Wine encounters (2): A heavyweight encounter in Israel

The following two tabs change content below.

My second encounter in this new series was with a wine I had never experienced from a country that not many people associate with wine.

The wine was from Israel and I discovered it courtesy of Garry Stock, Chairman of Israeli travel retailer James Richardson (JR/Duty Free). I had the pleasure recently of dining with Garry, one of my  favourite people in our industry, and his wife Nitsa at Kitchen W8 in Kensington, London. As we are both wine lovers, it was perhaps no surprise that when we exchanged gifts both came in bottled form.

Mine was from New Zealand (a fine Waihopai Valley single vineyard Pinot Noir from Marlborough in my native New Zealand produced by my good friends the Giesen Brothers). Garry’s present to me was a 2015 red wine called Virtuous from Five Stones Vineyards, a Cabernet-dominated beauty from Givat Yeshayahu in the Judean Hills, central Israel.

The winery is close to Elah Valley where David fought Goliath in biblical times. The estate takes its name from the ‘five smooth stones’ David took from the brook to load his sling that felled the mighty Goliath.

Garry Stock speaking at The Trinity Forum, an event and concept he has long supported

Virtuous, Five Stones’ premier label, fits up to that heavyweight tradition in every sense. The bottle, even when empty (which it soon was), is the heftiest I have ever encountered, a throwback I learned later to a long-held perception that the greater weight of the bottle, the better the wine must be.

Whatever the truth of that  theory, the wine itself makes Goliath seem lilliputian in comparison. In fact, all David would have needed to emerge triumphant would have been to ask the Philistine to down a glass or two of Virtous and he would have fallen over unprompted.

Virtuous is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec and Petit Verdot (the only thing that is petit about it). It’s a big, rich wine, jam-packed with fruit with such density of structure that it’s bound to live for years. Think of a fine, rich Primitivo (Zinfandel in the US) from Puglia, Italy and then crank up the volume a notch or two and you have Virtuous. I had it with a juicy, rare rump steak and enjoyed every drop. With a good Habanos, it would have been even better,

A Vivino review said “Drink in 15 years.” No chance. Virtuous will certainly be in good shape then but I’m far less likely to be.

Wine Encounters (2)

The Wine: 5 Stones Virtuous

The Occasion: Gift from a lunch catch-up with Garry Stock, Chairman of Israeli travel retailer James Richardson (JR/Duty Free)

Wine notes: Deep impenetrable purple-ink colour; blackberries and plums on the nose; almost sweet black cherry on the palate but finishing long and dry

About the wine: The grapes were grown in a densely-planted vineyard that yielded low crops of concentrated fruit with intense colour that reaches optimal ripeness when harvested. A red wine under 5 Stone’s premium wine label, blended from four varieties – Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec and Petit Verdot. [Source:]

What others say: “Iconic wine from 5 Stones winery. Cabernet Sauvignon (61%), Merlot (18%), Petit Verdot (12%) and Malbec (9%). Aged for 15 months in the barrel. Red berries, vanilla on the nose and palate. Medium-plus tannins and nice cherry finish. Great wine.” – Stanislav V, Vivino reviewer (Motto: ‘Life is too short to drink a bad wine)


Wine Encounters (1)

Wine is a universal language, a cultural equaliser, and I have long championed both its role and its further potential in travel retail.

Going forward in this short column, I will talk about the wine encounters I have while exploring the equally fascinating, multi-national world of travel retail.

The Wine: Condrieu: Domaine Georges Vernay Les Terrasses de l’Empire 2018

The Occasion: Dinner with Clarins President Travel Retail and Export Worldwide Division President Christian Laurent and Clarins Travel Retail Europe General Manager Flaka Hamiti

The Location: Matsuhisa Paris, Le Royal Monceau – Raffles Paris

The Cuisine: Japanese-Peruvian fusion

Wine notes: A surprise choice by my genial, wine-loving host Christian, this was a real discovery that went perfectly with the subtlety and lightness of the outstanding food. A white viognier from the Rhône, where the Vernay name is synonymous with the grape variety. The wine has a remarkable peach-like texture and a balance that would put an Olympic gold medal figure skater to shame. One of those wines that deserves to be savoured and to be accompanied by great cuisine. Usually one says that food melts in the mouth; this time it was the wine.

About the wine: Modern-day winemaker Christine Vernay’s father Georges (1926-2017) was instrumental in keeping the Condrieu appellation from extinction in the 1960s when there were only eight hectares left under vine. The wine comes from 45 year-old vines and it shows in the marriage of softness and fullness on the palate. [Source:]

What others say: “Domaine Georges Vernay is the flagship of Condrieu. Its vines were planted in the AOC in 1936, and it remained the only domaine in Condrieu for many years, until others finally started believing in Viognier. Today, third-generation vintner Christine Vernay runs the estate, crafting whites that are both opulent and pure.” James Molesworth, Wine Spectator.