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Israeli wine exports up by 6%

Sampling wines at the Sommelier Wine Explo in Tel Aviv. © Kobi RichterTEL AVIV — As the Israeli wine industry continues to expand, more international markets are opening up to what Israel’s winemakers have to offer.

The 2016 Sommelier Wine Exhibition, organized by the Israel Export Institute (IEI), featured 80 Israeli wineries that displayed their goods in Tel Aviv’s Culture Palace on Wednesday, Jan. 27.

The exhibition drew representatives from around the world, with several signing contracts with Israeli wineries.

According to IEI data, Israeli wine and spirits exports grew to $39 million in 2015, a 6% increase compared to the previous year, as new markets opened.

“Traditionally, the Israeli wine export was based on the demand for kosher wine by Jewish communities around the world.

“However, a recent trend sees Israeli wines gaining international recognition and respect also in countries where the kosher issue is irrelevant,” Yaara Shimoni, the IEI wine and fresh produce manager told TPS.

Such markets include China, Japan and Korea.

“The Japanese market is now our third largest export destination.

“We are talking about a very discerning palate; the Japanese only seek out ‘super premium’ rated products. We were just notified that our Yarden Chardonnay wine will now be served to Japan Airlines’ first class passengers, for example, ” Anat Levi, CEO of the Golan Heights Winery said.

THE GOLAN Heights Winery is Israel’s largest commercial winery, whose wines have won many international awards. Smaller wineries also impressed the Asian buyers.

SPHERA, a small winery specializing in white wines, signed an extensive deal with a large Hong Kong based client.

“Hong Kong is not looking for wines just because they are kosher, they look for great quality and taste,” Doron Rav Hon, SPHERA’s head winemaker told TPS. “We specialize in one field, but we execute it well.”

In addition to interest from the Asian market, representatives of the South American and European wine industries also visited the Sommelier exhibition.

“There are very interesting new, indigenous grapes to discover in Israel. We were especially surprised with the quality of the white wines in Israel,” Martin Duran, a Chilean sommelier, told TPS.

The Golan Heights Winery counts among its buyers several European nations, including Scandinavian countries. Levi said that the winery has won governmental bids in Finland, Norway and Denmark, where the government controls the alcohol industry.

“We were surprised by this,” said Levi, “since these countries are not the biggest fans of Israel.”

While Scandinavian countries are politically known to be in the forefront of the campaign to boycott Israeli goods made in the Golan Heights, the extent of her winery’s export to those countries has only expanded in the past four years.

“I believe their experts choose the wines solely on the basis of quality and tasting,” concluded Levi.

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