- Janis Raisen
Grape Man Brought the Wineries to Herzliya at White Wine on the Sea
One of the wine festivals that kicked off this summer's wine season, did more than offer a vibrant event and a great opportunity for wine tasting, it brought wineries from all across Israel to the center of the country.
The annual White Wine on the Sea event recently took place at the picturesque Herzliya Marina. It offered wine tasting of over 100 wines, from 50 different wineries, mainly from Israel, with an emphasis on promoting white wine.
Organized by the largest wine educator in Israel, Grape Man, the event attracted more than 7000 people over two days to the Herzliya Marina. There were endless wine tasting options, wine tasting workshops and a cheese table for the hungry to purchase some tasty bites to pair with their wine.
"We knew 11 years ago that the future of the Israeli wine industry would be white wine, and not red wine, because we are a hot country."
Many of the country's largest wineries were present, as well as small boutique wineries, all offering samples of their white, bubbly and rose´ wine. Without having to travel all over Israel to reach the wineries, this event gave people in the center of the country the opportunity to sample new, refreshing white wine from all over Israel.
“The only way to promote the wine industry is to promote the culture and education of wine."
White wine is the most fitting type of wine for the sizzling hot Israeli climate, even though interest in white wine is a fairly recent phenomenon in Israel, according to Haim Gan, Grape Man founder.
"Israel is a hot country, but most of the consumption of wine, until 10 years ago—even seven years ago—was 80-90% red wine," said Gan. "We knew 11 years ago that the future of the Israeli wine industry would be white wine, and not red wine, because we are a hot country,“ he said. “In a hot country you don’t cook meat, you cook fish. In a hot country you don’t cook with red wine, you cook with white wine. You should create your culinary options based on the climate in which you live, and that’s how it is around the world. We are not unique, That’s the reason we created the White Wine Festival 11 years ago. Nobody even produced white wine. During the first three or four years, no one even came to this event,” he said.
But things progress quickly in Israel, Gan says. The country went from about 12 wineries in 1999 to 400 in 2019. "In the year 2000 we had maybe about two dozen wineries in Israel that mostly produced basic wines and other things. Today in 2019 we have 400 wineries that produce 60 million bottles of wine per year, and 95% of this production is produced by the 12 biggest wineries.”
Gan founded Grape Man at the end of 1999, early 2000 to help grow and nurture the Israeli wine industry. Grape Man started educating people about wine with workshops courses, and consulting, and later began organizing wine competitions.
“The only way to promote the wine industry is to promote the culture and education of wine,” Gan said. “We teach people how to consume wine. We are here to promote and push the Israeli wine industry to accomplish what it can to the best of its ability, mostly by regulating the business, mostly by being their critics, mostly by teaching them. We have had more than 50,000 graduates over the last 18,19 years.”
Once Gape Man’s wine school had a steady flow of students, Gan began promoting the Israeli wine culture through wine competitions. Starting first with local ones, Grape Man later established an annual international wine competition in 2006, called Terravino. The event brings international competitors to Israel. The judges are senior international wine judges from Israel and abroad, and the event receives wide exposure.
Grape Man also functions as a key resource on the Israeli wine industry. The company organizes wine tasting events, offers exclusive, customized winery tours across the country, and maintains a list of all of the Israeli wineries on their website for those that wish to visit wineries on their own and want comprehensive information all in one place.
In a nutshell, the company touches on every aspect of the Israeli wine industry: “We hold wine competitions, consult, write, promote,” Gan said.
Although Grape Man has played an integral role in revolutionizing the wine industry over the last 20 years, part of the company’s expertise is also understanding the history of wine in Israel in both recent history and in ancient times.
In 1882, the new Israeli wine industry was created by Baron Edmond de Rothschild, known then as the Carmel Mizrahi Wineries in Rishon LeZion and Zichron Ya’akov, Gan explained. The Carmel Mizrahi Winery is now called The Carmel Winery, and the Rishon LeZion winery closed in 2017.
But wine has always been part of the ancient Land of Israel, mainly for ritual purposes such as Shabbat, holidays and ceremonies for the purpose of Kiddush (blessing over the wine), Gan said, even before 1882. It just wasn't mass produced.
“You have to understand that Jews here in Israel always produced wine, though they did it on their farms, or in their villages,” he explained. "In this part of the world, before1882, Jews were living in Israel and they had wine. We’ve produced wine since ever in Israel.”
Grape Man has had a huge impact on the Israeli wine industry, by educating, promoting and consulting, which in turn honors the work of Baron Edmond de Rothschild and the ancient wine makers of the region as the industry continues to flourish.