Capital uncorks a fete for oenophiles
Fine time for wineFine time for wine

Capital uncorks a fete for oenophiles

Sip and nibble at the 10th annual celebration of Israel’s vineyards, a highlight of Jerusalem’s festival season

File: Bottles ready to be poured at the tenth annual Israeli Wine Tasting Festival at the Israel Museum (Sarah Sheafer)
File: Bottles ready to be poured at the tenth annual Israeli Wine Tasting Festival at the Israel Museum (Sarah Sheafer)

There are some events that become part of the Jerusalem summer roster. There’s Hutzot Hayotzer, the annual arts and crafts fair (being held at Sultan’s Pool now through August 18), and the Cinematheque’s Jerusalem Film Festival in July. The summer ends with the Kite Festival at the Israel Museum (starting August 20) and celebrates its mid-point with the late-night festivities of Contact Point, part of the Jerusalem Season of Culture. Meanwhile, puppets reign at the Train Theater puppet festival (being held this week) and wine glasses rule at the Israeli Wine Tasting Festival, located along the wide, welcoming paths of the Israel Museum’s sculpture garden.

Guests started filling their glasses Monday night at the opening of the festival, which is now celebrating its tenth year. For a NIS 85 entrance fee, they received a complimentary wine glass to take from booth to booth for tasting (the entrance fee also gives access to the Herod the Great exhibition). To cater to those who like some food to soak up all the tannins, there are also local cheesemakers, chocolatiers and restaurant stands selling sushi and fish and chips.

The main idea behind the annual event is to provide exposure for the country’s smaller wineries, said a representative of the festival, though attendees also get to taste products from some of the biggest names in the industry, such as Carmel, Golan Heights and Galil Mountain wineries.

“The wine festival is very important in Israel because it began a tradition,” said Keren Cohen, wine consultant at the Carmel Winery, the country’s oldest winery. “Ten years ago, wine wasn’t as popular. Today, the knowledge and culture of wine is higher than before, but Israel is still not a cultured wine country. Not yet.”

Karel Dagun serving wine at the festival (photo credit: Sarah Sheafer/Times of Israel)
Karel Dagun serving wine at the festival (photo credit: Sarah Sheafer/Times of Israel)

The growth of local wine culture is also evident by the increase in wineries present at the festival. There were only half a dozen or so wineries at the first wine festival, and now there are more than 60, commented Karel Dagun, an experienced wine server who was pouring at Carmel.

A presence at the festival is crucial for a winery’s exposure, added Dagun. “Wineries know if they want to be known, they need to be here,” she said, adding that many vintners were also on hand to chat with guests about the samples.

Dagun offers some tips for festival attendees:

1) Tasters should start with whites before heading to the reds. Most wineries will have recommendations about which wine to try first, and it usually makes the most sense to follow their suggestions.

2) If a guest likes one of the samples, write it down and snap a photo, “because you won’t remember the names of the wine by the end of the night.”

3)  Buy your ticket now because they are always in high demand. Tickets for the event can be purchased on the Israel Museum website or by calling 02-625-9703.

The festival runs nightly through Thursday, August 8, from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m.

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