New Products & Promotions – April 2016

Posted on | March 22, 2016   Bookmark and Share
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Michter’s 10 Year Rye

Michter’s Master Distiller Willie Pratt (nicknamed “Dr. No” for his famously high standards) has approved the release of Michter’s 10 Year Single Barrel Rye—the first rye release since 2014. Aged in fire-charred American white oak and bottled at 92.8 proof, the rye has deep notes of vanilla, toffee, toasted almond and cinnamon with an ample dose of crushed pepper and a hint of orange citrus. Limited production.

SRP: $150


Malibu Strawberry Kiwi Cans

Malibu, the top-selling Caribbean Rum with coconut liqueur, is adding Malibu Strawberry Kiwi in 200ml cans to their popular ready-to-drink portfolio. The pre-mixed RTD cocktail (5% ABV) combines the juicy flavors of ripe strawberry and kiwi with a hint of Malibu Coconut—perfect for outdoor and on-the-go occasions. The launch is being supported with digital media promotions, sampling events and POS including shelf cards, cold box clings and single-serve bins and racks.

SRP: $9.99/4-pack or $2.50/can


Burnett’s Cucumber Lime Vodka

Burnett’s Flavored Vodka is extending to include Cucumber Lime, available nationally in April. The fresh cucumber taste with a squeeze of lime is right on target with consumer taste trends. Burnett’s Flavored Vodkas are quadruple distilled, triple charcoal filtered and made with natural flavor. Cucumber Lime brings the portfolio to a total of 37 flavors. 70 proof; available in 50ml, 1.0L and 1.75L.

SRP: $10.99






Mark West ‘Black’ Pinot Noir

Introducing Mark West Black, Constellation is betting the demand for “dark” red blends will translate to Pinot Noir as well. Dubbed “the dark side of Pinot,” the wine is the most full-bodied in the brand’s portfolio. It begins with fruit fromCalifornia’s cool-climate regions that allow for longer hang time and ripeness. Then, early in the winemaking process, some of the wine is “bled off,” boosting the skin-to-juice ratio and thereby flavor concentration.

SRP: $13.99


Angostura ‘No. 1’ Rum

The House of Angostura has introduced their “No.1” Once Used French Oak Rum, the newest introduction to The Cask Collection. No. 1 is a 16-year-old blend; the rums spent a minimum of 10 years in American Oak, then were transferred to ex-Cognac French Oak casks for six more years. The Cognac barrels impart flavors of nuts, dried dates and figs and hints of oak. Available in select markets.

SRP: $95-$100






FOUR 2014 Red Blend, California

Why Four? Why not?  It’s “four” fun. It’s “four” easy entertaining. It’s “four”good times with family and friends. And indeed, FOUR combines four grapes (44% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot, 8% Petite Sirah, and 7% Petit Verdot) into one delicious, richly smooth red wine. Great with grilled foods. The environmentally friendly 3L bag-in-box adds ease and convenience. Marketed by Bronco Wine Co.

SRP: $23.99





PINO Cellars 2015 Rosé of Pinot

Last year was an outstanding vintage inOregonas weather allowed grapes to reach peak ripeness. The grapes for PINO Cellars Rosé of Pinot came from both the Willamette andUmpquaValleys. Using “saignée” to “bleed off” the fresh, lightly colored juice, winemaker Robert Stashak captured both a beautiful pink color and enticing notes of strawberry, cranberry and raspberry. The finish is long and crisp. Marketed by Bronco Wine Co.

SRP: $19.99






Robert Mondavi Private Selection Bourbon Barrel Aged Cabernet Sauvignon

This new limited-release Central Coast Cabernet Sauvignon breaks new ground, having been finished in a mix of new and used 100% American oak Kentucky Bourbon barrels. The treatment imparts deep toasty flavors and hints of vanilla and brown sugar into the wine—but without overwhelming the robust cherry and blackberry fruit.

SRP: $13.99





SILGA 2015 Verdejo, Rueda

The crisp, refreshing Verdejo-based wines ofSpain’s Rueda region are gaining recognition in theU.S.just in time to be a featured summer white. The 2015 Silga, from Bodegas Alvarez Diez, has a classic floral and citrus nose leading into more fresh citrus that lingers in a very long, balanced finish. No oak, no problem. And the wine’s screwtop and fanciful label makes clear this Rueda is ready for fun and adventure.

SRP: $11.99





Mü Creamy Coco Cappuccino

Coffee break meets happy hour in the “mü” (pronounced moo) line of coffee-inspired RTD cocktails. The newest flavor, Coco Cappuccino, joins Vanilla Latté, Chocolate Chai and Espresso Macchiato. After launching successfully inFloridaand limited markets,  brand creator LiDestri is rolling out mü to 13 states. All four lush, creamy expressions are only 13.9% ABV; enjoy in a short glass over ice, in coffee, or in creamy cocktails. Available in CT, DE, FL, GA, MD, MA, MO, NJ, NY, NC, RI, SC and DC.

SRP: $14.99/750ml, $1.29/50ml




Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel Rye

The third offering of the Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel Collection marks the brand’s first new grain bill in 100 years (70% rye, 18% corn, 12% malted barley). Following the Single Barrel Select and Barrel Proof bottlings, the 94-proof Single Barrel Rye has a robust yet balanced flavor profile, with hints of dried fruit and vanilla. It finishes slightly shorter than the other Single Barrels as rye is much more about grain rather than barrel character.

SRP: $49.99 per 750ml





The Pogues Irish Whiskey

The Pogues, a legendary Irish punk band, teamed up with West Cork Distillers, one ofIreland’s independent distillers, to create an eponymous Irish whiskey. The band was deeply involved in the creation of the whiskey, a blend of 50% 10-year single malt aged in Sherry casks and 50% 5-7 year grain whiskey aged in bourbon casks. The resulting liquid has an aroma of malts and nuts, with a sweet taste and a smooth, intense flavor. 80 proof.

SRP: $39.99 |







Wine Buzz April 2016: Special Rose Edition

Posted on | March 22, 2016   Bookmark and Share
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Last summer was the tipping season for dry rosé. Cases of pink wine joined stacks of red blends and Pinot Grigio on display. Whispering Angel was seemingly ensconced in every storefront and cooler in the Hamptons. The phrase “brosé” even caught some traction.

Provençal rosé in particular showed scorching sales. For the 12th straight year, the flow of rosé wines from Provence to the U.S. grew by double digits. In fact, 2015 brought the largest spike since 2001 as Provençal rosés notched a 58% increase in volume over 2014, and a 74% increase in value.

While Provence may remain the statistical and spiritual leader of dry pink wine (their trade association likes to call it “iconic”), the success of pink wine in general has also spurred a slew of innovation and ramped-up promotion. Some signs of the impending Pink-Apocalypse:

 The first 2015 Provence rosé of the season arrived in early winter—designed for winter: Grain de Glace “Le Rosé de l’Hiver.”

 NY Metro distributors Baron Francois and Winebow hosted rosé-only trade tastings; and the Skurnik tasting had a rosé cheat sheet mapping out all their pink wines.

 Picking up steam after success in 2015, “La Nuit en Rosé” events (photos above) sold-out in NYC (1,200) in February and Miami (700) in March.

 PR firms are pitching rosé as the coolest wine in a vintner’s whole portfolio.

 A group of winegrowers in France were fined 10,000 euros for mixing red and white wine to make rosé—sacré bleu!


Selling Tips

  Start your selling season with a variety of styles, price points and looks. You’ll see what is working, and still have time to reorder before the vintage dries up.

  Group your pink wines—making their collective color even more attractive.

  Shelf talkers with a wine’s style, grape(s) and origin can be especially helpful with rosés.

  Rosé presents an opportunity to explain how rosés are made. All wines get their color from the skins of grapes; at crush, if the juice of red grapes is given only short skin contact, it remains pink instead of becoming red. Then, winemakers decide how far to let the fermentation go: if they stop it, the wine will be on the sweet side, like White Zinfandel; if allowed to ferment fully, the wine will be dry but still fruity.


An Explosion of New Rosés

The pink-hued lessons of 2015 were not lost on suppliers: 2016 is bringing an unprecedented boom in new products. But the explosion of rosés is hardly as homogenous as their common color would suggest. While the Provence dry-crisp model has been adeptly emulated—from Long Island to Temecula, Stellenbosch to Tuscany—there are bubbly and sweetish options making their way to market as well.

And therein lies a glint of a downside. Buoyed by its widespread popularity, the term rosé is also now being used all over the map, so to speak—not merely as a call for a dry salmon-tinted wine, but as a generic name that can be stuck on just about anything wet and on the pink spectrum. The flood of new products is bound to bring more imprecise use of the word.

This is certainly a factor retailers and restaurant servers should bear in mind. In more situations than in the past, people who sell wine are going to be challenged to present their pink wines accurately. Is it dry? Is it sweet? Where is it from? What’s in it? Be prepared to make sense of the options.

Here are some brand new rosés that have crossed our path of late. Color is just about the only thing that connects them all, and these are only a fraction of the expansive pink market:



Matua put a lot of thought into their new 100% Pinot Noir rosé: night harvesting (for freshness), multiple yeasts (for aromatics), partial aging on the lees (for texture) and “Elegant & Dry” on the label (for browsers).


Fresh from Italy, Aia Vecchia’s “Solidio” is a dry, deep-colored and full-flavored 90% Sangiovese; and the new Ruffino is sparkling Glera (Prosecco, basically) and a splash of Pinot Noir. Are both “rosé”? Only Ruffino’s label says so.




PINO Cellars, from Oregon, is the newest Bronco Wine Co. rosé, joining Sables d’Azur, Heritages and 1749 from France; and Balletto, Robert Hall and Six Degrees from CA.





Bubbly fans might be happy to find the fanciful limited edition Chandon Rosé (the regular juice) wrapped in new skin by fashion designer Carol Lim. Or the Charles Heidsieck Rosé Millésime 2006 (SRP: $150), the first vintage rosé release by the house since the 1999 vintage. The 2006 was disgorged and released ahead of the 2005.


Never count out the French. Champs de Provence is a new Côtes de Provence from Prestige Imports. South American specialist Guarachi Wine Partners teamed up with French specialist Jeff Welburn to bring over two new rosés: Brun Estate (Côtes de Provence) and La Domitienne (Languedoc). Also from Languedoc, the 2015 Château de Jonquières is available in a magnificent magnum bottle. And Pasternak’s new “M de Mulonnière” Rosé d’Anjou—made by the Saget family in the Loire—is bright, ripe and fresh, with a bit of a Jolly Rancher kick.

Chateau St. Jean’s Bijou has a French name (meaning jewel) but a simple California AVA. Truvée is Central Coast, and consists mostly of Paso Robles Grenache. Head High is dark and strong (14.2% ABV), made from mostly North Coast Zinfandel and Syrah. The new Dark Horse Rosé is California AVA, and built from 40% Grenache, 20% Barbera, 20% Pinot Gris, 20% Tempranillo.

The Find – April 2016

Posted on | March 22, 2016   Bookmark and Share
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Pernod Ricard unveils two new single pot still Irish Whiskies

Not only is the Irish Whiskey category showing no signs of slowing down, Pernod Ricard, proud keepers of market leader Jameson, continue to boost the Irish pedigree with new expressions.

Midleton Dair Ghaelach is the first-ever Irish Whiskey from the distillery to be finished in native Irish oak hogsheads. A selection of traditional Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey distillates, matured for between 15 and 22 years in ex-bourbon casks, were married together before being filled into the Irish hogsheads, and were then nosed and tasted each month until the whiskey showed the ideal contribution of the Irish oak, which imparts notes of vanilla, caramel and chocolate to the classically rich, spicy Single Pot Still profile. Bottled at cask strength (117 proof) without chill filtration; SRP $269.99.

Green Spot Château Léoville-Barton is the first ever Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey to be finished in Bordeaux wine casks. This whiskey is initially matured in traditional Sherry and bourbon barrels and then transferred into the ex-Bordeaux wine casks for 12 to 24 months. The year-plus spent in the Léoville-Barton casks leads the spirit to gain floral and wood characteristics on the nose and palate, which give way to a perfectly balanced, long, spicy finish. 92 proof; SRP $99.99.


Sōtō: A Modern Saké with Ancient Roots 

Billy Melnyk spent well over a decade working with mega-brands like Bacardi and Grey Goose and noticed a hole in the wine and spirits marketplace: premium, authentic saké with Western appeal and strong brand recognition. “As saké advocates, we’ve been consuming saké for years, but it was always challenging for us as English speakers to understand the labels,” Melnyk says. “We wanted to take a modern approach to a beverage with deep tradition.”

He and co-founder Dan Rubinoff found a brewer in Japan’s Niigata Prefecture, a region famous for the purity of its water, to craft Sōtō (which means “outside”), and they enlisted the help of Zachary Gross, saké sommelier at New York’s acclaimed Shuko restaurant. A super-premium grade Junmai Daiginjo, Sōtō was designed to pair with “a wide variety of international cuisines, not only sushi,” says Rubinoff. Refreshing and bright with notes of apple, lime and cucumber and a dry finish, Sōtō is available in CA, FL, NV & NY; SRP $39.99/720ml, $19.99/300ml.


Fireshot joins LIQS RTD Collection

LIQS, the pre-mixed cocktail shot brand targeting LDA consumers both on- and off-premise, has jumped into the flavored whiskey category with a new single-serve 50ml expression. Fireshot combines cinnamon and vanilla with premium whiskey. Like the other LIQS’ low-sugar shots—Tequila Cinnamon Orange, Vodka Kamikaze, Vodka Lemon Drop, Vodka Cucumber Lime and Vodka Lychee Grapefruit—Fireshot comes in a package that can be shot, sipped or poured over ice.

“When launched, our initial focus was off-premise and for the in-home consumer,” notes LIQS founder Michael Glickman. “But having seen the success of the brand at a number of very different on-premise venues, we have begun to explore this exciting new outlet.” No doubt Fireshot (45 proof) is aiming to attract Fireball drinkers; Glickman believes Fireshot’s taste “is so perfectly balanced, no chaser is needed.” On-premise, LIQS single-serve 50ml shots sell for $6-$8. Single-flavor 3-packs retail for $6.99. Currently available in NY, NJ, FL, TX, MA, RI, CT and Canada, with expansion plans for 2016.

Back to Basics: Tequila 101

Posted on | March 22, 2016   Bookmark and Share
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Welcome to our newest series, Back to Basics! Every month we’ll provide you with a 101-style feature about a different spirit that not only goes in-depth, but can be printed out and given to your staff. Let the educating begin with…Tequila!

Click on the PDF link below to download the first Back to Basics guide.












‘VIBE’ Takes Aim at Trends

Posted on | March 22, 2016   Bookmark and Share
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Consumer behavior at chains reveals patterns relevant across the market.

Each year, the VIBE conference gathers owners, operators, beverage directors, marketing VPs and F&B executives from chain restaurants, hotels, cruise lines, and casinos across the country for a two-day think tank, and this year’s focused on data and trends. Some highlights:

Big data keeps growing. Niki Kundra, CEO of the mobile bar inventory app Partender, which gathers information from about 15,000 restaurants, said the info they gather keeps tabs on category behavior in real-time, and breaks down sales trajectories by quarter and perhaps even more frequently, making rapid reaction to an operation’s sales trends increasingly possible. But the flood of more and more, sometimes contradictory, data can confuse even the fastest adapter; better to analyze data by specific region, neighborhood, concept and customer.

Calorie-watching looms. Providing beverage nutritional info is just around the corner. By as early as December of this year, operations that are part of a chain of 20 or more units will be required by the Food and Drug Administration to provide nutritional and caloric information for each beverage alcohol product on the menu. Even self-service beer from a cooler will be covered. Specific rules are likely to be complicated when they arrive, reports the National Restaurant Association’s Vice President for Food Policy Joan McGlockton. Consider that suppliers are not yet required by their controlling agency—the TTB—to supply similar data on their own labels. Any state or local rules will be wiped away by the federal statue, but multi-unit operators in the dark need to start getting ready now.

Traffic is back, but beverage sales are lagging. Restaurant and bar traffic has returned to levels last seen in 2006, according to Warren Solochek of research firm NPD Group. However, although traffic has almost returned to pre-Recession levels, beverage sales are down about 10% from ten years ago. Reasons? Beverages are considered too expensive and not a good value by consumers. The lag may be due also to the growth of fast casual chains, where beverage alcohol is limited in selection.

Sweet still sells. Operators who do a significant amount of wine business reported continued growth in Prosecco and Moscato, both American-made and imported, as well as red blends. Pinot Noir is still showing double-digit gains and Malbec is now the top-selling varietal wine in chains like Morton’s. The Morton’s Restaurant Group’s VP of Wine and Spirits Tylor Field III says wine cocktails, including sangria and sparkling wine cocktails, are also showing double-digit growth.

Trendspotting: Private Stock

Posted on | March 22, 2016   Bookmark and Share
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Beyond the ego appeal, private labels can add value to your business.

If you’re a wine shop or restaurant owner—whether a single establishment or a fledgling chain—does it make sense to have private label wines?

“Private labeling is becoming more prevalent and appearing with more variety,” says Steve Fredricks, President of Turrentine Brokerage, a California-based company which provides wineries with bulk and specially made wines from around the globe.

The allure is natural. Ego plays a role for some. So do margins, which can be 10 to 15% better than national brands. Private labels also can develop repeat business, since they are only available at the brand-owner’s store.

Practically speaking, private label wines are almost a stealth category. Not only have these exclusive products grown so quickly, the wines themselves blend in seamlessly, being of competitive caliber inside and out. Danny Brager, Senior VP of Nielsen’s Beverage Alcohol Practice, notes that in wine, “private labels look every bit like a regular brand, unlike private labels for other categories.” In addition, some brands can function like private labels-—direct imports, for example, as well as specific products are sold as exclusives to certain retailers in certain states for certain periods of time.

Quantity-wise, Fredricks advises: “If you can buy 500 cases, or a truckload a year, the world begins to open up for you.” At the same time, though, Turrentine and other private-label suppliers caution that many on- and off-premise businesses often don’t adequately plan before taking the plunge, either using the business’s name or a new brand name.

Among the questions that need to be asked and answered:

Who is drinking private labels?

Catered events and by-the-glass have proven fertile for private labels. When Xavier Teixedo added a special-events banquet room to his Harry’s Savoy Grill in Wilmington, DE, in the late 1990s, he decided he needed a private label, especially for wedding packages. Almost 20 years later, he still offers private-label Chardonnay and Cabernet for events, and by-the-glass at his three restaurants, and he sells about 700 cases yearly in total.

What kinds of wines do you want to private label?

You won’t have volume to compete at the low-price level, and it’s difficult to source a steady supply of wines from prestige regions such as Burgundy. “Pay attention to Nielsen,” Fredricks says. “What is selling commercially is what is being private-labeled.” For example, Malbecs and blends from Argentina continue to be very popular.

Be as tough-minded with your private label as you would be with a new wine being sampled by a distributor. What’s its primary appeal? Will consumers who buy it just abandon something else in your offerings? And remember, once you start private labeling, even if it’s an invented name, it’s your reputation on the label.

Where can you source wine?

Just ask. Many moderate to large-volume wineries in all areas of the country welcome extra business, especially if they custom crush. Teixedo sourced his wines for over a dozen years from French-based Georges Duboeuf. “They got out of the business,” he says, “so I asked my distributors for possible suppliers, and I easily found a new one in California.”

Bumper-crop vintages can make private-labeling more attractive. High-quality wine can also become available as “shiners” (wines bottled but not labeled) when wineries need to sell off extra stock—anonymously, of course…  

Rising Star Region: Portugal

Posted on | March 22, 2016   Bookmark and Share
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With odd grapes cool and blends red-hot, the values of Portugal are taking off.

Count me as lucky. About 25 years ago, on my first trip to Portugal, I discovered the pleasures of inexpensive Periquita, made by José Maria da Fonseca in Setúbal. Periquita is still one of the most consistently good Portuguese wines imported to the U.S.

Back then, the only Portuguese wine most Americans knew was Mateus, the sweet fizzy rosé known for its goofy-shaped bottle. Mateus (which, incidentally, was Saddam Hussein’s favorite wine) accounted for almost half of the table wine exported from Portugal in the late 1980s.

Things have changed. From the popularity of easy-drinking Vinho Verde to the emergence of table wines from the Douro Valley to the rise of regions like the Alentejo and Dão and the hipster-somm embrace of Colares, demand for Portugese wines is finally gaining steam. In fact, from November 2014 to November 2015, sales of table wines from Portugal grew by 27%.

What’s driving the surge? Some of it is increased familiarity with Portugal as a destination, as more Americans travel there. Some of it is a generational embrace of new and lesser-known wines. Nuno Vale, Marketing Director for Wines of Portugal, points out that Millennials consume 43% of the Portuguese wines sold in the U.S.—well above the market average of 26%.

Portuguese Wine Is Not (All) Cheap

Portugal is one of the few places where you can still find really good wine around $10 and, in the case of Vinho Verde, under. But Vale insists the retail sweet spot for Portuguese wines is $15-$20. In that range, you will find tremendous wine values. Alentejo’s Herdade do Esporão, with its New World-inspired innovation, is one of the larger, better-known producers with good-value wines and contemporary packaging up and down the price continuum.

Don’t Fear The Native Grapes

Portuguese wines rely on lesser-known indigineous grapes, and that can be a challenge. Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Castelão, Trincadeira, Baga… where’s the Syrah and Cabernet? Two popular Spanish varieties are widely found in Portugal, but they go by different names—Tempranillo is called Tinta Roriz or Aragonez; and Albariño is Alvarinho. Fortunately, however, there’s a building wave of interest in more obscure grapes. “Right now, drinkers are looking to explore new varieties. They’re curious and want to have new experiences,” Vale says. Portugal has a seemingly endless array to satisfy that thirst.

Vinho Verde Gets Serious

“People used to see Vinho Verde as simple, crisp wines. So-called ‘pool wines,’” says Vale. Though traditional Vinho Verde (literally “green wine,” meaning young wine) is light, low alcohol, with a little stimulating fizz and often an under-$8 price tag, a number of more serious bottlings, such as Nortico, are now made solely from Alvarinho (“serious” is relative: SRP $14). Also look for Quinta de Azevedo and Muralhas de Moncao.

More than Port from the Douro

Many Douro Valley producers have begun producing excellent table wines, using the same blend of grapes that were traditionally used for Port. “We are a country of blends,” Vale says. But with blends now one of the hottest segments of red wine these days, look for wines from producers such as Quinta do Vale Meão, Wine & Soul, Quinta do Noval and Quinta da Fronteira. 

Last Call: Drinking ‘Green’

Posted on | March 22, 2016   Bookmark and Share
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As an ingredient, hemp has been farmed as a cash crop; lauded by fitness enthusiasts for its 20 amino acids, vitamins A, D and E, and omega 3s and 6s; treated a bit unfairly because of its relation to marijuana; and, now, used in cocktails. Johnny Swet features it in his “Going Back to Cali” at The Rickey in Manhattan. “It’s healthy but cool,” says Swet, “and has a bad boy image even though it’s not bad at all.”

No doubt, the “bad boy” appeal of hemp as a cocktail ingredient stems partially from its relation to marijuana—they are both members of the cannabis plant family. Yet hemp contains only trace amounts of THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol, the chemical responsible for most of marijuana’s psychological effects). 

To use hemp in his cocktail, Swet starts with hemp seeds that have been ground into a powder (Hemp Protein Powder is available at health food stores), then purées the powder with avocado, simple syrup and lime juice. Besides the health benefits and the laid-back attitude that hemp brings, Swet notes that it also brings a unique depth of flavor. “There’s an earthy back note to it, sort of like green hay. I get a little bit of the avocado, but I really get the viscosity in the mouth,” he explains. “Hemp doesn’t have a lot of flavor, but it gives some backbone to the lime and vanilla as well.”


Going Back to Cali

By Johnny Swet, The Rickey


2 oz Herradura Tequila

2 oz Avocado Purée*

½ oz Tuaca Vanilla Liqueur

Garnish: Lime Wedge and Mint “Bud”

*For purée: Combine 2 diced avocados, 1 pint simple syrup, 1 pint fresh squeezed lime juice, 2 Tbsp ground Hemp Powder; purée in a blender until smooth.


In a shaker, combine the tequila, avocado purée and vanilla liqueur. Add ice, shake and strain into a rocks glass with cubed ice. Garnish with lime wedge and mint bud.

Shifting Tradition

Posted on | March 22, 2016   Bookmark and Share
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Israel has come into its own by focusing on quality first and kosher second.


The wine history of Israel dates back about 4,000 years, so it’s safe to say that winemaking is in its DNA. However, Israel’s fine wine tradition is much younger—dating back only about two decades. Until then, Israeli producers were filling a religious need; sweet sacramental wine represented the bulk of their production. Today, a growing number of boutique producers are focusing their efforts on quality, and the country—the size of New Jersey—is home to 50-60 commercial wineries and 300 smaller ones.

Currently 37 Israeli wineries, both large and small, export to the United States, and that number is growing. Even more encouraging is the way retailers are embracing them. With the increased exposure, Israel’s wines could soon shed their reputation as strictly for Jewish holidays and move into the general wine conversation.

A Land of Milk, Honey and Wine

Israel has five distinct wine regions—Galilee, Shomron, Samson, Judean Hills and Negev—each with distinct terroir and climate. The regional diversity is astounding, according to Oded Shoham, CEO of the Israel Wine Experience tour company: “You can drive 45 minutes and be in an entirely different climate with different terroir and sunlight.”

The Mediterranean is known for being prime grape-growing territory, and Israel will benefit if people realize it rightly belongs to this region. “You see Greek wines and Croatian wines gaining in popularity, and Israel can play into that,” says Hal Cashman, Brand Development Director for Palm Bay International, importer of Recanati. “In the last five years, Israeli wine has seen double-digit growth each year, which is some fairly strong growth for the sector.”

Made in the Upper Galilee, wines from Recanati fall somewhere between modern and traditional, explains Cashman: “The wines aren’t heavily fruit forward, and that’s where the winemaking skills come into play. You’d think in Israel, it’s very hot, so you’d have fruit bombs coming out of there, but the winemaker is growing in higher altitudes to get wines that are more balanced and not high in alcohol or fruit extraction.”

Other established wineries such as Tabor, Carmel, Binyamina and Or Haganuz also reside in the Upper Galilee, all benefiting from high elevation, warm summer days and cool nights. “Carmel Winery is in the Upper Galilee and they produce a dry Riesling, something you wouldn’t expect from such a hot country, and yet, the micro-climates you can find there are simply incredible,” says Gabe Geller of Royal Wines.

Micha Vaadia, chief winemaker at Galil Mountain Winery also credits Galilee soil. “With the varying soils of limestone, flint, terra rossa and basalt, we are able to capture the essence of our region and put it in the bottle,” says Vaadia. “The wine we’re producing suits the temperament of the Middle East. It’s floral and elegant.”

Eran Pick, winemaker at Tzora Vineyards and Israel’s first Master of Wine, grows his grapes in the high-elevation Judean Hills. “All of our wines are blends,” explains Pick. “We are trying to tell the story of this region, and trying to find the best blend of this region. We are reaching a point where we are finding the typical flavor of the Judean Hills, and that is a unique story.”

Varieties like Petite Sirah and Petit Verdot thrive in the Mediterranean climate and are increasingly planted, yet the most prevalent grapes remain Cabernet Sauvignon and Carignan. However, winemakers are starting to experiment with different grapes, such as Chenin Blanc and Chardonnay.

It’s the quality potential that lured Jacques Capsouto to move to Israel to make wine three years ago. Known for his Tribeca restaurant Capsouto Frères, Capsouto was one of the first NYC restaurateurs to feature Israeli wines prominently. When his restaurant closed after Hurricane Sandy, Capsouto decided to take his passion to the homeland itself, and today he grows vines on 54 acres in the Upper Galilee, producing about 45,000 bottles. “Israel is getting more recognition in the world,” says Capsouto. “A lot of winemakers in Israel went to school in Bordeaux, UC Davis, Italy. They are professionals, and the wines being made here are receiving great responses from Israelis and Americans alike.”

Selling: the Kosher Conundrum

Selling Israeli wine can be difficult, considering that Israeli wine is typically perceived by Americans as kosher first. One of the ongoing challenges for retailers is making a “Kosher” section readily accessible, yet at the same time promoting Israeli offerings as high-quality bottles from the Mediterranean. And no matter where kosher wines are shelved, it is important to remember that kosher certification does not affect the quality—it’s an extra certification.

Joshua Greenstein, head of the Israel Wine Producers Association (IWPA), notes that while kosher will always be an important factor with wines from Israel, anything that draws people to pay more attention to the wines is positive. “People are willing to experiment with the Israeli category because we are selling Israel as a region, and people want to support the country,” says Greenstein. “Once people try these wines, they realize how good they are.”

At Gotham Wines & Liquors on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, Costas Mouzouras is extremely well-versed in Israeli wine, kosher and non-kosher, as well as the culture of Israeli wine in New York, where it performs better than anywhere else. “I’ve been in this business a long time and I know most of the producers personally, and it’s their story that really sells the bottles,” says Mouzouras. “What’s in the bottle is good, but if you know the family and their story, it’s an interesting way to promote the wine.”

Oded Shoham of Israel Wine Experience, who previously was a retailer, notes that regions themselves hold selling points. He urges retailers to promote the unique history of Israel’s ancient lands: “When a wine is from the Galilee, it has an impact historically, and has an impact for people who know the terroir of the Galilee. It’s a whole picture.”

“The U.S. market is interested in real, authentic stories, and we have one,” says Victor Schoenfeld, winemaker for Yarden. “There is still the challenge of getting out of the kosher section of the store, but kosher wine is produced all over the world. The linking of Israel and kosher makes less and less sense.”

Christopher Barnes, owner of Grape Collective in Manhattan, carries a good selection of wines from big and small Israeli producers, but hasn’t separated them completely from kosher yet; signage in the section reads “Israel, Kosher.” Shoppers can access in-store iPads to instantly view interviews Barnes conducted with Israeli producers about their wines—as he has done with other vintners (the videos are also online). He is confident that the wines can sell on their own merits. “Israel has a very old wine culture, but at the same time a very modern wine industry,” says Barnes. “The new quality estates are making really interesting, terroir-driven wines.”

As IWPA’s Joshua Greenstein notes, “People are starting to understand that there is so much more to Israel’s wine culture than kosher. Israel has been making wine for 4,000 years, and they just got really good at it.” 

Great Success for Vino 2016

Posted on | March 21, 2016   Bookmark and Share
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Vino Italian Wine Week returned to New York in February, now in its 5th edition. The Hilton Midtown Hotel served as the venue Vino 2016, offering two full days of grand tastings of over 1,000 wines and hosting more than 200 vintners and producers’ delegations from all key Italian viticulture areas, including producers of wines never before marketed in the United States. A variety of master classes, tastings, workshops and demonstrations were presented by journalists and media professionals, exploring themes ranging from current consumption trends of Italian wines in the U.S. to new ways of engaging younger consumers.

Ian D’Agata, Vinitaly International Academy

Geralyn Brostrom, Italian Wine Central; Dan Amatuzzi, Eataly NYC; Alfonso Cevola, Glazer’s Distributing; Sharron McCarthy, Banfi Vintners; and George Miliotes, Capital Grille & Seasons 52 leading a seminar entitled “On-Going Italian Wine Education = Increased Italian Wine Sales”










Guests tasting at the Slow Wine Grand Tasting


Diletta Malenchini, Malenchini Winery; displaying at the Vino 2016 Grand Tasting








Over 80 Italian winery members of the Slow Wine movement were on display

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