Israel is country gifted with the gift of wine making. In fact, so much so that it can go up against any of the world-renowned wine producing regions like Australia, USA, Chile, New Zealand and South Africa.
Israel’s past has often been clouded by politics and war but today, the skies have cleared and there is much to learn about this country’s specialties – especially their wines.
First imported to Thailand some 20 years ago, Barkan was founded in 1899 by Shlomo Friedman under the name of Friedman Winery. It was then a producer of sweet Kiddush wines and brandy for Jewish communities settling in the Palestinian territories.
Shlomo’s son, Bezalel, inherited the business and moved the production base to Kiryat Matalon, an industrial area of Petah-Tikva. In 1964, the vineyard was sold to the company named Tnuva, the grape trader. It was then that it was renamed Tnuva-Friedman, selling varieties of grapes like Alicante and Carignane.
In 1971, Tnuva sold its business to Stock Co., a giant liquor trader and the vineyard at Petah-Tikva was renamed Hamartefoe. Defined as Cellar, Hamartefoe began to produce wines from many of the classic grape varieties, including Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc.
In 1988, the company Stock founded a winery near Ariel within the Barkan Wine Cellars. In 2001, Segal was acquired, turning Barkan into Israel’s second largest winery.
In 1990, the kingdom was extended to Kibbutz Hulda, east of the capital city, Tel Aviv, making Hulda Vineyard the largest single vineyard in Israel. It is also the office of Barkan. While the Segal brand has been produced here since 2001, it has been marketed separately.
The Barkan brand has been growing and progressing year after year with support from the Government and various agencies. It has also been accredited with many awards both domestically and internationally. More importantly, among the 25 winemakers exporting to the US, Barkan is in the lead, trailing by Binyamina, Carmel, Dalton, Domaine du Castel, Efrat, Galil Mountain, Golan Heights Winery, Recanati and Tishbi.
The Barkan winery is a modern, state of the art, 21st century facility. Aside from its self-grown grapes, the company also buys grapes from farmers in areas such as the Golan Heights, Upper Galilee, Lower Galilee, Mount Taborregion and Mitzpe Ramon. The facility uses modern wine-making techniques in producing quality wines that are the best of both the old and the new world. Currently the output is 5-9 million bottles per year.
Today, Barkan has a variety of brands under its belt including Village, La Tavola, Barkan Classic, Reserve Signature, Superior and Altitude. It has also partnered with winemakers from around the world, including the Royal Wine Company (USA), Kedem Europe Ltd. (United Kingdom), Ron Riess Import Export (Germany) and S.A.R.L.- Zaoui (France).
I first tasted Barkan wine about 20 years ago when it was first imported by U&V Inter-Trade. U&V remains the sole importer of Barkan wines today and now carry a larger selection including the Special Reserve Series, Reserve, Altitude and Classic, all made from the world’s most famous grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Pinotage, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling, to name a few.
That’s my roundup of Barkan’s history – one of Israel’s wine myths. As far as the tasting notes are concerned, I’ll leave that for next time.
*Translated & paraphrased from Acharn Thawatchai Tappitak’s Article in Krungthep Thurakit Newspaper published in August 2017