Moshe Cohen is a wine communicator and podcast presenter based in England. Amanda Barnes interviews him on his favourite wine interviews and asks for tips on Israeli wine, as well as finding out why two wheels and a corkscrew are his favourite holiday companions. Moshe recently presented a CWW seminar based on Israeli wine which is streamable on our YouTube channel.
Tell me about your first experiences in wine and how you became interested in the subject.
My father bought a wine shop and a wine distribution business when I was 13. I spent some of my summer holiday working there. Visiting the old wineries (that always smelt of old port and Brandy) was always something I enjoyed. After my military service, I took my first wine course in one of these wineries, Carmel Mizrahi in Rishon Le Zion.
Although you’ve been based in England for many years and communicate about global wine regions, can you share some of your key insights into Israeli wine? What is exciting you at the moment about Israeli wine and what should we be looking out for?
Israeli wines are relatively unknown to the majority of consumers and many wine professionals. Scarcity is a major factor but more importantly is the fact that most exported Israeli wines are destined for the Kosher markets (i.e., Jewish communities across the world). Wine features in Judaism in many of the annual festivals as well as on Friday evening, when we welcome the Sabbath and again on Saturday evening, during a ceremony called Havdalah, a blessing for the new week ahead.
(During some festivals, the Jewish laws order us to drink “until we know not our right from our left!!”)
From the mid-90s the industry was revolutionised with many new wineries of all sizes. The emphasis since then has been primarily on international varieties. This trend has changed now and thankfully wines of lower alcohol and fresh acidity are coming to the fore. Some indigenous varieties were identified recently and experiments with these show some pleasing results.
The most promising of these varieties, in my opinion, is Argaman, an Israeli cross between Carignan and the Portuguese Souzao. In my view, this variety can produce exciting wines, perfect for the Mediterranean climate and cuisine. Low on tannin but high in acidity and colour. It can produce a crunchy red reminiscent of the Italian Teroldego.
I am optimistic that the Israeli wine industry will encourage further planting of vineyards and hopefully, that will ensure more of the wines make it to export. There’s a long way to catch up to other Eastern Mediterranean nations such as Greece but the potential is there.
You’ve worked in several different aspects of the trade and are also a ‘nomad winemaker’. Can you tell us what excites you most about the production side of wine?
I first participated in a harvest and made wine in Sancerre in 2001. It was always an ambition of mine to learn more about winemaking. In 2016 I was able to produce my own wine in Bordeaux, from grapes of both banks. It was a fantastic journey.
The idea of making wines in different parts of the world excites me because of the endless possibilities. People I can learn from and the places they represent. Since Covid, like so many other things, plans to make some wine in Israel had stalled. I hope to restart that project sometime soon.
You also have your own podcast, In the Vineyard With. Who has been one of your most interesting guests and why?
I loved interviewing Jean Michel Cazes, the owner of Château Lynch-Bages. He is such a generous gentleman and a true ambassador of Bordeaux. His stories filled the 2 hour episode with ease. From England, I loved my conversation with Dermot Sugrue, the super talented winemaker of Wiston and his own wines, Sugrue South Downs.
Jean Herve Chiquet, from Champagne Jacquesson was a memorable visit too. It was -7° outside and there was nobody in the cosy lounge at his lovely winery but us. We tasted such a fantastic range of wines and the conversation was very relaxed.
And is there anyone from the wine world, past or present, that you would love to interview?
I would have loved to interview the recently departed Anthony Barton, like Jean Michel Cazes, a true giant of Bordeaux. Sam Niell, the famous actor and owner of the Central Otago Estate of Two Paddocks is high on my list. I know his family were trading wines and spirits in New Zealand and he is super passionate about his land, vines and farm and seems such a charismatic character.
I had an interview arranged with the late Becky Wasserman but unfortunately, due to Covid, we postponed it and I missed that chance.
When you aren’t working, what do you like to do to unwind?
My big passions besides wine are cycling and travelling. If I can combine them and include a winery visit while I’m on my bike, I’m the happiest guy in the winery (even if I sometimes look odd with my cycling attire…!)
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