The Kosher Terroir

Uncorking the Evolution of Israeli Wine: An Expert Insight from Adam Montefiore

November 16, 2023 Solomon Simon Jacob Season 2 Episode 6
The Kosher Terroir
Uncorking the Evolution of Israeli Wine: An Expert Insight from Adam Montefiore
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Get ready for a fascinating journey as we sit down with wine aficionado Adam Montefiore and trace the roots of Zionism through the lens of the Israeli wine industry. Adam, with his deep knowledge and recent books documenting the history of two significant Israeli wineries, guides us in exploring the powerful influence Moshe Montefiore had on the early Jewish vineyards in the Holy Land. From the Montefiore quarter of Tel Aviv to the Hebron wine savored by Montefiore abroad, you'll get a taste of Israel's historical and cultural richness.

The journey takes a somber turn as we shed light on the impact of war on the Israeli wine industry. Imagine trying to harvest and produce wine in the midst of conflict, or having your workforce called up for reserve duty. But it's not all gloom and doom. Adam helps us see how each bottle of Israeli wine we uncork can be an act of solidarity and support during trying times. So, let's raise a glass to resilience and camaraderie.

Adam's personal story—from the beer industry in England to being a respected wine writer and consultant in Israel—adds another layer of intrigue to this episode. Through his work, Adam has built relationships with nearly all the Israeli wineries, and his contributions to the prestigious Hugh Johnson Pocket Wine Book and the Oxford Wine Companion have elevated the profile of Israeli wines. We wrap up with a stimulating discussion on the evolution of Kosher wine, the role of Kastrut certification, and how the global demand for Kosher wine is pushing winemaking standards higher. So grab your favorite Israeli vintage and indulge in this enriching narrative of wine, history, and resilience.
For more information,
Adam S. Montefiore can be contacted @
Tel: +972 54 645 8851
Email: montefioreadam@gmail.com
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S. Simon Jacob:

Welcome to the Kosher Terroir. I'm Simon Jacob, your host for this episode from Jerusalem. The Kosher Terroir is a show dedicated to all topics wine related in the Kosher world. Because of that focus, I'd like to ask of you a special favor. These and winemakers here in Israel are again faced with outside influences that are threatening their entire industry. This war has virtually stopped tourism, and the enlistment of so many soldiers has basically shut down most businesses, especially restaurants. Israel needs your help now, and one of the most pleasant and significant ways to help provide support is to buy Israeli wine. The commercial infrastructure is already in place and this is a very pleasant and meaningful way to show your support of Israel during these difficult times. , A dam Montefiore. It's a pleasure to have you on the Kosher Terroir and it's really incredible to have you here in Yemen. Moshe.

Adam S. Montefiore:

Thank you very much. First of all, for me it's always a pleasure to come to Yemen, moshe. Secondly, I want to congratulate you on the podcast, which fills a niche, and you have informative guests, and I'm an avid listener, wow.

S. Simon Jacob:

Okay, thank you. Thank you very much.

Adam S. Montefiore:

It's a pleasure to be here, for me to come to Yemen. Moshe is part of my family history, and most people don't know that Moshe Montefiore, Moses Montefiore was a great wine lover. He drank a bottle of wine every day. This is written. The wine was probably port, which the English used to like in those days. He was born in Tuscany, in Livorno, and he was the first person really in 1839, 1839, he laid out his vision that Jews should return to agriculture, that he wanted them to plant vines and olive trees. He noticed how well they grew in Eretzikodesh, in the Holy Land. He had that vision long before. I mean, he was a forerunner of Zionism and he had that vision which he laid out before the first recorded winery, which was Jenao, in 1840. He was also involved and met the father of Rabbi Yitzhak Shor that founded the Shor family winery in 1848. So he was influential. He thought that Jews should return to agriculture, that they should work for a living instead of just receiving charity from overseas, and this was the principle behind him founding Mishko Notshanim. When Mishko Notshanim was founded, it was called Kerem Mosheva, yodit Moses and Judas Vinyad, because it was covered in wild vines and olive trees when it was founded and it was only in 1860 that they changed the name to Mishko Notshanim and this became the cornerstone of modern Western Jerusalem. He bought the first land Jewish land, which started off the citrus industry in Jaffa, which became the Montefiore quarter of Tel Aviv, and he was a wine lover. In his diaries he used to drink wine from Israel. He usually drank wine called Hebron wine, because wine was named after where it came from, not from the variety, not from the style, but from where it came from. So he drank Hebron wine and he bought small casts of wine to take home. When he traveled abroad he visited wineries. In his diaries he visited a winery in Germany once. So he was a real wine lover and he visited Israel in the time when Jerusalem was resettled. At the beginning of that century, the 19th century, there was a Muslim majority in Jerusalem. The founding of the wineries and the development of Jerusalem and Western Jerusalem, jews were the majority. By the time the shore winery was founded, there was a Jewish majority in Jerusalem which most people today forget. Most of the people abroad should know that there was a Jewish majority in the old city in those days. Jesus went to fury when he bought the land here. He insisted that everyone at Mishkanot Shannim should plant vines and olive trees to get a feel for agriculture. Of course he was a prophet. He was before his time and the grapes they used for the wine were the grapes that people are talking about now, the Hamdanid and Dajandali, the Buki. So in those days the shore winery made wines from those grapes, which is amazing, because what turns around comes around. They now become so popular again or there's great interest in them. And of course, the first Jewish vineyards were planted by Mick Ve Yisrael, the agricultural school, and they were the first to go to the south of France because they thought the climate of the south of France was similar to here. And that's when Karen Yan was first planted. And then Baron Edmund Rothschild came and planted the first commercial Jewish vineyards. But the prophet beforehand that started talking up agriculture and said Jews have to become farmers again and plant vines was Moses Montefiore.

S. Simon Jacob:

It started right here.

Adam S. Montefiore:

It started right here and for me it's very exciting to come back. And even the windmill today is a winery visitor center, which is quite appropriate, and he built the windmill on the premise if there's no flower. If there's no flower, yeah, exactly.

S. Simon Jacob:

If there's no flower, and the opposite to the other way around.

Adam S. Montefiore:

So. So his idea was that we should study and work, work and study. He was Sfadi Mary Dashkenazi, and I think he'd be horrified to think so many years later there was still a kind of division, politically maybe, between the two. He was a forerunner of Zionism, great wine lover, and even before he died he had three glasses of port on the evening that he died and that was his way of going off to the next world.

S. Simon Jacob:

You've actually just published a couple of incredibly well-written and very interesting books which document the history of two of the most important Israeli wineries. You want to talk about them a little bit.

Adam S. Montefiore:

Yeah, sure, I mean, they both came out in 2023, which is quite surprisingly, they both came out together. Of course, they weren't written together. I wrote the book about Castel Castel, the biography, domedu Castel, the biography, which is really the story of Eli Ben-Zaken, his family and the winery, and it's a fantastic story over 30 years. It could be a film. This is a boy born in Egypt, spent his childhood in Italy, went to school in England, to university in Switzerland, came to Israel and didn't really succeed in much of what he tried to do. He had many ventures and then fell on producing wine as an amateur winemaker. He learned out of a book how to make wine and because he was a crazy perfectionist, it seems that that there he found his metia, there he found his place and, of course, castel is today what you know arguably are most famous small winery and the story of this journey from international traveling to different countries, pioneering, becoming a Hello sin Israel, and he really built an icon. And today castel is probably possibly the most famous kosher winery in the world. Maybe, maybe I'm not exaggerating, but it's a fantastic world class winery, regardless of whether it's kosher or not, and I was proud to write the book. I wrote it in 2021 and it was published and launched in May this year and it's a great read. It's an Israel success story and that really covers 30 years of Israeli wine. The other book I wrote, which is only just been published in English now is the Golan Heights winery celebrating 40 year anniversary. The book was published in Hebrew as well. The Hebrew version was published in June. The English version is published literally this month.

S. Simon Jacob:

And this is hoping that, by the way, I was hoping that I was wondering if there was going to be an English version.

Adam S. Montefiore:

Well, I wrote it in English it was written to be read in English, so I too was delighted it came out in English. And this is the story of the Israel wine revolution. The Golan Heights winery was the pioneer of Israeli wine, was the first winery to to plant vineyards at high altitude vineyards, to bring new world winemaking techniques to Israel, to bring expertise from abroad. Yardin was the first brand to win awards internationally, regardless of whether they were kosher or not, and they've continued to be the dominant, one of the larger wineries the viticulture today is, I think, some of the most advanced in the world. Victor Schoenfeld, the winemaker, has been there 30 years, 30 plus years, and they continue to be the leading of the of the larger wineries. And both the stories Really tell the story of Israeli wine from the wine revolution onwards. The wine awakening onwards started in 1983. So the Golan Heights winery, 40 years old and Castel, 30 years old. These two stories are both Israeli success stories. They're both stories of people succeeding beyond the odds and they've really bought Israeli wine to a place far removed from the Israeli wine. I remember, you know, 40 years ago, right.

S. Simon Jacob:

Two impressions that I have when I go into Castel. It's so beautiful, it's just a beautiful place. The, the winery is beautiful. The barrel room looks like a five star restaurant and I'm sure you could eat off the floors, yeah, which I don't think that there's a barrel room in Israel. I know there's some incredible barrel rooms in France.

Adam S. Montefiore:

It really is a bit of a Mikdash of wine. It's an amazing place and you see the perfectionism in every, in every step. I mean, when he made his first wine, he decided on the label. He produced only two barrels, 600 bottles. The wine was wrapped in paper, the logos barely changed, so he made a wine which could have been a one off. I mean, he might have made one wine and that was it, but even then he made it as though it was the the only wine he'd ever make and he wanted it to be perfect. So the fact that he's barely changed the label in 30 years and he's still creating I mean, he's now founded the Raziel winery Is amazing and he's a beacon of quality, of style and has really influenced Israel wine, as has Victor Schoenfeld and the Golden Heights winery. So it was a great honor for me to write books for these two wineries because they are the wineries that really created the wine revolution in Israel.

S. Simon Jacob:

Yeah, and both, both in different ways, both in really different ways.

Adam S. Montefiore:

I mean.

S. Simon Jacob:

Eli Ben-Zaken has a bit of hot spot in him to come out and name your first wine Grand Vinn. Yes is like, is like are you kidding, but that's, but it is, it is. Grand Vinn. Speech has a certain power in in Judaism and when you call something by a name, you empower it, and I don't think he could have picked a better name.

Adam S. Montefiore:

Well, not only that, but it was Serena Sutcliff, a master of wine, head of Sotheby's wine department, who tasted the wine. By chance, she was given a sample, the stories in the book and she wrote back this is the best Israeli wine I've ever tasted. And on the basis of that, Eli had the confidence to continue to grow the winery. And they went through many ups and downs, many financial problems, and the story of perseverance and determination is as important as the success. So it's a wonderful story and you don't have to be a wine lover to for it to be a good read. And the Golan Heights winery also. I mean they were more based in California style. The, the, the winemaking consultant, was from California, all their winemakers have been from California, victor Schoenfeld was in California and they won the prize from the wine enthusiast as the best new world winery in the world. So one particular year, which was a massive prize for an Israeli winery against all the new world wine countries in the world. So the success of these two wineries have have really propelled Israel wine forward and encouraged other wineries to try and emulate them. The Golan Heights winery is a large winery, the Castel, as what we call an Israel a boutique winery, which is not a great terminology, but because it's actually gone.

S. Simon Jacob:

It's a pretty big winery to be. Yeah, I know it's four hundred thousand bottles, but still a small one.

Adam S. Montefiore:

You know small winery in the terms of the what a big winery is. But you're right, it's no longer a tiny winery. A tiny winery, right, but the story of both of them is the story of Israeli wine and it was my honor to write them both. And a lot of work that they coincided roughly, but great to see them come out, and they both made beautiful books.

S. Simon Jacob:

I wish you the best. I wish you the best with them. I know both Ellie and and Golan Heights winery are both very proud of those books, so I saw them. I saw them being promoted by both of them.

Adam S. Montefiore:

Yeah, I mean you can. You can buy them from the wineries concerned, you can visit, from the visitor centers or you can. You can ring them up and I'm sure they'll post them to you if you pay the postage. So they're both available in Golan Heights wineries in Hebrew and English and the Castel book is in English only.

S. Simon Jacob:

They're also now symbolic of where Israel is going towards the future. It's not just the past. Golan Heights is very technology driven, but Ellie Benzakins move with opening up Raziel is it's a way to be creative. It's really moving forward into those into the new Mediterranean warmer climate Varietals and even Golan Heights has been kind of experimenting with. But they've been experimenting for a while with different new Mediterranean varietals.

Adam S. Montefiore:

But Raziel is just incredible, incredible yeah, the Raziel Red is wonderful wide very focused, very elegant, and you know Ellie's done it again, yeah 19.

S. Simon Jacob:

I had the 2017 I think was the first vintage of that and I and I was surprised by it. I fell in love with it and he's brought out of, he's basically trying his hand at a whole bunch of new sparklings yeah, including a Rose sparkling, and also through Raziel and and it's wonderful just well, it's keeping him busy.

Adam S. Montefiore:

I think that one of the most heartwarming things about the winery is the way the family is geared up. They're already heavily involved Eight and is already making the wine and it shows that the Castel will continue for another generation for many generations, I'm sure, but it's. It's very heartwarming to see how how they've geared up to the future at Castel and the goal and Heights wineries is a winery that's always planned long term, which not a lot many Israeli wineries do. I mean when I say long term to the next generation. They've led the way with their replanting vineyards which had virus. They had their nursery, their own nursery, to show they had clean plant material, and they've also led the way in the move to sustainability. So both wineries have given so much, but both of them are looking long term for the future and I'm sure they'll lead Israeli wine for many years to come.

S. Simon Jacob:

All right. Since you've got your finger on kind of the pulse of the Israeli wine industry and I know you've spoken recently on Nahum Siegel's program in the United States can you give me kind of an update as to how this war is impacting the Israeli wine culture or industry?

Adam S. Montefiore:

Well, in the local industry it's been an absolute disaster. But I don't want to downplay what everyone else is going through, because the disasters before on an Israeli wine has happened to all Israeli agriculture. But because I'm in the wine bubble and wine is my interest, I talk about wine. So firstly, I want to apologize, talking about wine because it's clearly something very important, unimportant these days. Secondly, there are a lot of agriculture. I mean anyone who can go and pick strawberries or or pack eggs or whatever you can do to help is important. But if I just talk about wine, wine sales drops suddenly. The opposite of COVID. Covid, people drank more wine at home. It was a big surprise, but here wine sales have dropped. No one's in the mood to drink wine. The country is in depression, the economy is in dire straits, it's tanking and wineries are suddenly finding they have big problems. They had to bring in the red wine harvest A lot of them after October the 7th, and a lot of workers were called up. Some winemakers were called up to reserve duty in the IDF. Ami Khailori told me he was left with only two workers and they've had to bring in the harvest. They've had to make the wine and continue running the winery While a lot of the staff are either being called up or young families have had to stay at home and look after their children who didn't go to school. Wineries have had to make special arrangements when their air raid sirens go off. They have to have safety procedures in place. So the local market. A lot of people have been displaced. People forget that we have a country full of refugees from the Western Negave and from the Upper Galilee. The Upper Galilee is a big area for vineyards Because the wine industry is suffering so much. I was one of those, along with a lot of other people that started a campaign to try and get people abroad to buy Israeli wine. What can you do to help Israeli wine? The answer is put a bottle on your table today, and this is something that people abroad can do. I said you should go into your local retailer and ask for Israeli wine, even if they don't stock them. You should ring your importer, the importer of Israeli wine, to say where are the wines listed. And buying Israeli wine is a very easy way of helping, Because not only is it good for our economy, it helps the growers and the winemakers, but it also puts Israel up front. I always say you can't give high tech as a present, but you can give a bottle of wine, and there's nothing that represents the people of Israel and the place of Israel like a bottle of wine. Wine is a product of people and place and so really, it's the best ambassador of Israel there can be. And we really need the help of our local communities, the Jewish communities, zionists abroad, people who admire Israel, to get behind Israel at this time. And for those in Israel, I know wine is not important at this time, but I just want to put it out there that a glass of wine can make you feel better. I often say have a glass of wine, you'll feel better, and it's better than Prozac. So use wine wisely, don't let it use you. But a glass of wine when you're under stress and everything seems above you and you're weighed down with responsibility or sadness, sometimes a glass of wine can give you a pick up. So that's what I say to Israelis. The main message to people abroad support Israel. And this is a way it's very easy to support Israel. Of course it's better to send money, clothes, equipment, food for soldiers, and I hope people will do that as well. But from my vantage point in the wine. Just simply buy a bottle of wine and play your part, and that's a message to everyone abroad.

S. Simon Jacob:

So one of the things that's interesting is the United States is a big place and a number of people listen to this podcast literally across the US and they go in and say well, I don't have a local wine store, how do I buy wines? And now in the. United States. There's some over the internet. There's a number of ways kosherwinecom that you can order a specific quarter case, half case, full case of wine that's specially priced and they deliver it directly to your doorstep. You don't even have to make a big effort to participate in it, which is a new world.

Adam S. Montefiore:

So it's very easy to do it and, quite apart from the effects for the industry, it makes you feel good too, because you feel you're doing something.

S. Simon Jacob:

So it's a win-win-win situation for all concerned you are, you're doing something that's fun, but it's also for you, but it's also. There's a huge Israeli wine infrastructure and it supports a lot of people and a lot of families. So I agree with you there is a sense of guilt of even talking about wine right now.

Adam S. Montefiore:

We had.

S. Simon Jacob:

I actually didn't put out a podcast for a week and I was feeling like what am I going to speak about, this decadent wine podcast or what have you? And all of a sudden, people reached out to me and they said it's Thursday, Where's the podcast? And I said, well, I decided to hold back and they said don't do that. We need this, especially now. And a number of Israelis, a number of Israeli wine people, actually reached out to me as well and said look, yeah, but what we're fighting for is for us to live our lives, Not for us to be depressed and not for us to be cowering in a corner, but we as soldiers I mean, I had comments from soldiers who said we're on the front line, fighting for Israel to be Israel, and this is part of it. And if you've got a celebration, go out and celebrate. If you've got a birthday or what have you, go to the restaurant, enjoy it. This is what we're fighting for right now. We don't want to become, you know, play to Hamas in any way. So I said, OK, and that's what life goes on? Yeah, it has to.

Adam S. Montefiore:

And you know, I have this disc you can see around my neck, which is for the people in captive, the kidnapped families, hostages, which I won't take off until they come back. But life must go on, because Hamas would like beyond anything for Israel to cease to be, to cease to live. And we have to continue to live our lives and to mourn and to be aware and to give focus and not forget, but at the same time, we have to continue as normal as possible, and that is the secret of Israel's success as well. So you're right to continue, yeah.

S. Simon Jacob:

OK, so thirty feet high down again under the sky. We've spoken about all of the very major things in the world, but I'd like you to tell me a little bit about yourself. How did you come on the scene? How did you get involved in wine? What drove you to wine? You're such an important part of the Israeli wine community. How did you get there? You know what started that dream.

Adam S. Montefiore:

Well, I started off in beer. I was born in London, bought up in England, started working in the drinks industry in England a long time ago and I worked for a company called Bass Charrington. Bass Charrington was the largest brewery in England, the largest hotelier in the world at that time, and they had wine interests. They owned Chateaus in France and they had a 300-year-old wine and spirits company, a shipper, with sellers under Regent Street in London. So Bass Charrington was a company that doesn't exist anymore. No one's heard of it. But 30 years ago, 40 years ago, everyone would have heard of Bass Charrington. So it was a brewery, the largest brewery in the United Kingdom. I started in beer and I was put in about 1978. They had to give some names to a wine course, a WSET wine course, and I was put on the course to make up the numbers oh, we'll give you another name. And I studied there at WSET, then did another course with WSET. When I finished the course I was given a book. I was given the Hugh Johnson Pocket Wine Book as a present for finishing and for the last 28 years I've been the Israeli person writing the text on Israel and some of the Eastern Mediterranean countries and North Africa for this same book.

S. Simon Jacob:

I never knew that.

Adam S. Montefiore:

Yeah. So this was an amazing beginning for me and gradually I moved from beer to wine, which I found a whole, much more rewarding, much more complex world. And my last job before making aliyah was wine manager for their hotel division and we put Yarden wines on the wine lists in 50 hotels, around 55 hotels around England, around Britain, and it was the first time that I started pushing the Eastern Mediterranean. It's also a baby of mine, which is over the years, that I believe Israel is not an island and kosher is not a country. So we're part of a region and the region is the Eastern Mediterranean. So our wines should be on the shelves in the wine shops and on the wine lists under the heading Eastern Mediterranean, alongside Lebanon, turkey, cyprus, greece, and this is our wine region. So I started in my hotel days pushing this Israel is part of the Eastern Mediterranean. I've never really stopped since and I think I was probably the first to push this concept of Israel being part of a wider region. There's a lot of people who are very interested in. And now everyone's doing it. But I was doing it 30 years ago and so, as wine manager of the hotel division, we had a lot of success. We had press saying our wine lists were way ahead of the competitors and we had a wine program including sommelier wine competitions. And then I made Aliyah in 1989. Of course, as part of being wine manager of this hotel division, I started to get to know Yardin wines and I worked with Yardin wines from 1986 as a customer. I then made Aliyah in 1989. And I went to Yardin and said okay, here I am, I'm ready to work for you now. And they said, wow, we're too small, we don't want someone like you now. So I joined what was then Karmal Mizrahi. I worked for them for two years in wine education and in hotels and restaurants, because on-premise was my bag, what I was good at.

S. Simon Jacob:

And that's become just so people know that has become the absolutely critical distribution channel for Israeli wineries Sure, and restaurants and hotels Sure, it's absolutely critical. I mean that's more here than I've seen in any other country or any other place in the world. Yeah, so yes, it's amazing.

Adam S. Montefiore:

So I worked two years for Karmal. Then I joined Yardin. We started at Pras Yardin, the Yardin Award for Wine Service, which until today is the main wine waiter competition. We had this first Somalia course in Israel and I also became the export manager and that's when I first became like a kind of spokesman for the Israeli wine industry abroad, because I was an English speaker and working for Yardin. We got everywhere. So every wine exhibition we were there and people abroad, if they wanted to know about Israeli wine, started to ask me, and so I worked for Yardin for 11 years and then went back to Karmal and worked in export for a few years and then I became the wine development director for the local market and in 2016, I left Karmal and I went independent. So the first part of my life was really hotels and restaurants, somaliers wine service. The second part of my life was marketing winery, marketing, export, and the third part of my life started in 2016, which was really writing and being a consultant, and I became the wine writer of the Jerusalem Post, in fact, since 2010,. And every week or two weeks there's an article. I think it's probably the biggest printed wine column in Israel, in Hebrew and English double-paging, color 2,000 words, and so I'm the wine writer of the Jerusalem Post today. I'm a wine consultant to certain wineries and I tend to be a person you know. I continue to do the Israel entry for the Hugh Johnson Pocket Wine Book, which is the biggest selling wine book in the world, and I also, with Eran Peik, do the Israel section for the Oxford Wine Companion, which is the top textbook for people wanting to learn about wine. So I'm sort of an English-speaking voice for Israeli wine abroad.

S. Simon Jacob:

That is quite a history. I guess it's introduced you to just about every single winemaker in the country.

Adam S. Montefiore:

Well, I used to. There was a phase when I knew every winery in Israel and every import, but that's long gone. You know there's a new winery every day and the imports you know we import. You know, once the imports of wines to Israel was quite small and now it's really taken off in the last five years or so. So people can get wines of any type from any country and the big explosion has been in kosher Wine wine imports. Suddenly there's a lot more kosher wines from around the world than there were 20 years ago.

S. Simon Jacob:

Yeah, well, that's that's true as a whole, that they just haven't been. But now, all of a sudden, the kosher wines are. It's amazing. It's awesome being a kosher wine drinker, who was always exposed to other wines but never able to drink them I'm I'm enjoying Greatly the situation right now with all the different kosher wines, especially the kosher wines that are coming out of Israel and and and the Castel Grand Van of 2003.

Adam S. Montefiore:

Yeah, it was the first was wasn't the first, but it was the first that Suddenly people, the third-party recognition from around the world was even greater for Castel once it was kosher, so it was really flagged up the the statement that the kashrut Hector is irrelevant to the quality of wine. Just because it's kosher doesn't mean it's not a good wine. If it's well made, it's a good wine. If it's badly made, it's a bad wine and whether it's kosher or not, it's not important, right? so, castel, becoming kosher was the one that really put that, that slogan to rest, that kosher wines can't be good. And now we're in a different place entirely. Most of most of the wine produced in Israel is kosher. There's a lot more kosher restaurants. There's a lot more kosher wine made around the world and it's a kind of paradise. And when you think where they were in the in the mid 80s or the early 80s, when the good, when Haggafan was founded in 79, the Golan Heights winery and then the Herzogs started making quality wine and making wine in different countries, the the upward Deliration in terms of quality in the last 40 years has been a simply astonishing it's.

S. Simon Jacob:

It's not even 40 years, the last 20 years, yeah, that's 10 years. Yeah, it's just, it's accelerating. It's definitely and it's definitely one of these exponential curves because the the quality of some of these vineyards has become Really awesome. Actually, I had I tasted Castel. Half of the half of the 2002 vintage was kosher.

Adam S. Montefiore:

Yeah, so I tasted that right yeah.

S. Simon Jacob:

I tasted that. But then In 2003 it was, you know, full-on. The whole, the whole vintage was was made kosher and it's it's been amazing to me watching these different wineries take on being kosher and just Watching them explode with just fantastic wines, just flam vitkin.

Adam S. Montefiore:

So yeah, a good examples where they Effort, effortlessly, made the change.

S. Simon Jacob:

Well, I don't know if it was ever Leslie, but probably not.

Adam S. Montefiore:

But it's probably tough for a hands-on winemaker, but you quickly get used to it. Yeah.

S. Simon Jacob:

I you know what I've noticed with the winemakers that I've spoken to. They are all, they're all incredible, detail-oriented, incredibly detail-oriented. And the non-religious winemakers who can't touch Wines I could honestly see why they really don't want to be kosher, because they this is their baby. It's like bringing up your child Through nurses who touch the baby and do everything and you can't and you can't put your hands on them. It that's very, very difficult.

Adam S. Montefiore:

Listen, the history of Kastrut is very interesting One. One day you might cover that. But I let me tell you that Carmel is really the Carmel winery is really the, the main ambassador of Kosher wine, being kosher for nearly 140 years. And yet up to 1983, the people that worked in the winery, even at this bastion of Kastrut, were not necessary Shomri Shabbat. Even David Ben-Gurion worked in the winery in 1907 and he worked in the winemaking and he wasn't a religious Jew, but he was Jewish. Yeah, and the fact is that Kastrut has got far stricter and it really can be dated from the 1980s. When Shass was founded in 1983. Suddenly, people realized that Kastrut had, there was a lot of money in Kastrut, it became very competitive and it became a lot stricter. But in the olden days and people at Carmel whose fathers and grandfathers worked at the winery can can support this they weren't as strict as they were now, and what I say to you is that you know, if the, if the winemaker is Jewish and he's not an idol worshiper, then you know, you can argue About the, the, the Kastrut. Then, of course, when Shaw made winery made wine, shaw winery made wine, there was no, there was no Kastrut certificate. Right, you didn't. You bought from his a Yaakov that you knew, who made wine, because you knew he was a good Jew. But you, there was no Kastrut certificate, no bottles, right. So there was no formal rabbinical control on the production. So the history of the development of Kastrut is is fascinating. And Today you have Zor giving a Kastrut certificate. Yeah on, on a totally different basis, which they they believe is is closer to to the, to the original Halacha, but it's. It's not for me to argue this with you, but it's an interesting program you wouldn't be arguing it with me.

S. Simon Jacob:

Yeah, let me tell you, yeah, you would not be arguing it with me at all, because I'm One of the people in that camp. I believe that we really need to accept Jews, and, and if a Jew is the person who's involved with what's going on, I'm Very much if he's Jewish, yes, and it's not an idol worshiper?

Adam S. Montefiore:

Yes, then, according to Halacha, yeah, they're fine, so so, but it but you know, it's things develop with time and with competition, and it's, it's even goes with me.

S. Simon Jacob:

It involves walking into a restaurant and and though in the United States you can't get wine, that is not never, shall it's not move the shell. But the issues that I have is, when you walk into a restaurant, I'd like the person to the waiter or the waitress to ask me you know, do you, do you want to open the bottle or what have you? But I asked them are you Jewish? And they, you know, when they say yes, I said no, you know I'm not. I want you to keep Shabbat, I want you to grow. You're a Jew, just like me. As far as I'm concerned, please go ahead and open the bottle and I will drink it, and I don't want to give you an excuse to say no, you're not sure much of that. No, forget it.

Adam S. Montefiore:

So I would prefer that the responsibility was on the drinker as you say that you had in England. You don't have to have Mervouchel wine in a restaurant. But you might write on the wine list if you want to open your own bottle of wine.

S. Simon Jacob:

Please ask for an opener.

Adam S. Montefiore:

And so I believe the responsibility should be on the drinker, because they know what they want. If the drinker doesn't want to open the bottle of wine, they can get the waiter to, but if they want to, or a mascheeach to open the bottle of wine. But the responsibility as it is with Kashrod. You decide which restaurant you're going to eat in, which hextra's good enough for you. So it's a pity for the world of kosher wine that in America they only have Yaim Mervouchel in restaurants. It's a pity, but it's something that we know. This is America, but kosher restaurants in France and England don't have to be Mervouchel.

S. Simon Jacob:

They allow you to control your own destiny with Mervouchel.

Adam S. Montefiore:

And they will try and have a mascheeach who's a sommelier, who opens the bottle of wine For catering. I understand it.

S. Simon Jacob:

Also by the glass, which is one of the things that you innovated was wine by the glass.

Adam S. Montefiore:

You've done your research. I see A little bit of homework.

S. Simon Jacob:

That presents problems for people, but I think that that's not an issue. That's not really an issue that you can't deal with, or you could open it yourself.

Adam S. Montefiore:

So as long as you open it, I think the most important thing in America in the market is brand Israel. Firstly, every time there's a kosher restaurant or a wine store selling kosher wines, israel has to be branded in kosher. So it's unacceptable that there's a heading kosher and Israel is part of kosher. Israel has to have its own section and to be marked Israel on the wine list and also for branding of the country. And also I believe, as I've said, that in quality retail stores Israel should be taken out of kosher because Israel is the only wine country that's kosher, that crosses over, that really crosses over. It's the only country where you could say the best wines happen to be kosher. You can't say that in California or in France or anywhere else, but you can in Israel. So Israeli wines, where possible, should be taken out of the kosher shelves and put, if it's a Cabernet Sauvignon, under the varietal Cabernet Sauvignon and if it's regional, should be put under the Eastern Mediterranean. Where they are today is under a heading which says rest of world or others. But you've got Greece, which has turned into a massive popular wine country. I see they've just produced a kosher Greek couvet.

S. Simon Jacob:

We can wait on that one.

Adam S. Montefiore:

Yeah, but Israel should be marketed on the shelves alongside countries of its region and in kosher it should be marketed as Israel. So these are the two pleas for wine retailers and people who have wine lists. If you have a wine list and you put Chateau Musa from Lebanon, sorry, we're talking non-kosher now and you've got Yardin and Castel. They should be, and Assertico from Greece. They should be under a section Eastern Mediterranean or Near East or Ancient World or whatever they want, the Levant or whatever they want. But they should be under a heading rather than others or just listed as the extras without a home. So the branding of Israel is very, very important and certainly within kosher. I always hope to see Israel listed and branded as a separate area within kosher.

S. Simon Jacob:

Very important Especially well, at one time there were only a few, but now there's so many wineries, really so many wineries globally that are kosher that it's really important to do that. And actually now with the war, some of the distributors are putting together packages of Israeli wines in order to distribute, so for people who want to specifically support Israel in that. But you're right, as just as a whole, that's the way it really should be segmented.

Adam S. Montefiore:

I mean I'm biased, but I think the best range of kosher wine and the best quality of kosher wine in the world is Israel. And you look where Israel was 20 years ago at a company like Royal Wine, and where it is today, you see that Israel is probably the sector that's growing fastest within the kosher sector, and so you could see why companies like Royal Wine have suddenly, you know, they have 40 Israeli wineries or something which is unbelievable unbelievable support. So Israel is at the moment very hot in the kosher world and people see it as an outside kosher, people see it as a slightly exotic wine country, and so it's like the wine lovers say why Israeli wine? I haven't tried that, I must try it. So there's like an interest amongst formelios and wine buyers outside the kosher sector to try it. So we're riding a bit of a crest, of a wave, which unfortunately has all the political problems thrown in with it as well. We've always had political problems, you know, with Israel. I used to be. I used to go selling wine. I remember once giving a presentation in Poland about Israeli wine and someone asked me where the Poles I used to work with were very loyal and very good to Israel. A wine waiter asked me. I was expecting a question about the Ardennes, the complexities and the taste, the aromas, but I got a question why should we sell Israeli wine when you kill children? So I learned pretty quickly that selling wine abroad wasn't just about wine. You also had to be diplomatic, you also had to cope with a lot of antisemitism, and I think where we are now is more of the same. I mean, it's just probably going to get a lot worse before it gets better. So Israel wine has always coped with these problems and it appears we're going to have to cope with them for another generation at least. But at least there's a lot of interest in Israeli wine from people that understand wine. And it's our job my job, your job to keep Israel at the forefront of the kosher wine world and as something which is in the forefront of the eastern Mediterranean, which, after all, is the country with the game wine culture to the world. So we have a regional job and also in the niche market of kosher, to keep Israel at the forefront.

S. Simon Jacob:

Adam, I've taken up a lot of your time, so I just I really want to say thank you for being here. Any closing comments that you wanted to make? Do you have any?

Adam S. Montefiore:

Well, I got a closing comment that I made at the beginning and that is it's very your blog, your podcast is very important. Continue. It's very important for us. It's very important to you know. Wine is not about a drink. It's not fermented grape juice. It's about people, the people that make it, the people that grow it, and that's what makes wine different from Coca-Cola. So your podcast is very, very important. I was delighted to hear you've done it. It seems totally suitable for someone with your knowledge and experience with wine and your love of wine, which is overflowing, to do it. So when I received your call, I was quite delighted and quite honored that you should ask me and I want to say, like I want to say Yashachkoach, continue and don't stop.

S. Simon Jacob:

Yashachkoach, to you, hazakubaruch, to you, hazakubaruch. It's a pleasure. It's a pleasure seeing the articles and it's a pleasure seeing your name pop up in every place. I mean, it just is ubiquitous across the Israeli wine industry and across the Kosher wine industry.

Adam S. Montefiore:

Well, I've been around a long time, which helps.

S. Simon Jacob:

But it's also you're involved. You get very involved in so many things that are necessary. Today. There's so many new wineries, and you really give a face to all of Israel. So thank you.

Adam S. Montefiore:

Thank you very much. It's a pleasure to have you on the podcast. Thank you, good luck.

S. Simon Jacob:

Thank you for being on the Kosher Terwah, tota. Thank you, bye-bye. This is Simon Jacob, again your host of today's episode of the Kosher Terwah. I have a personal request no matter where you are or where you live, please take a moment to pray for our soldier's safety and the safe and rapid return of our hostages and, whenever possible, buy and share Israeli wine. I hope you have enjoyed this episode of the Kosher Terwah. It was exciting and informative for me as well. Please subscribe via your podcast provider to be informed of our new episodes as they are released. If you're new to the Kosher Terwah, please check out our many past episodes. Again, thank you for listening to the Kosher Terwah.

Moshe Montefiore & Israeli Wineries
Impact of War on Israeli Wine
From Beer to Wine, Adam Montefiore History
Evolution of Kosher Wine