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Bravdo Winery: The botany of desire

For one Israeli vintner, a lot of tech goes into producing a good bottle of wine.
Barrels at an Israeli winery in the West Bank settlement of Psagot, February 11, 2014. (AP/Dan Balilty)
Barrels at an Israeli winery in the West Bank settlement of Psagot, February 11, 2014. (AP/Dan Balilty)

“Don’t you want to know if all that you’ve researched all these years actually works?” Professor Bravdo challenged his budding student, Oded Shoseyov, who had just completed his doctorate on “The Biochemistry of the Aroma of Wine”. Oded couldn’t refuse Bravdo’s challenge. “There were already many boutique wineries in Israel producing wine at the time,” Oded explained, “but we were going to do something different; we were going to make good wine.” Soon enough, with state of the art technology and an unmatched understanding of the biochemical processes of wine grapes, the quest to create the most aromatically complex wines possible began, and Bravdo Winery was born.

That wasn’t the first time Oded couldn’t refuse his esteemed professor. Upon completing his bachelor’s degree, Oded simply wanted to go back home and work at his family’s three generation vineyard. “I only need a bachelor’s to ride a tractor,” Oded modestly answered Bravdo when he requested of him to continue studying for a master’s degree under his supervision. But as soon as Oded took one look at Hebrew University’s science laboratory filled with gadgets of all shapes and sizes, “I was like a child in a playground,” he told me, “I was hooked.”

For a well-regarded professor, Oded really cherishes childhood. Not only in his time “playing and blowing things up in the laboratory,” as he refers to it, but also in how he understands the flavors of wine. “We love chardonnay because it tastes like butter and reminds us of our childhood,” Oded explained to me. “In fact, if you go out with a girl and she doesn’t like chardonnay, RUN! She must have some childhood based psychological issues.”

Although psychology does influence the way we experience wine, Oded explained that aromas, as opposed to taste, “are what give off a wine’s irresistible flavors.” Oded went on to relay a brief yet comprehensive biological and chemical explanation of the cultivation of wine grapes. He explained that the source of a wine’s wonderful scents is its grapes. As a longstanding participant in the evolutionary process, grapes need their scent to be irresistible to the animals and birds who spread their seeds and ensure their continued existence. However, the most powerful fragrances of grapes do not appear at the time when they are usually harvested, but rather towards the end of their life-cycle when they start drying up, and sugar levels begin to skyrocket. With this in mind, Oded innovated a harvesting style where grapes are picked at the height of their aromatic lives, infusing their perfumes into his irresistible wines, without negatively affecting their tannins or alcohol levels.

Many of the vintners I encounter relate to themselves as artists rather than scientists, which made my time with Oded particularly interesting. Like inquiring of a “Lithuanian Misnaged” about his meditative mystical practices, I asked Oded if there was any part of the winemaking process which he saw as art as opposed to science. “I am a scientist,” Oded answered bluntly, “so my winemaking is done exclusively through a scientific procedure. The blending, however, is when the creative and artistic sides come into play.” The unique blending process at Bravdo Winery displays an unbelievable amount of restraint and modesty on behalf of Oded. While in many other wineries, the vintner will formulate the qualities and quantities of a blend based on his or her own preferences and deep understanding of wine, Oded seeks the wisdom of the crowds through a statistical survey. Oded gathers a group of tasters of different ages, ethnic backgrounds, and levels of wine drinking experience and pours them different blends with ranging ratios between the different grape varieties. Based on the outcomes of this elaborate survey, Oded decides how to blend his wines, even if the results differ from his personal preference and expert opinion.

It is not surprising that even the artistic elements of Oded’s winemaking are formulated through a scientific method. This Darwinist approach to choosing blends mirrors the natural way in which wine varieties have survived throughout history. At a time when experienced wine connoisseurs discuss with frustration the changing trends of winemaking, criticizing wineries for suiting their flavors to meet the general public’s “amateur sweet tooth”, it seems that Oded would contest that they are disputing the very laws of nature.

“Israeli society is changing,” he told me, “young Israelis are traveling and seeing the world more than in previous generations.” The age group of 60+ just wants a good cabernet. Convincing them to drink anything else would be like forcing a whole-wheat donut down Homer Simpson’s throat. However, due to their culinary experiences in the world, the Israeli 20-40 age group is demanding more diverse and interesting wine flavors and varietals.

Just as the grape has evolved its aromas throughout history to attract the necessary “consumers” for the sake of continuing its chain of life, so too Oded’s seductive wines lure the drinker in with their irresistible bouquets and keep them near with their extraordinary flavors. Bravdo’s wines demonstrate the botany of desire on every level.

Tasting: Merlot 2013
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If you happen to have an ignorant friend with a prejudice against merlots, I beg of you, serve him this bottle blindly. I guarantee that you’ll make a fool of him. This merlot is a beast. Its flavors include country blueberry pie, French toast, and pomegranate. After you trick your friend, save the rest of this bottle to share with a special someone while listening to Credence Clearwater Revival’s “Cosmo’s Factory” or Buffalo Springfield’s “Buffalo Springfield Again”. Feel free to email me about your wine drinking experiences and with any questions you may have at

About the Author
Born and raised in Chicago, Uri is now an Israeli farmer, living in Gush Etzion with his wife, Debbie and his daughter, Rakiya. When he is not farming, you can find him tasting wine with good food and even better company. Feel free to email me with any questions or comments you might have at:
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