Sunday, May 15, 2011

Independence Day – The Disgruntled Diner Tastes Israeli Red Wine

It’s Independence Day in Israel with the young country firmly marching towards middle-age. Regardless of your political inclination, sixty three years is an impressive achievement for a country mostly disliked in its volatile neighbourhood. Though sometimes I do wonder how it succeeds with all the corruption and wacky bureaucracy that invades our daily life.

Living in the UK for many years I am not familiar with Independence Day celebrations – the most the UK can offer is an insipid St George’s Day which is just another excuse to go to the pubs and get drunk. If anything there are more similarities between Israel and the US in the strong nationalistic feelings that sweep the country along with the incessant flag waving.

However, I believe that Israel is unique in celebrating Remembrance Day and Independence Day one day after the other. A celebration of extremes which I imagine is very difficult for those who have lost close family members.

This being the first year (in many) that I have been in Tel Aviv I took advantage of experiencing the conflicting days and will share them with you.

Remembrance Day

The remembrance of soldiers and civilians which have fallen in war or terror begins with a country wide siren the evening before, followed by another the next morning. During the siren people stand and pay respect to those which have died. It is different from the same day in the UK, as here in Israel people are far more connected and almost all know of someone who has died (including myself).

In the evening there are multiple events where people congregate to listen to performances and stories of families of the deceased. One of the biggest is in Rabin Square (which I attended) and is a very atmospheric, if sad occasion. One thing I noticed that the majority of people attending were aged 20-30, highlighting the young age of this city along with the commitment and respect sometimes lacking in young adults in other countries. For example, during the memorial service technical difficulties prevented the story of a family being shown. At the end of the service the presenter asked the audience to remain in place in order to watch the short story in respect of the family – Everyone stayed rooted to their spot!

Independence Day

It is difficult and slightly surreal describing the switch from silent retrospection and respect to loud music and laughter that occurs at 8pm the following day. It is as if someone has flicked a switch – I find it a little odd but I imagine the strength of the two events is heightened by having them together.

At 8pm the atmosphere erupts with laughter, loud music and screaming kids roaming around the streets of Tel Aviv. I am not sure if it's tradition but the kids in Tel Aviv carry cans of foam spraying graffiti in a Banksy like manner and not just on the walls (you have been warned).

The other big tradition of Independence Day is BARBEQUE (AL HA-ESH)! If ever there was an eleventh commandment it would be to light a grill on Independence Day. A cloud of choking and low quality meaty smoke spreads dangerously across the city– a day of catastrophe to the ‘meat is murder’ brigade.

This tradition however, becomes somewhat of a parody with every blade of grass conquered by enormous Israeli families staking their claim as early as 5am. Those unlucky enough to arrive later have to make do with grassy stretches near the motorway or industrial areas. There is nothing more odd/interesting than seeing thousands of Israeli men waving plastic fans on their makeshift portable grills – trying to reach that perfect flame. I also suspect it is one of the few nights the women of the families get out of cooking duty.

I would visits Israel just to see the spectacle or even better to bring a crew from National Geographic to document unique country tribal customs.

I guess some may ask if I participated in the ubiquitous barbeque. Alas I was not early or clever enough to catch the prime piece of lawn and had to make do with a visit to beach to watch the military flyby and flotilla.

Israeli Red Wine

Festivities aside I thought I would take the opportunity in suggesting some good and inexpensive Israeli red wines to those who enjoy a wee tipple.

As written in earlier posts, wine is expensive in Israel with drinkable wine starting only at 50nis and upwards. This is disappointing as there is good wine and certainly enough wineries (several hundred in Israel). However, production and importation of barrels and expertise coupled with the small size of many of the wineries leads to higher prices.

Please note I am no expert or sommelier but have tasted quite a few wines in Israel (no I am not a drunk) and am happy to share the ones I think are a cut above the rest. Also note that the list below is but a small sample and other great wines exist to be tasted and enjoyed.

Recanati Winery

My favourite wines and winery in Israel with a range of prices and is even Kosher. I would like to recommend three wines:

1)      Recanati Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 – A young easy drinking wine which I am happy to buy for almost any occasions or just for fun. Price 40-60nis

2)      Recanati Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2008 – similar to the one before but with more pronounced flavours and complexity. Price 75-100nis

3)      Recanati Petit Syrah-Zinfandel reserve 2006/7/8 A personal favourite as I have liking to zinfandel. Price 75-100nis

Mount Tabor 

I like to think of this winery as the everyman winery as it is inexpensive and has good flavours to boot:

1)      Mount Tabor Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 or Merlot 2008 – An everyday drinking wine (though the CS I would have with some meat) Price 30–50nis.

2)      Mount Tabor Bazelet Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 – A better more complex version to the wine above – perfect with meat dishes. Price 50-60nis

Galil Mountain Winery

There is one wine from here I have been enjoying for the past several years:

Yiron 2005/7 – A really nice blend that I think changes from year to year but includes Cabernet Sauvigonon, Merlot and Syrah and goes with a whole host of meat dishes. Price 90-110nis

Ramat HaGolan Winery

The biggest and most established winery in Israel which is somewhat expensive for the wines that actually taste good but they do keep and I like:

Yarden Cabernet Sauvignon – 2003/4/5/6/7 priced at 100nis+

I must apologise to all the white wine drinkers as I am not a big fan though do have a soft spot for French Chablis or Champagne when the occasion arises (none of which has a suitable substitute for my palete here).

The great think about a small country with 100’s of wineries is that there is a lot to explore with a tasting visit a must. For those interested in reading more about Israeli wine I recommend googling Daniel Rogov an Israeli expert who writes and gives tasting notes on these and many other wines in English.

Next week I will go back to tasting food!!


The Disgruntled Diner

1 comment:

  1. Dear disgruntled diner,thank you for sharing this list of red wines. Having lived in France and Italy I do enjoy a good red wine, not being an expert on the subject whatsoever, just enjoying the good stuff when the occasion arises. Will try out some of that list asap. Ps I agree 100 % with the barbecue-behaviour being tribal! Even the Israeli Arabs in the Galilee join the barbecue rush on independence day, as if they too have something to celebrate. Apparently any excuse will do to join the herds of barbecuers in a public park...

    Yours sincerely, Deirdre1972