Pomegranate wine working in Israel

Pomegranate has been the fruit of the moment for several years, selling bigtime in its natural form as well as in juices and extracts. There even is a pomegranate liqueur.

According to Productscan, a product data service, 215 new pomegranate-flavored foods and beverages were brought to market in the first seven months of 2006, compared to just 19 for the whole of 2002. Pomegranate flavors are finding their way to everything from natural fruit juices to chewing gum and even sausages. Now, some enterprising folks in Israel have stepped up their use of the sweet/tart fruit for winemaking.

Father and son Gaby and Avi Nachmias, the third generation of a farming family who were founding members of Moshav Kerem Ben Zimra in Israel's Upper Galilee area near the border with Lebanon, began experimenting 10 years ago to create a new strain of the ancient fruit that would be richer in vitamins and antioxidants, sweeter and deeper in its red color than most pomegranate types, according to the Web site ISRAEL21C.

That led to more experimentation and, in 2003, the family produced 2,000 bottles of pomegranate dessert wine from their own fruit. In 2004, they founded the Rimon Winery, named after the Hebrew word for pomegranate.

"In general, pomegranates don't have enough natural sugar to ferment into alcohol on its own," Leo Open, Rimon's director of international marketing, told ISRAEL21c. "In the past, some people have added alcohol to pomegranate juice to create a form of liquor, but no one has successfully made wine. Our pomegranates are the only ones in the world that have enough sugar to do so naturally."

Starting this year, the company began featuring a product line that includes a dry wine, a dessert wine, a heavier port wine with 19% alcohol content, and a rosé wine. It also produces pomegranate vinegar and a line of cosmetics made with oils extracted from the fruit.

"Earlier this year, we started exporting to the Far East in Asia, and we are now in touch with people in U.S., Europe, and even South America," Open said.

Domestically, Rimon wines cost about $15 to $24 a bottle. The company will not speculate what distribution costs will do to pricing in the U.S.

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