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"The Wine Interview" with Adam S. Montefiore

Adam S. Montefiore at home with his books and some wines

Adam S. Montefiore is Israel's senior wine writer and the leading spokesperson for, really the champion of, the Israeli wine trade. Adam's family is one of the most famous Jewish families in modern history, rivaled only by the Rothschilds. The two families were close and many members of each family married members of the other. They were also business partners for a time. It is perhaps an accident (but probably not) that, in Tel Aviv, Montefiore Street and Rothschild Boulevard are parallel to each other. Adam Montefiore is disarmingly humble, polite to a fault and self-effacing. In short, a true aristocrat.

The Montefiore Windmill in Jerusalem

Where were you born and where did you grow up?

I was born in Kensington, brought up in London and worked in different areas of England before making Aliyah.

When did you move to Israel and why?

I moved to Israel at the age of 32 with my wife and three young children. I was the last Zionist. I had visited Israel many times as a tourist and thought it would be a good place to live and bring up children.

Where did you go to university and what did you study?

Being practical and in a hurry, I took a very attractive Business Management program at Bass Charrington (brewer, pub owner & hotelier) intending to study at a later stage when I knew exactly what I wanted to do. In the end, intoxicated by the drinks industry, the prospect of earning and then marrying young, I stayed and did not go back and study. It was only later I studied wine.

The Mishkenot Sha’ananim neighborhood, 1860

How did you become interested in wine and enter the wine trade?

I entered the drinks industry, marketing and selling beer, wines, spirits, and soft drinks in the late 1970s. I became Wine Manager of Bass Charrington's hotel division in 1986 and a founding member of The Academy of Wine Service.Bass Charrington Vintners had extensive wine interests.

You have done almost everything in the wine trade except make wine.Tell us about your exceptional career path.

I worked with Bass Charrington in the UK, made aliyah in 1989 and for the next 27 years, worked for the Golan Heights Winery, the pioneering winery of Israel, and Carmel, the historic winery of Israel, along with their subsidiary, Yatir Winery. I began as a wine specialist in Hotels & Restaurants, moved to winery, and export marketing and wine development. During this time, it was a privilege to be at the forefront of advancing Israeli wines worldwide. I founded Handcrafted Wines of Israel; the first time Israeli wines worked together to advance Brand Israel. Now I am independent. I write, consult, and educate. I am CEO of Adam Montefiore Wine Consultancy, (offering a service to wineries, retailers, restaurants, and private individuals) and a partner in The Israel Wine Experience (tastings & lectures etc.), which educates about Israeli wine. Since 2010, I am the Wine Writer of The Jerusalem Post with a regular column called "Wine Talk". I suppose I am a winery insider turned wine writer, which is rare amongst those who write about wine. It seems to be a family thing. I have two brothers who are authors and my mother was too.

Along with Israeli wine you have recently become a champion of wines from the "Eastern Mediterranean".I add quotes because, to my knowledge, you are alone in referring to the wines of Greece, Lebanon, Turkey, and Cyprus as such. Share with us your interest and why you think the wines from these countries have a common destiny.

Actually, I have tried to advance and talk about the Eastern Mediterranean wine region for over 30 years. It started when I wanted to list Israeli and Lebanese wines on the hotel wine lists. Later, I realized that 'Kosher' was not a country and Israel was not an island. We are part of a region which gave wine culture to the world. Two thousand years ago, the wine lover would have been aware of wines coming from the "East Med" countries. The region made terrible wine for 2,000 years. However, in the last 20 years there has been a blossoming in all the countries. Today it is one of the most dynamic and exciting of all regions. My fervent wish is that the wines of these countries will be on the wine shelves and wine lists together, under the heading "East Med." Currently the wines are bracketed under meaningless headings such as 'others' or 'rest of the world.' Of course, my wish is also that Israeli wines in the Kosher section will be identified by the word 'Israel' instead of Kosher, but that is another battle.

Sir Moses Montefiore in his classic pose with an intelligent gaze.

Your family background is extraordinary. The family name, Montefiore, is known around the world and graces hospitals, streets, hotels, synagogues, entire neighborhoods in various cities, a windmill (in Jerusalem), wines and, most astonishing perhaps, a small planet named for Clarice Sebag-Montefiore (wife of Alfons v. Rothschild). Please share some memories and stories with us about your family.

Sir Moses Montefiore was a forerunner of Zionism who needs no introduction. He was possibly the most famous Jew of the 19th century. He founded the first neighborhood outside the Old City of Jerusalem, Mishkenot Sha'ananim, which became the cornerstone of modern Jerusalem and he built the iconic Montefiore Windmill. He also bought the first land for use in agriculture in 1855 (now the Montefiore Quarter of Tel Aviv.) He was the first to urge Jews living in the Holy Land to return to agriculture, plant vines and olive trees. He was a wine lover, who drank a bottle of wine every day…and lived until his 101st year! My great, great grandfather was Sir Joseph Sebag Montefiore, his nephew and heir.

Over one hundred years later, I came to Israel to contribute to the Israeli wine scene. Now, two of my children, the 6th generation, are also working in wine. David Montefiore, DipWSET, is a lecturer and teacher at the Israel branch of the WSET (the world's most famous wine school). Rachel Montefiore-Nataf is the Wine Manager of Paneco.

You selected Tzora "Judean Hills" Red 2020.Tell us why you selected this wine and describe it for us.

Whenever I am asked for the best value red wine in Israel, this is usually my answer. It is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Petit Verdot and Merlot, produced by Tzora Vineyards. The fruit is grown in the Shoresh Vineyard, which is at a 650-meter elevation in the Judean Hills wine region. In the words of one of my favorite tasting notes, which I have borrowed on this occasion: "It has everything, but not too much." Beautifully balanced and elegant. It refreshes and demands another shluk (taste.)

Anything else you would like to add?

Wine is a thread which connects Biblical Israel and the beginnings of the Jewish people with the Israel of today. Wine is a unifier in a very divided Israel. I believe it is our number one ambassador, representing a people and a place. Just think where we were just 30 years ago; and where we might get to in the next 30 years.

Author's tasting note on Tzora "Judean Hills" 2020 red:

In the past several weeks, I was invited to a tasting with friends of Tzora winery and was asked to describe Tzora wines.I said this: "Tzora wines express their terroir in the Judean Hills with the exceptional intelligence of Bordeaux brought to Tzora by MW Eran Pick."Bottom line: this wine is not only delicious but profoundly meaningful because it is places Israel on the world stage at the highest level.Bravo!

Thank you, Adam! 



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Wednesday, 19 June 2024

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