Wine has been produced in this region for thousands of years. However, the modern wine industry has started only in the late 1800s with the help of Baron Edmond James de Rothschild, who helped with the establishment of “Carmel Winery,” which is one of the oldest and biggest Israeli wineries that still operates to this day.
As years passed, the industry grew, making a big leap during the 1980s, and now having over 300 active wineries through Israel ranging from boutique wineries to big players such as Carmel Winery, Barkan, Golan Heights winery, and Binyamina.
Kosher or No Sir?
While the focus used to be on Kosher wines, that focus has been changing. Wineries continue to produce Kosher wines, but a lot of smaller producers also produce non-Kosher bottlings. There has been a drive to produce luxury wines for the world.
Israeli Wine Regions
Although a small country, Israel has a surprising number of wine regions. The six main regions are as follows.
The coldest, highest area of Israel, located in the northeast of Israel, spans between the Sea of Galilee to the Hermon Mountain, mostly volcanic soil, very suitable to grape varieties that thrive in colder areas.
Divided into the Northern Galilee and the Southern one, usually tends to be quite rainy regions, although there are some less rainy spots, is probably one of the most prevalent grape-growing regions in Israel and is located in the north; the soil varies from Clay to Terra-Rossa to volcanic.
The Judean Hills
The hills surrounding Jerusalem and slightly to the south, one of the most sought-after regions, usually high elevated vineyards, and a cold area, the wine produced here has a great feel to it, and it’s highly respected. Some of the vineyards are past the border to the Palestinian Authority, which causes heated political debate in Israel and the world at large.
Samson wine region comprises the central coastal plain, Shefela, and the gently undulating Judean Lowlands that lie just west of the more famous Judean Hills. Having a Mediterranean climate, we’ll find more Mediterranean grapes here.
The Shomron area is located just south of Haifa and spans slightly to the south, probably one of the most important modern wine regions in Israel, being the first area planted with the help of Baron Rothschild.
The southern part of Israel, a desert. Israel is a leading country in agriculture technology. The developer of drip irrigation planted vineyards right in the middle of the Negev desert. This is one of the most rapidly developing regions, producing wines that are seen nowhere else.
The Future of Israeli Wines
Despite its ancient origins, Israel is considered a “New World” wine country. It produces a vast variety of grapes, mostly grapes that were brought during the late 1800s, and “International” grapes varieties, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Cabernet Franc, Riesling, Chardonnay, Merlot, and Sauvignon Blanc.
As Israeli winemakers expanded their knowledge of fine wine production in the past few years, many wineries started leaning toward Mediterranean grapes. If 20 years ago, it would have been hard to find a wine that’s not a Cabernet Sauvignon or a Merlot, these days it’s possible to find grape varieties such as Grenache, Viognier, Grenache Blanc, Petite Sirah (Durif), Marselan, Mourvedre and more southern France oriented grapes.
As time goes by, the quality of the Israeli wine keeps improving, landing great scores in International markets. Want to learn more about Israeli wines?