One of the more interesting white wines I’ve tasted recently was being poured the other night at a reception for Hugh Johnson and Jancis Robinson’s exquisite new 8th Edition of “The World Atlas of Wine.” The book, in case you’re not familiar with it, is the seminal reference connecting wine and place. It has sold 5 million copies since the first edition appeared in 1971 (when Johnson was the sole author) and has been my constant companion over the years.
The launch event borrowed a theme from the new edition and featured wines from emerging regions, including the Judean Hills in central Israel west of Jerusalem.
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It is there that Tzora Vineyards produces, among other wines, its distinctive Judean Hills Blanc from grapes grown in red terra rosa and limestone soils. The $32 wine is an unusual blend – the 2018 is 75 percent Chardonnay and 25 percent Sauvignon Blanc — that works surprisingly well.
It’s marked by zesty acidity and a range of tastes, including green apple, melon, tangerine, strawberry, and lime peel. An herbal note and minerals linger on the long finish, and the use of oak accents rather than dominates. The Chardonnay provides a richness while the Sauvignon Blanc helps to keep it fresh and focused.
That freshness is also achieved by the fact that the wine differs from many Chardonnays in that it does not undergo malolactic fermentation, the process by which tart malic acid is converted to softer lactic acid.
The Judean Hills reach an altitude of 2,500 feet or so, which makes for hot days but cool nights, conditions that promote acidity in the grapes, along with the influence of cooling sea breezes.
Hugh Johnson and Jancis Robinson describe the Judean Hills as among Israel’s “most promising grape-growing areas.” With this splendid wine from Tzora Vineyards, it’s not hard to see why.