New wine campaign kicks off in Houston

May 11, 2009 4:30:51 PM PDT
The U.S. wine market is about to see some new competition from an unlikely source. [SIGN UP: Get headlines and breaking news sent to you]

The country of Israel has been working hard to improve its wines and now, for the first time, Israel will market its finest wines in Houston. And the idea is leaving a good taste in the mouths of wine critics.

Restaurant owner Carmelo Mauro may be Italian, but when it comes to fine wine these days, he's thinking Israeli.

"I think it will add extra flavor, something different to what we do every day with Italian food," he said. "It's time we really bring Israeli wines to the forefront."

Carmelo will host an Israeli wine dinner in June, the first in a nationwide marketing effort by Israel, which is finally exporting fine wines to the U.S.

Until recently, Israel exported very few of its fine wines because they were of limited quantity. But beginning in June, Israel is making a big push to show American wine drinkers they can compete with anyone.

"Twenty years ago, there were 20 wineries in Israel," said wine critic Denman Moody. "Today there are 200. That's what's going on. They have enough wines to export now and the quality has dramatically improved, also."

Israeli wines have long been known for being kosher, not quality. But in the past decade, Israeli technology and hand crafting have taken advantage of the country's wine growing climate and Israel now produces wines critics compare to fine wines from California to Chile.

"These wines are competitive with 20, 30, 40, 50 dollar California wines of the same grape," said Moody.

"Israel wines are now at the pinnacle level quality, where they command a presence so its up to us to make the wines available," said Jim Veal with the Israel Economic Office.

Veal says importers have already begun stocking Israel's boutique wines, ahead of the June marketing campaign. While they're still difficult to find, he's confident the wines will someday be the toast of the town.

"I think when you walk into H-E-B or Specs in the future, you'll see the sign that says Italy, France, California and Israel," said Veal.

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