Sustainable, local wine-tasting with WINEFUL, launching in Tel Aviv

Israelis have come into their own in winemaking in recent years. They are winning awards at coveted wine events around the world and are exciting the tastebuds of sommeliers like Joe Gallo, owner of the famous Californian E. & J. Gallo Winery. He told his hosts, when visiting the Golan Heights Winery: “I was not aware that such high quality wines are made in Israel.”

What we call the modern wine industry in Israel was founded by Baron Edmond James de Rothschild, but wine in Israel is an ancient story – a spiritual and cultural one –  since biblical times. Wine has been used by Jews for thousands of years to sanctify the Sabbath, and quite possibly – since it was kept in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem – to commune with God in ancient times. (Some may say wine still works very well in this regard!).

Israel is part of the Mediterranean region and is at the same latitude as San Diego. It’s just beside Lebanon, already established in the wine industry as a great wine making nation. While each country will produce wine with its own terroir, or flavor from the land, Israel is viewed by many as special, because of its ancient traditions, some mystical and holy, and its special location in the Middle East.

Now with hundreds of local varieties to choose from, it’s very hard for newcomers to the industry to know where to start. The major wineries are always dominant and can be found in any supermarket in Israel, but how does one really get the flavor and stories of boutique crafted wine? Wine that is made with the traditions, the stories, and values of the land and its special people?

A new startup called Wineful aims to bring the local and sustainable experience to wine tasting in Israel, and then the world. While so many of us are brought together with wine, it’s hard to understand why it’s still so hard to walk into a store and find the wine that will meet our cravings and values. Before you read on, if you like the idea, sign up to be part of Wineful events here.

“Wine is a complex thing,” says Roni Saslove, one of the founders of Wineful. She will be leading the mini-workshops and experiences. “Consider Lotem Winery,” she explains: “they play holy music to the wine by placing speakers in the barrel room. Music has vibrations and this energy infuses the wine molecules. Will you taste it? Maybe not. Can your body feel it or not? Wine doesn’t stop living and I think since I became a winemaker the practice has become a lot more philosophical.

“There are endless parameters that can influence the wine, from choosing the grapes in the vineyard to after the wine is bottled. The only time this process stops is after we swallow it and our body absorbs it and we become one with the wine. Or maybe it doesn’t end there?”

The first pilot meeting for Wineful will take place at an exclusive event in Tel Aviv on Rothschild Boulevard, Tel Aviv on January 4, from 8 to 10 PM. Guests will be tasting a number of wines that all come with great stories of the land. All of the wines will be of excellent quality, selected by sommelier and winemaker Saslove herself, and all will have a powerful sustainability angle.

Roni was one of the founders of the boutique winery Saslove that she founded with her dad, Barry. Since selling the award-winning business, she’s gone on to open Tel Aviv’s Tasting Room, in the Sarona District. And now works as a wine therapist and in hosting private wine tasting events.

The wine experiences that she will be creating with her partners for Wineful will connect us all in a deeper way to the living and sacred element that is wine. The first Wineful event will feature a selection of great wines that stand alone as great wine on their own accord, but which also have a  strong social and environmental impact. Future events will bring in guest winemakers and celebrities.

“I come to the topic of the wine through the drinker,” says Roni, “acknowledging that it’s a personal and primal experience. To a great degree we are not aware of it. We all breathe and then we smell which creates memories, and maybe it’s that smell which reminds us of the past even if it goes to the subconscious.

“In one wine tasting, one of our guests felt Jerusalem, because the wine smelled like sesame seeds,” says Saslove. “The brain finds a personal story in the experience. And wine tells where it came from. What variety, the soil type, when it was harvested, the location, the soul of the winemaker. And some things, like being organic maybe aren’t tangible but are still present. Is it tastier or higher in quality?  A lot research says it’s not – but if we think of our existence as not being a respectful and responsible one, then our actions can become something broader.”

So what wines will be tasting at the pilot event? Some may be made from ancient biblical grape varieties, one claimed to being the original Chardonnay grapes. The word “sha’ar” is gate in Hebrew and “adonai” is one of the 80-so names for the Jewish God. It is believed, though not yet proven, that Chardonnay (sha’aradonai) grapes came from Jerusalem and were grown outside the gates of the Holy Temple thousands of years ago. Dare to take a sip? We challenge our french friends. Maybe this wine will awaken an inner spiritual room waiting to be visited. You won’t know till you try. ????

Sign up for Wineful here. The first pilot event on Jan, 4 (8 to 10PM) will take place in an intimate space, location revealed upon registration. The cost is NIS 150 for pre-registration and will include 6 tastings, a mini-workshop on wine tasting, cheese and the best company on the planet. 

Some wines we might be tasting, will come from this list:

8 Sustainable Wines from Israel, recommended by Wineful 

Lotem’s Luana:  A light white wine made from Sauvignon grapes with fringe or gentle sweetness, with strong fruity apple and pear aromas. An ideal wine for spring summer and fall, beautiful landscapes and smiles.

Lotem’s Piano Rose: A Special dry Rose produced traditionally by bleeding with peels for 2 hours from Nebbiolo, Petit Verdot, Sirah. The combination of three grapes varieties gives the wine a richness of smells and a special aroma of red grapefruit.

Harashim’s White Moon: This wine represents the beginning of harvest.  The grapes are from Chardonnay and Sauvignon blanc vines that were co-planted in the same rows of Harashim Vineyard in 1987. The grapes are harvested at dawn and pressed in whole clusters in a basket press. The must is fermented by wild yeasts and goes through malolactic fermentation. After fermentation, the wine is kept on lees for 3 months, and aged in old barrels for 5 months.

Harashim’s Black Bird: 100% Syrah from Tzivon Vineyard, a low yielding plot of 500 kilograms per dunam. The fruit is rich and dark. The clusters are separated and gently crushed and undergo wild fermentation. The skin contact lasts under a week. After fermentation, the wine enters old barrels for 8 months, and 4 more months in stainless steel before bottling.

Kerem Shvo’s Chenin Blanc: 100% Chenin Blanc, hand harvested at dawn, gentle whole cluster pressing (Champagne style), natural, indigenous yeast fermentation in 400 liter French oak barrels.

Particularly slow fermentation, 12 months long. 12 months on lees in barrels. Six additional months in tank prior to bottling.  Style: a unique and fascinating Chenin. Very complex nose (pitanga, dried fruit, wonderful minerality…). Full bodied, exceptionally rich and beautifully balanced with typical Chenin acidity.

Kerem Shvo’s Red: Syrah – 45%, Grenache – 20%, Barbera – 20%, Mourvedre – 15%. Hand harvested, natural, indigenous yeast fermentation in open-top vats. Ageing: 12 months in French oak barrels

Galil Mountain’s Viognier: This Israeli made Viognier is a refreshing white wine made from grapes grown in the Galilee. It has a nice golden yellow color. The aroma is fresh and light with apricots, nectarine, and a touch of oakiness. The taste is more full bodied with only a small bite from the alcohol but much more acidity. The taste is much more oakey with exotic spices. A great white wine that can be enjoyed by the novice or mature palate.

Galil Mountain’s Yiron – Such a tasty blend of 62% Cabernet Sauvignon, 31% Merlot, and 7% Syrah grown in the the higher elevations of the Upper Galilee, considered the best wine-growing area in Israel. Aged for 16 months in small French oak barrels, this is a complex and elegant wine showing a rich, black cherry and blackberry nose, balanced with fine notes of dried herbs, vanilla and oak.

Sign up for Wineful here. The first pilot event on Jan, 4 (8 to 10PM) will take place in an intimate space, location revealed upon registration. The cost is NIS 150 for pre-registration and will include 6 tastings, a mini-workshop on wine tasting, cheese and the best company on the planet. 




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