My first official stop on the KFWE tour was Tel Aviv on February 4th . This is a show I try to go to every year work schedule permitting (last year I was in Barcelona for a conference which was a bummer).
Now each of these shows certainly has their own flavor and style – much like the cities they are based in. London is super classy, NY is frenetic and full of energy and LA is super laid back. KFWE Tel Aviv too typifies the city it is based in. There is great energy infused with also an anything goes kinda attitude and a nice dose of we’re gonna party.
So let me set the record straight – Zur does as good a job as anyone else in putting on a KFWE. Is it as big or as flashy as some of the the others? No, But inn fact, there are a lot of things about the the Tel Aviv show that are better than all of the others. First, the base level food is better than every KFWE. I mean Meat and Wine Co. of Hertzlia was serving up veal ribs and beef Short Ribs (Asado) – seriously some of the best food that I had at a KFWE. There was also a ton of food from Skyline and Resto. In fact that’s another thing in the plus column – there is ONLY a base level. There is no VIP. Whatever they serve, they serve to all – both food and wine (there are a often couple of sessions that are open to some trade – but they are really not part of the show).
Besides that, you can taste through EVERYTHING that is in Israel that Zur is bringing in from Royal and all that Zur distributes from local producers – which currently includes Shiloh, P’sagot and Jezreel. No restrictions – nothing under the table etc.
This year Zur moved KFWE to the Tel Aviv port. What a GREAT location. We also lucked out in that it was about 72 degrees (F) outside. Simply beautiful. Aas mentioned there is only a single level of ticket – and it gets you everything. Whatever is being shown is open to you – though the list of what is available is smaller than other KFWE’s – as I will discuss below. 2016 Malartic? Check. 2015 Leoville? Check. Giscours, Lascombes, Montviel – check, check and check. And so on.
There was also a full cocktail bar highlighting the various liquor that Zur brings in. And of course the aforementioned food of which there was plenty and it was tasty.
In keeping with the vibe, pourers poured freely and generously whatever you asked – without any need to wash glasses in between (a malady unique to the US). I will get into a list of the specific wines that I tasted in a separate post as all of them basically overlap in some way shape or form. For instance the Malartic was shown at each KFWE (though sometimes only VIP). But as this is KFWE Tel Aviv, let me highlight an Israeli wine that I happened to like a lot. 2016 Jezreel Argaman. Now you are saying to yourself – that wine isn’t new. You are right – it was even showcased at last year’s KFWE. But it has definitely improved with age. Excellent acidity balancing out the 22 months in oak. Dark blue fruit, nice spice. Worth checking out for sure. My thanks to Ido Gal On who got me to retaste.
But that raises a question – and this is a question in general this year as I noticed the same trend at Sommelier – I am not sure why, but all of the wineries seem to be late in releasing their new vintages. Huh? I happen to think it is a missed marketing opportunity – but the number of NEW Israeli wines I tasted at all KFWE’s is under 10 – and lets not forget, in the rest of the world, Royal distributes a lot more than Jezreel, Shiloh and Psagot. I get that people want to clear out old vintages – but showing 2017 Roses at a show in February 2019?That’s a no-no.
If there is a criticism specific to KFWE Tel Aviv it is that in Israel we are often – but not always – stuck with back vintages of some of the Royal stuff – and also only a subset of the American stuff. Why? That’s easy. Israel obviously produces more wine for the kosher market than the rest of the world combined. The vast majority of all wine produced here is kosher and the vast majority of consumers will drink locally produced wine. As in most countries, about 90% of product is meant for local consumption. So while prices in Israel are higher than other countries for locally produced wines – compared to the rest of the kosher world, prices here are low. There are many many options between $8-18 – with some supermarket wines even falling to $6 during holiday seasons. Don’t get me wrong – most wines at this range are not worth the money – but neither are their non-kosher counterparts in other countries. But this makes it less attractive to bring in some of the American wines and compete for the average consumer.
So the market here is tough – I get that. But then something crazy happens and makes it impossible. For some reason, prices on wine that Zur DOES import are SUPER HIGH. Not all mind you – Elvi for whatever reason manages to stay within range of where it is priced elsewhere in the world. But if you take a look at the French stuff, it is sometimes up to DOUBLE what it is in the US. ’15 Leoville? NIS 1300 or about $360!!!!! Even the American stuff that Royal itself produces is sold at a premium here (though with holiday sales, you can sometimes find current vintages at only slightly above US market pricing). Why this is? I don’t know. I can make all sorts of guesses – and I have heard all sorts of theories. The end result is though that the wine cannot sell. So while everyone is trying the new 2016 Chateau Lascombes, we in Israel are still working through the 2015. While in NY they are tasting the new 2016 Giscours and comparing it to the 2015 – in Israel they are still pouring the 2014! Not that these are bad wines – they are WONDERFUL – but the Giscours is the same wine they were pouring 2 years ago!!!!! I am not sure what the logic is for keeping prices so high. The wine doesn’t move when no one can afford it – or when they people think they aren’t getting value at all. It simply pushes most people to look abroad for these wines – which is a pity! It is also unbearably hard to be schlepping in 3 bottles at a time (the legal limit) from purchases abroad. But, that’s what people are forced to do – I mean I cannot afford to but these wines the way they are priced in this country. Period. And I am not alone. What’s crazy is that there is an EXPLOSION of olim from France who would LOVE to buy these wines and not have to schlep them back from trips visiting relatives. But simply put, who is going to pay 1.5 times the cost of what it goes for in the US!?! In terms of the American stuff – I really have no answer! We get a very small subset of the Herzog stuff. Why not bring it all here at competitive prices? If Covenant can compete here, Herzog CERTAINLY can! There are people here who want to buy the wines!!!! Reducing prices so that they are the same level as elsewhere will not at all dilute the value of the brand – and will help move the wine! I REALLY hope that someone out there who can make a difference is reading this… END RANT
To wrap up – KFWE Tel Aviv was a really nice and fun time. Zur does a very nice job with the wines it is given and puts together a nice package with nice food and an excellent atmosphere. An expanded portfolio at more reasonable prices would make this perfect!
My thanks to Zur World of Wines and Royal for having me as a guest at this event.
Note – My camera was giving me problems that night so all of these pics except for the a few of the french single bottles are courtesy of Zur\Eyal Keren
For Part 1 in this series – Click here.
Next Up: KFWE London Pre-Game