Sphera 2020

I don't think terroir in wine ever really exists in a pure, abstract form. It's always subject to interpretation of the woman, man or team that made the wine. The interesting thing about a winery like Sphera is that Sima and Doron Rav-Hon have had enough business acumen and success to give Doron the time and space to study and experience the vineyards and grapes that make up his wines. Which is always fascinating to see in evidence in any set of wines, but moreso with whites, because, at their best, they're always about clarity and a quiet sense of place, much more than their red brethren. Clarity and a 
quiet sense of place - that's an apt description of what Doron strives for. I'd also add "precision".

Sauvignon Blanc

As he poured the Sauvignon Blanc, Doron told us that he fermented at a higher temperature this year, because he felt more confident that could coax more flavors and body that way without loss of purity and precision. I think the wine is the proverbial proof in the pudding. A young Sauvignon can be intoxicating. You can get quite lost in the fresh aromas of tropical fruit and the joyful sense of renewal and drink up a bottle all too quickly. I'd recommend a slower pace. As good as this wine has always been in the past, it has much more to offer in 2020 and it would be a shame to miss out on that.

First Page

Here's what went down in 2020: The White Signature is pure Semillon, so the Chardonnay that has been making up for 25% of the blend since 2015 will be bottled with the rest of the Chardonnay. We will have more Chardonnay but will see less Semillon in the First Page, which will be 50% Chenin Blanc (same as last year), 35% Rousanne and 15% Semillon. It hasn't been fully bottled yet, but Doron poured one of the few bottles that had been ready. It's spicier and more mineral-laden, better defined, than the 2019, which itself was a step forward for the series. It will be released in May, along with the White Signature. The White Signature has not been blended or bottled yet, but Doron let me taste the components and it will be another great Signature, always one of Israel's best. Doron also poured a barrel tasting of the Rousanne component that will go into the First Page and we consumers should try to make a dent in the Rav-Hon's business plans and plead for a varietal Rousanne. You're hearing this from a guy who has had no great love for white Rhone varietals in the past.


I wouldn't necessarily open this now, but if you do, be patient, because the first impression will be very tropical. If you give it time, you'll find something akin to a Macon or a Côte Chalonnaise white. We tasted it alongside the 2019 and I think the nose of the 2019, as it stands today, would combine with the 2020 palate to make the best Israeli Chardonnay ever. Doron, however, prefers 2020 in every aspect. 


Israeli Rieslings are always a source of contention. Actually, any Riesling born outside of Germany, Austria or even Alsace would draw doubt from Riesling aficionados. Never mind. In 2019, the fruit played a supporting role and I find a similar effect in 2020, where it abdicates the stage in favor of a smoky/spicy character. I tried to imagine with with more fruit in the foreground and I think dry Rieslings need to moor the fruit in a fairly massive anchor of secondary flavors and aromas, be they earthy or spicy in character. Which is why I think the balance here very much compliments the wine.