Zvi Segal, the patriarch of the Segal winemaking family has passed away at the age of 87

Zvi Segal, the patriarch of the Segal winemaking family has passed away at the age of 87. He was managing director of Segal Wines-Carmei Zion, until his retirement in 1995.

Under his management, the company were known for their innovative labels, quality spirits and gourmet foods. In the early 1980’s their red wines in particular, were amongst the best in the country. They were also then the leading importers of wine being agents for international icons such as Rothschild and Mondavi.

Over two hundred years have passed since Yankel Hirsch Segal built the family’s first distillery in 1787 in Bobroisk in White Russia. Distilling was one of the few professions open to Jews. This inheritance was passed down to the fifth generation of the Segal family who made aliyah in 1925 and opened a distillery called ‘Hakoach’ in the Templar district of Tel Aviv, known as Sarona. However it closed in 1932. Instead two brothers opened a wine shop in the Carmel Market in Tel Aviv. The company was called Carmei Zvi- Segal Bros. after their grandfather, Zvi Hirsch Segal. This was their introduction to the wine business.

In 1950 the family opened a winery for the first time in Ramle. The winery was known as ‘Askalon’ Wines, (their spelling), because the grapes initially came from Ashkelon. During Zvi Segal’s tenure, the winery became known as Segal Wines. Then Segal was the sixth largest winery in Israel. The main wines were Shel Segal and Ben Ami. The main spirits were Grand 41 Brandy, Hallelujah Orange Brandy Liqueur and Askalon Arak.

Zvi Segal was the first person in Israel to market aesthetically pleasing labels. The Ben Ami brand, launched in 1977, used famous artists to decorate the label from the 1983 vintage. He created the famous Shel Segal label using a copy of his own hand writing. He also created the Segal Adom, a regular vin de table for easy drinking. Again he astutely recognized the wishes of the new Israeli wine buyer. At the other end of the spectrum, the Segal Unfiltered red wine was also high quality with a very stylish label.

Zvi Segal retired in 1995 and passed the baton on to the next generation. This resulted in the company being sold to Barkan Winery, Israel’s second largest winery, in 2000. Barkan has since been purchased by Tempo, company. Apart from being Israel’s largest brewery, Tempo also represents global giants Heineken, Pepsi Cola and Pernod Ricard. Segal’s wines are made at the Barkan Winery in Hulda. Barkan markets Segal as a separate brand, like a different winery with its own winemaker.
What has remained of Zvi Segal’s winery? Today the Segal Red he developed is still around. It has developed into one of Israel’s top four selling wines, (after Yarden Mount Hermon Red, Carmel’s Selected Cabernet Sauvignon and Selected Merlot.) The Segal Unfiltered Cabernet Sauvignon remains one of Israel’s best quality wines. Segal has become known for its range of single vineyard wines, in particular the Argaman, carefully crafted by winemaker Avi Feldstein, who was one of the pioneers of the Upper Galilee. Finally, Feldstein himself. He was the liquor expert in Zvi Segal’s time, being a specialist in all the spirits and liqueurs. He became a self-taught winemaker with a magic touch, and under the Barkan management has continued as the highly regarded winemaker of Segal Wines. He is the last remnant of the Segal past to be involved with Segal wines.

The famous wine critic Daniel Rogov mentioned Zvi Segal at his farewell party, a week before he passed away. In his last words to the assembled wine trade, Rogov started to thank everyone for the extraordinary event that was held. He compared the reception as being as memorable and moving as when he was first welcomed by Zvi Segal to taste Segal wines.

Zvi Segal was a proud man, strict in discipline and of firm opinion. He contributed greatly to the development of Israeli wine particularly in the 1980’s and early 1990’s. www.wines-israel.com sends condolences to his son Arik Segal, who remains in the wine business and to the rest of the family. His memory will be a blessing.


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