Great Israeli Wine

Posted by Keith Wallace

Wine has been produced in this region for thousands of years. However, the modern wine industry 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 still operating today.

As years passed, the industry grew, making a giant 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.

Israeli Wine, A Vineyard in the Galilee

Kosher or No Sir?

While the focus used to be on Israeli Kosher wines, that focus has changed. Wineries continue to produce Kosher wines, but many smaller producers also produce non-Kosher bottlings. In addition, there has been a drive to produce luxury wines for the world.

Israeli Wine Regions

Although a small country, The Israeli wine industry has a surprising number of regions. The six main regions are as follows.

Golan Heights

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.

Galilee

Divided into the Northern Galilee and the South, Galilee is more green and lush than much of the Middle East; it is one of the essential grape-growing regions in Israel. The soil here varies from clay to Terra-Rossa and volcanic.

Israeli wine region in the north

The Judean Hills

In 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 is excellent and highly respected. Some of the vineyards are past the border with the Palestinian Authority, which causes heated political debate in Israel and the world.

Lifta, Jerusalem, Israel is an abandoned village, juxtaposed against new high rises.

Samson

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.

Shomron

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, the first area planted with the help of Baron Rothschild.

The Negev

The Negev is a desert region in the southern part of the country. Israel is a leading country in agriculture technology. For example, the developer of drip irrigation planted vineyards right in the middle of the Negev desert. As a result, this is one of the most rapidly developing regions, producing wines seen nowhere else.

Landscape of Negev desert Israel

The Future of Israeli Wines

Israel is considered a “New World” wine country despite its ancient origins. It produces a vast variety of grapes, mainly imported 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. Twenty years ago, most wines were based on Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Now, it’s common to find grape varieties such as Grenache, Viognier, Grenache Blanc, Petite Sirah (Durif), Marselan, and Mourvedre.

As time goes by, the quality of the Israeli wine keeps improving, landing excellent scores in International markets.

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