Go into a wine shop and look for the Israeli wine section. It is very likely that you will not find one. Ninety-five percent of Israeli wines are kosher and are therefore slightly disadvantaged by being relegated to the kosher shelf. If you do find an Israeli section, you are likely to find bottles of Margalit wine. This is one of the few producers eschewing the kosher label and giving preference to the country of origin. It is also one of Israel’s top producers.
Winemaking has been a feature of Israel since pre-Roman times, but it was not until 1989 that Margalit Winery became the country’s first modern, boutique producer. Located in Upper Galilee in the village of Binyamina (between Tel Aviv and Haifa), Margalit has since established a reputation for innovation and wines that can be described as “world class.”
It is fair to say that founder and winegrower Dr. Yair Margalit is one of the key figures in the modern Israeli wine industry. To say he wrote the book on wine is an understatement. Indeed, he has published three books on wine technology and wine chemistry that are still widely used as academic references. Suffice to say Dr. Margalit’s wine knowledge is profound and he has been actively educating generations of Israeli winemakers.
Dr. Margalit established his winery as a leading producer, but it is a family business. His son, Asaf, has been part of the operation since the early years and shares his father’s winemaking passion and vision. Following Asaf’s graduation from Hebrew University and time in Napa and Sonoma honing his skills, Dr. Margalit stepped back a bit. One might say he is the “winemaker emeritus” and Asaf has the helm.
Asaf has since returned home to run the business. Through a process of experimentation that continues even today, Asaf is quick to point out that there is no irrigation used at Margalit. This dry-farming technique results in smaller clusters and more concentrated flavors. It is one of the keys to this type of well-crafted, age-worthy wines on which Margalit Winery stakes its reputation.
Margalit Winery specializes primarily in Bordeaux varieties. All fruit is estate grown. Among these are Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc. Production currently stands at about 2500 cases annually and is tightly allocated.
Much of the wine is distributed locally and to a growing list of overseas buyers. Wine is sold direct to consumer only during three weekends in March and April. This should be perfect motivation for a trip to Israel. Galilee is a lovely region and this is an ideal season to visit the country’s leading boutique producer.
Visit Margalit Winery and let us know what you think. Use #winetourist and tag us in social media!