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"The Martin Sinkoff Wine Interview" with Artur and Avi Yosopov

Gamla The Yosopov family arriving in Israel in the 1990s
Artur and Avi Yosopov with the author visiting a winery in Tbilisi, Georgia

The Jewish community of Uzbekistan is one of the oldest known Jewish communities. They are known as Bukhari, the name of Uzbekistan's seventh largest city and the seat of culture for over 2,000 years. The city is a UNESCO World Heritage City (like Bordeaux, in France, and Porto, in Portugal). The Russian revolution saved the community from Nazi devastation but brought Soviet repression and destruction. The dissolution of the Soviet Union brought Islamic hegemony to Uzbekistan and, as a result, in the 1990s, most of the community emigrated to Israel and to the United States. Today there are almost 200,000 Bukhari Jews in Israel. 

Among them, the Yosopov family. Avi and Artur Yosopov came to Israel as boys with sixty members of their family. Both have made successful careers, Avi, as the advisor to the AM:PM supermarket chain and Artur, a fine wine, spirits and cigar merchant in the heart of Tel Aviv on Bograshov Street. Artur is known as the unofficial mayor of Bograshov Street. The counter of his store is the "mayor's office" and Artur is regularly visited by customers from all over to whom he freely gives advice and often hosts drinks.  

Artur and Avi: Where did you grow up? 

We grew up in Andijan, a city in the far east of Uzbekistan. Our community was an ancient Jewish community dating back to the Persian exile. 

Artur and Avi: When did you come to Israel? 

Our entire family, parents, uncles, aunts moved to Israel in 1991. We were 60 in all. 

Artur and Avi: Why did you choose to move to Israel? 

One word: antisemitism. Sadly, it became clear that as Israel become a real presence in the world, we were no longer welcome in Uzbekistan. To our sorrow. 

Artur and Avi: Was your family in the wine and spirits or grocery business in Russia? 

Not at all. Our mother is an accountant and our father a Russian language teacher. He is a pure intellectual. However, our grandfather made wine at home. 

Artur: What did you do before opening your store on Bograshov? 

I was in the jewelry business in New York and then I worked with Avi, my brother, in the AM:PM markets. 

A typical am:pm store sign with the time and weather

Artur: When did you open the store? And what was your concept for the store? 

I opened a small store in 2011 in a different location on Bograshov street. I closed that store in 2019 and opened in my current location at 41 Bograshov. My idea was to be the upscale complement to the offerings at the AM:PM next door. AM:PM sells everyday wines and spirits; Artur offers wines and spirits for special occasions and for those who know. Of course, we offer a wide variety for everyone too. We welcome customers who come to buy a pack of cigarettes or a bottle of beer. But we love our customers who know single-malt Scotch, fine wine and cigars, too.

Artur on Bograshov, the store 

Artur: What are the best sellers in wine? 

Whiskey: We love Milk & Honey from Israel and we promote Japanese whiskies which are excellent. One of our good customers loves Islay malt and so we have wide selection of single malt Scotch too. Wine: we are very open minded. We love fine Israeli wine but we stock wines from France, Portugal, Spain, and Italy. Our method: We talk to the customer and then we find a path to their happiness. 

Avi: What did you do before taking over the real estate interests of AM:PM supermarkets? 

I studied to become an electrician and later became a store manager at AM:PM. From there I grew to manage the real estate of the chain. I now consult to AM:PM on all of the company's building projects. 

Avi: How many AM:PM stores are there? And where are they? 

We have 60 stores now and growing. Most of our stores are in Tel Aviv. 

Avi: What are the best sellers in wine at AM:PM? 

Our best sellers are wines NIS 50 or less per bottle. "Grab and go", as Americans say. 

Artur: How do you see the wine market in Israel right now? 

 There is too much supply but at least people are drinking more. Most people know nothing about wine so the wine shelf is both confusing and intimidating. Customers are happy when they do not feel under pressure to be "right" about a wine choice. We try to make our customers comfortable.

 Avi: How do you see the wine market in Israel right now?

The market is dynamic and full of energy. However, high-priced wines are not our business. We want people to enjoy wine every day and that's how we purchase our wines. 

Artur: Tell us about the wine you have selected. 

Ramat Negev Chardonnay 2022. Ramat Negev is an innovator in the Negev desert which is, in Israel, the region in the avant-garde of research about climate change and sustainability. The wine is delicious, light, refreshing and a great value at NIS 70 /bottle. 

Avi: Tell us about the wine you have selected. 

Gamla Cabernet Sauvignon 2020. This the perfect AM:PM red, "go-to" wine. Delicious, smooth, easy to drink, Kosher (important for many customers) and a great value. Our customers buy two bottles not one! 

Martin Sinkoff's Wine Notes: 

Ramat Negev is among a growing number of wineries in the Negev desert working on preserving the unique ecosystems of the desert. These wineries have attracted the attention of the entire wine world searching for answers in response to climate change. Ramat Negev Chardonnay 2022 is an easy-to-drink, soft white wine. Impossible not to like. A perfect pool-side or beach white wine! NIS 70 in most stores.

Gamla Cabernet Sauvignon 2021

This delicious wine speaks volumes about the quality of Israeli wine in general. First of all, the wine is delicious: full of flavor, well balanced, easy to drink. Second, the wine is an amazing value. Third, the wine is widely available. Honor to Ramat HaGolan and Gamla. NIS 70 in most stores. 

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Monday, 22 July 2024

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