Wine was made in Israel in ancient times, as a 3000-year-old pottery shard suggests. And for such a small country, modern Israel has a surprising number of wineries. After centuries of small or no production, the industry took off, winning medals at international wine competitions and creating a knowledgeable wine-drinking public .
It’s a pleasure to taste vintages from familiar wineries, but when a new winery gets big or confident enough to set up a display stand, tasters are more than happy to find out what the newcomer’s all about. Read all about arak here.
It’s called Arakino, a fizzy, fruit-flavored arak bottled with a champagne stopper. Two gentlemen with the earlocks and long black coats of hassidim were enthusiastically knocking back glassfuls of the stuff. The owner poured out more, with a smirk. Arakino has 18.5% alcohol; not a drink for children, although the pineapple, lime, and grapefruit flavors disguise its power.
Arak is considered a man’s drink. It’s what guys order when they get together for a lunch of varied mezze dishes. A nibble of pita dipped into humus; a sip of arak. Sports, politics, and the incompetence of everybody are thoroughly gone into and relished. Another nibble of this salad or that fried delicacy, another sip. I don’t know what wives think when their men come home from an afternoon of noshing, arak, and male bonding, but I can imagine.
While I saw other women savoring wines, not one but myself approached the Arakino stand. I considered tasting, although I dislike anything anise- or liquorice- flavored. The owner waved a clean glass at me. “Try some Arakino, Mrs.?” I only leaned over the bottle and inhaled. The fragrance of arak mixed with pineapple was actually quite pleasant. But the stand was attracting the less serious tasters; the ones looking for a quick alcohol rush. I moved on to one of the winery displays. Pop arak, I thought. At NIS40 a bottle, it’s the new poor folk’s champagne.
Like the taste of arak? You’ll like our arak recipes here:
Arakino is kosher for Passover and all year, and can be ordered locally at 08-8531524.
Photo of Arakino at Wine Jerusalem Festival 2014 by Miriam Kresh.