When, during my first year living in Israel, I dared to criticise the food and service at a popular restaurant in Karmiel, my new friends rounded on me as though I’d caused them a personal affront. I began to wonder if they owned shares in the establishment!
So now I’ll say “hands up – please don’t shoot the messenger” when I complain that recently I’ve had to throw out two bottles of Etzion dry red produced by the Zion Winery.
When opened, the contents appeared to have re-fermented – they had become 'carbonated’ - and tasted nothing short of horrible.
I’m writing here rather than complaining directly to Zion or to the local Yesh Supermarket where the bottles were purchased as I’d like to know if anyone else has had a similar experience.
Further, Zion’s website (www.zionfinewines.com) was inaccessible at the time of writing this piece. This makes it difficult for me to know how I may I contact them. Last, I don’t think Yesh will accept the return of two rogue bottles as I have no way of proving either when I bought a particular bottle or that the contents were found ruined on opening.
More happily, I must admit that as it retails at under 17 NIS (about £3.00), a ‘good’ bottle of Etzion makes a most welcome, cheap and cheerful accompaniment to an everyday meal. By coincidence, the Israel Hayom news outlet ran a piece about Israeli kosher wines only last week, claiming that kosher wine has evolved from cheap to collectable.
It would take a wine expert to confirm this and as I’m a mere ‘I know what I like’ consumer, I’m in no position to argue. Again, I’d love to know what readers think.
Meanwhile, Esther Cohen, the CEO of My Israel Wine Tours says of the Zion Winery that it was:
“ … founded in 1848 by the Shor Family in the Old City of Jerusalem. Today they produce four million bottles of wine and grape juice a year. While all of their wines are palatable, I was struck by their dry Emerald Riesling, a rare find in Israel. It was crisp and had a nice green apple finish. This wine would be great alone or paired with some fruit and nuts while sitting on the porch on a hot summer’s afternoon. Zion Winery is kosher and exported to the U.S.”
Here I’ll end with a note for home brewers as I’m sure the methods used are not wholly dissimilar to those of most commercial enterprises, leaving kashrut (Jewish dietary laws) out of the equation:
“Essentially, re-fermentations are avoided either by controlling the microorganisms that perform them (yeast or bacteria) or by controlling their food source (sugars in the case of the former, malic acid, alcohol and other substrates in the case of the latter) … Re-fermentation, whether in the bottle or during bulk storage, occurs when ambient microbes find and metabolise a food source in wine at a time not intended by the winemaker. In the case of Saccharomyces cerevisiae (wine yeast) cells, a re-ferment can happen anytime there is yeast present and there is still fermentable sugar present in the wine. During bulk storage (in barrel, tank or carboy), a yeast re-ferment is not the end of the world because the fermentation can finish out and you still have an opportunity to rack off the settled lees and bottle a still, clear wine. In the bottle, however, a re-fermentation is disastrous because the carbon dioxide, along with a sediment of the dividing yeast cells as they live and die off, are trapped inside the bottle with no means of escape. This leaves you, the winemaker and wine drinker, with a fizzy, cloudy and sometimes smelly bottled wine.”