The Golan Heights Winery is, in my opinion, the premiere winery in Israel. The first one was Carmel Winery, still perhaps the largest, but the wines produced by Golan Heights, one of which is the topic of today’s blog, are by far the finest. They set the pace for the industry in Israel and are the standard, against which all Israeli wines are compared. Sure, some are very expensive, but high quality for a reasonable price is easily found amongst the many wines that they produce. The winery was started in 1983 and produces three levels of quality in addition to their best single vineyard wines. They are marketed, in descending order of cost and stature, as Yarden, Gamla, and Golan. They also sell a mass produced undistinguished Golan White and Golan Red which are sold in all the grocery stores in Israel for 30 some-odd shekels (less than $9 at today’s exchange rate). The winery produces “380,000 cases of premium varietals, proprietary blends and champagne method sparkling wines,” according to their web site. I don’t know how many bottles there are in each case; I assume 12, but our wineries do sell some cartons of wine with six bottles and some with nine. I will be reporting on a number of their wines as time goes on, but for now, I return to the subject of this blog, the 2007 Gamla Sangiovese.
Sangiovese is an Italian red grape variety dating back to Roman times as can be inferred from the meaning of its name, “blood of Jove,” the Roman Jupiter. It is best known as the main component of Chianti. In Italy they are harvested in mid-late October, with this longer growing season giving the grapes time to develop a richness of flavor. Though in Italy, the Sangiovese grape can have high acidity and light body, our experience which is in the next paragraph is different. Of course, there are many Sangioveses grown all over the world and they will vary in their characteristics. The soil and weather conditions also contribute to differences of taste. Italian Sangiovese is said to have a naturally high acidity as well as moderate to high tannin content.
The Gamla Sangiovese is aged for one year in French oak barrels. Since the crash of my photo software, the pictures on this post are “borrowed” from a variety of web sites. That is why the label pictured is from the 2004 wine and what I am talking about is the wine from 2007. Our tasting last night revealed a cork which was just starting to show signs of aging, with the red color of the wine starting to penetrate the cork’s edge. This could be due to the quality of the cork or to the humidity of our storage (another subject for a future post). The wine had a dark color and was light on the tongue. We had fun trying to put words to the sensations it imparted and described it as earthy with the smell of an old stone wall. The taste was a complexity of flavors, capturing the bitter-sweet of cherries and what I identified as a hint of cappuccino. It carries a spicy zing with a lasting finish. I suspect that the peak of its quality has been reached, now four years after the harvest.
I won’t go into food pairings because I think that any wine you like to drink goes with any food you like to eat. But I will say “L’Haim” from the israelwinetaster. Enjoy.