When entering Jaffa’s famous Grape Man wine institution, we were greeted by Guy, a young and enthusiastic staff member who has dedicated his career tasting, promoting and teaching about Israeli wines and wines from around the world.
A Tel Aviv resident, Guy told us that he’s the one Grape Man staff member who doesn’t live in Jaffa. “But, it’s really not such a big deal. It’s only a 15 minute drive for me, and it’s totally worth it," said Guy.
A simultaneous lawyer and wine connoisseur who is also studying for his MBA, Guy excitedly told us about his journey into the wine world and his wide array of responsibilities at Grape Man. "I'm the Wine Department Manager. I oversee the classes we teach here, private events, and wine tours that we offer around the world to places such as Italy, Spain and France. We especially try to promote Israeli wine to people around the world. One of my dreams is for Israel to become a place that people visit for wine and culinary purposes. People don’t typically realize that Israel has some of the best restaurants, dairy and wine in the world. It’s much more than just a destination for those interested in history and religion."
Coming from an Israeli mother and Romanian father, Guy was raised with a strong Jewish identity and a deep understanding of what Israel has to offer to the Jewish people and beyond. He even told us that his grandfather’s cousin is Theodor Herzl.
“Historically and today, Israel has the perfect weather and resources for great wines. You can drive two hours in any direction and find fantastic wine there, with almost 400 wineries to choose from,” said Guy.
He was also eager to share some wine secrets that he feels are important for locals and visitors to know:
1. According to Gil, "The term “Kosher” means almost nothing when it comes to the quality of a wine. It actually means two things: One, you have to abide by the Jewish laws of growing fruits, which is actually a practice used around the world by most anyway. It’s simply the most practical way of growing produce, which is why people in France, Italy and elsewhere do it the same. All that it involves is growing it in a biodynamic environmentand following the lunar calendar, which is the Jewish calendar. The second piece of Kosher wine means that it can only be produced by someone who keeps Shabbat. However, this of course doesn’t impact the quality of the wine; it simply means that someone religious made it. Most Israeli wineries are operating this way, and over 96% of Israeli wines are Kosher."
2. "People typically think that wine makes you gain weight," said Guy. "But, this actually isn't true at all. Since wine is its own food group (not a drink) that contains antioxidants and other properties that are beneficial to the body, it’s something inherent to the diet and good for our health. Instead of taking anti-aging pills, just drink a glass of wine a day. I swear it works,” he said.
3. "Wine is something very basic to the Jewish people. You're supposed to drink it every Friday night and every holiday, at every brit milah, and when you get married," said Guy. "Jewish people have historically consumed a lot of wine, but Israelis took a break from it when they became busy building the country. But, now that we've built the country and we’re thriving, we can get back to enjoying it. Wine is something that's so fundamental in Judaism, and it’s also an art that we enjoy. Simply put, wine is fundamental, it's art, it's Jewish, it's tradition, it's agriculture, and it's healthy. It’s who we are.”
4. “Within an hour of Jaffa, there are over 100 wineries that have some of the most beautiful views I’ve ever seen,” said Guy. “Wineries here produce the best memories with the best people. I can’t recommend Israeli wine enough, and there’s nothing more that I love than sharing these wines with the world.”
Contributed by Lena Elkins