A young Israeli winemaker stood out among a pool of more than a thousand competitors to take the Wine ‘World Cup' in Italy.
Golan Heights Winery, founded in 1983 in Katzrin, Israel, beat thousands of winemakers over the weekend to take the top spot as the best wine producer in the world at the International Wine Competition. The award was announced just ahead of the 45th annual Vinitaly conference in Verona, Italy, an international wine show that attracts 47,000 visitors every year.
The award is presented to the producer who achieves the best overall results at the show, calculated as the sum of the highest scores for two wines which take medals in different categories. A panel of 105 oenologists and wine journalists participated in the judging.
The 3720 wines submitted came from 30 countries including Australia, Austria, Canada, Chile, France, Italy, Spain, Turkey and Venezuela.
Though the Israeli winemaker has won awards at Vinitaly in the past -- Grand Gold Medals in 2004 and 2006 -- this year's win marks the first time the Gran Vinitaly Special Award was bestowed to an Israeli wine-maker.
The chief winemaker for Golan Heights Winery is Victor Schoenfeld, a graduate of the University of California at Davis, who works alongside professional winemakers educated in California, Burgundy and Bordeaux. The wines are produced under three labels -- Yarden, Gamla and Golan --and are aged in oak barrels.
Other wines recognized at Vinitaly this year include Italy's Terre della Baronia Spa, by Azienda Agricola G. Milazzo which won Vinitaly Nation 2011 Award. It is given to the producer with the best three wines in Special Mention diplomas. Overall, 1042 wines received Special Mentions.
Spain's Bodegas Marques de Carrion S.A. Cabastida, shared the Special Vinitaly Nation 2011 award.
Vinitaly kicks off April 7 in Verona and ends April 11.
En Primeurs, another important trade event for the wine industry, is also taking place in France right now, where professionals and journalists are able to sample wines years before they're scheduled to be bottled. Known as wine 'futures,' the event takes place in castles around Bordeaux and closes April 8.