Oldest Near East Wine Cellar in Israel

Sunday, November 24th, 2013

Archaeologists have unearthed what may be the oldest — and largest — ancient wine cellar in the Near East, containing forty jars, each of which would have held fifty liters of strong, sweet wine, archaeologists from George Washington, Brandeis and Haifa universities announced late Friday,

The amount of wine estimated to have been stored in the cellar would fill approximately 3,000 modern bottles, and there probably are other wine cellars waiting to be unearthed.

The cellar was discovered in Tel Kabri, located near the northwestern coastal city of Nahariya and the site of a ruined palace of a sprawling Canaanite city in northern Israel and dating back to about 1,700 B.C.

The archaeological site is located near many of Israel’s modern-day wineries, such as Carmel Mizrachi in Zichron Yaakov, near Haifa.

“This is a hugely significant discovery — it’s a wine cellar that, to our knowledge, is largely unmatched in age and size,” said Eric Cline, chair of the Department of Classical and Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations of at The George Washington University.

He teamed up with excavation co-director Assaf Yasur-Landau, chair of the Department of Maritime Civilizations at the University of Haifa, co-directed the excavation. Andrew Koh, assistant professor of classical studies at Brandeis University, was an associate director.

Koh, an archaeological scientist, analyzed the jar fragments using organic residue analysis. He found molecular traces of tartaric and syringic acid, both key components in wine, as well as compounds suggesting ingredients popular in ancient wine-making, including honey, mint, cinnamon bark, juniper berries and resins. The recipe is similar to medicinal wines used in ancient Egypt for two thousand years.

Koh also analyzed the proportions of each diagnostic compound and discovered remarkable consistency between jars.

“This wasn’t moonshine that someone was brewing in their basement, eyeballing the measurements,” Koh noted. “This wine’s recipe was strictly followed in each and every jar.”

Yasur-Landau said, “The wine cellar was located near a hall where banquets took place, a place where the Kabri elite and possibly foreign guests consumed goat meat and wine.” The team discovered two doors leading out of the wine cellar—one to the south, and one to the west, and pending more digging in two years, it is assumed that  both doors probably lead to additional storage rooms.

A large part of the palace was destroyed approximately 3,600 years ago as a result of an earthquake or some other disaster, according to the archaeologists.

Dr. Koh told reporters that the presence of tartaric acid  means it was used for grape juice or wine, and several ingredients are the same as those found in winemaking recipes that previously have been found in ancient texts from ruins in what is now Syria,

Luscious grapes grown in Israel are recorded in the Biblical narrative of the “12 spies” who traveled from the Sinai Desert after the Exodus to the area of Hevron to report back to Moses what the People of Israel could expect when entering. The grapes and pomegranates that the spies brought back from the Hevron area supported the promise that Israel indeed is a land of “milk and honey,” but 10 of the spies also said that the local Canaanites were giants living in fortified cities. The report sent fear into the Children of Israel who rebelled against their mission, for they were punished to remain in the desert and die by the end of 40 years after leaving Egypt, except who were under the ago of 20 at the time of the Exodus and except for the two spies who tried to persuade the people that they could overcome Canaan with God’s help.

Fine wines have been become a booming industry in recent years, with the grapes of the southern Hevron Hills and the Golan Heights being used for dry wines considered some of the best in the world.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/archaeologists-find-largest-oldest-near-east-wine-cellar-in-israel/2013/11/24/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: