Know Merlot? Bet You’ve Never Tried An Israeli One…
Having visited Israel several times, sadly in the PW (pre-wino) days, it’s a bit of a treat to write about such an incredible wine from an incredible country that is defiantly ‘off the beaten track’… If you’ve heard of wine, you’re likely to have heard of Merlot. It’s one of the most widely planted grapes in the world. It’s possible that you’ve tried it as part of a Bordeaux blend such as think St Emilion. And it’s likely that you will have come across it in its Chilean form. But what about the Middle East? Have you had a Merlot, or any wine for that matter, from the Eastern Mediterranean coast? No? Well, you’re not the only one!
Let us introduce the Clos de Gat vineyards located in the Judean Hills between the coastal metropolis of Tel Aviv and historic Jerusalem. The Har’el Merlot is our Wine of the Week and it’s rich, full-bodied and velvety in texture. It’s had fourteen months in French oak to develop notes of blackberry compote, herbal tones and a hint of vanilla that oozes from the glass. A great example of what Merlot can be.
Enclosure of the Winepress
‘Clos’ in French refers to an enclosure and ‘Gat’ in Hebrew means wine press – so it comes as no surprise that the vineyard is built around a 3.000-year-old wine press. The vineyard is owned and run by winemaker Eyal Rotem. who has built Clos de Gat into one of the top wineries in Israel, known for its Merlot, Syrah and Chardonnay (soon to arrive at Rude HQ!).
Eyal spent several years in Australia before setting up Clos de Gat, with planting started in 1998 and the first vintage produced in 2001. The winery functions like both French and boutique New World wineries. The grapes are grown, processed, aged and bottled on site. It’s quite a feat for the small team.
Let Nature Do the Talking
The vineyard relies on natural wild yeasts to ferment the wine which takes longer but encourages the full flavour of the variety to develop. Clos de Gat also choose not to filter their wines either. This can be a controversial topic in the wine world, therefore another reason to try it! Expect a little sediment with an unfiltered wine so decant before serving – this will also help open up the aromas.
Again, slightly controversially, Clos de Gat vineyards are not Kosher, meaning that a Rabbi has not been present in the production of the wines and as they use wild yeast in their wine production, rather than those prescribed in Jewish law they do not meet Kosher standards. Why not let the taste do the talking? Pay a little more than usual for this Merlot, tasting the story, the history and the quality. Drink it with Mediterranean fares such as spiced lamb, aubergines and olives. You’ll really understand the term ‘bang for your buck’ and it’s a perfect way to expand you Merlot repertoire.
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