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The Story of Binyamina Winery
Binyamina Winery was established in 1952 by Joseph Zeltzer, who immigrated to Israel with a burning desire to produce wine as he did in the country of his birth, Hungary.
Initially called Eliaz Winery named after the owner’s son who fell in battle during Israel’s War of Independence, the winery started out in a region considered at that time to be Israel’s wine region.
In fact the winery’s current premises, in the heart of the town of Binyamina, has a history that goes back to it pre-winery days. In 1925 a perfume factory was establish by Baron Benjamin de Rothschild, after whom the town of Binyamina is named. The factory site was chosen due to the jasmine plants that grew profusely in the area, and which were needed to produce perfume extracts. The enterprise failed and the factory was abandoned in 1937. Until Israel’s independence in 1948 the building and the slick under it were used intermittently as a “safe house” for members of the Hagana (pre-state defense force).
After independence, Joseph Zeltzer found himself in Binyamina - close to the vineyards in the heart of a famous wine-growing region and in a building with an interesting history – in order to fulfill his aspiration to produce sweet wines and liqueurs.
Initially all the winery’s grapes came from local vineyards in the Binyamina region. The winery produced sweet wines, simple table wines and liqueurs. As all winegrowers at the time were bound to the Carmel Mizrahi cooperative, it was David Ben Gurion, the first prime minister of Israel, himself who intervened on behalf of Mr. Zeltzer, and a law was passed that allowed him to receive a small amount of grapes for wine production. The winery was mainly known for its quality liqueurs and brandy produced under the Hard Nut Liqueur label, in honor of Ben Gurion who was famously known as a “hard nut to crack”.
Although always privately owned, over the years the winery passed through several hands and underwent many transformations. Its various owners included business people involved in banking, real estate and cinema who always regarded the winery as an Israeli “gem” and meeting point where agriculture, industry and Zionism converged. The last owners, movie production executives, purchased the winery at the beginning of the 1990s and gained full control in 1996. They immediately invested enormous resources in transforming Binyamina into one of Israel’s leading wineries. This included 14 years of investment in vineyards to obtain the best quality raw material, in wine production equipment and in creating one of Israel’s finest barrel cellars. They also renamed the winery, which has gone under the name Binyamina Winery since the mid-nineties.
Another landmark in the winery’s history was its purchase in 2008 by a group of private investors, owners of the Hatzi Hinam marketing chain, who recognized the winery’s inherent and growing potential and identified with the winery’s vision of becoming a leader in Israel’s wine sector. Since then the new owners have invested unstintingly in the winery’s vineyards, premises, equipment and human capital.
The Vineyards – Good wine begins in the vineyard
Binyamina Winery has come a long way from the days when Joseph Zeltzer obtained his grapes from winegrowers in the region. Today, almost sixty years later, the winery’s vineyards are spread throughout the country – from the Golan Heights in the north, through the finest Upper Galilee (Kerem Ben Zimra, Alma, Emek Kadesh) and Lower Galilee (Kfar Tabor) vineyards and the Binyamina region, down to the Jerusalem Hills and Karmei Yosef. Binyamina also has vineyards around Gedera, substantial vineyards in the Lachish region and its southernmost vineyard is located in Mitzpe Ramon in southern Israel.
Binyamina Winery’s team, headed by Chief Winemaker Sasson Ben Aharon, understood that good wine begins in the vineyard and for the past ten years have been investing precious resources in locating both the best vineyard plots in different regions and the best farmers – the professional winegrowers who provide us with the best quality fruit of the vine. In line with the Binyamina’s uncompromising approach to the quality of its raw materials—the grapes—that go into producing its quality wines, the winery even employs an in-house agronomist who provides professional services to all the winery’s winegrowers. The winery’s investment in its vineyards includes state-of-the-art information systems that provide information on temperatures and soil types directly to the computer as a means of locating prime vineyard plots.
Binyamina Winery is the fourth largest winery in Israel and it produces some 2.8 million bottles annually under several labels. These are delivered to specialty wine stores, marketing chains, hotels, catering companies and restaurants in Israel and abroad.
The winery currently produces wine under five main labels - The Chosen, Binyamina Reserve, Yogev, BIN and Teva, as well as special limited edition wines and liqueurs. We regard each of our wine labels as reflecting a part of an entire enterprise that strives for and ultimately achieves product perfection.
The Chosen – A reflection of our winemaker’s creativity. This is Binyamina Winery’s high-end label that includes six wines, each named for one of the Hoshen Stones (the biblical term for the carefully chosen precious stones set in the breastplate of the High Priest). During the production process the winemaker meticulously oversees the manual harvesting and sorting of the grapes, production processes that rely on gravitational forces rather than on mechanical processes, and the wine’s long aging.
Binyamina Reserve - The winery’s flagship label which reflects the vineyard and its qualities. This label includes eight red and white varietal wines produced from grapes that grow mainly in our Upper and Lower Galilee vineyards. The unique expression of vineyard qualities is the dominant feature in these wines.
Yogev – Binyamina’s Yogev label is tribute to our winegrowers. In Hebrew, Yogev means farmer, toiler of the soil. This label reflects the winegrower’s contribution to the production of quality wines. Yogev wines are aged in used barrels in order to preserve the natural qualities of the winegrowers’ fruit. As a token of our appreciation, we have included the winegrowers’ names on the back labels of all Yogev wines.
BIN – We at Binyamina winery decided to appropriate this name for a varietal label after discovering several tanks among the winery’s stock in which red wine remained for several months after being barrel aged for a short period. Surprisingly, the wine’s lengthy stay in stainless steel tanks while waiting to be bottled created an enchanting wine that proved to be fresh and fruity, but also deep and full-flavored.
Teva – Binyamina’s most popular label that we regard as reflecting the consumer. This label includes varietal wines, each attributed with a nature that wine consumers can relate to while we cater to the personal taste of each consumer.
Binyamina Winery strives to promote a wine culture in Israel and is regarded as a daring pioneer in the wide range of varieties it offers its customers under its different labels, which include classics from Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot to Shiraz, Chardonnay and Emerald Riesling as well as less known varieties such as Pinotage, Tempranillo and Viognier. There is no doubt that even in the rich and diverse wine world it is important to constantly strive to diversify even further and to offer attractive options to meet developing and increasingly sophisticated consumer tastes. And nobody does it better than Binyamina!
2009: 88 Points
- Kim Marcus, Wine ... more