Skip to content
Home » A Look at Israeli Wine

A Look at Israeli Wine

It’s not surprising, yet it’s often overlooked that for centuries, it was the Middle East and the Eastern Mediterranean was the home of the world’s wine-making culture. The oldest documents point to Canaan being among the first countries to taste wine, which was more than 2500 years prior to when the vine arrived in Europe.

From Noah, who planted the first grapevines recorded for wine–to the spies who looked over the land and concluded that it was healthy wine played a significant role in the story of the country of Israel. The prophets of the past spoke about it the wine symbolised God’s plan for redemption. Over the years it was a factor in the economics, society and religious traditions throughout Israel in the case of the Jews as well as later for Christians.

In the past, Israel was a wine-producing industry as shown by the discovery of wine presses that were buried and storage vessels. It was at its peak during the time during the Second Temple. In the Roman demolishment of the Temple led to the exile of Jews out of the country, and the once-proud wine industry was abandoned. After the fall of Temple after the Arab conquerors of the to 600 A.D. and the prohibition of alcohol in Islam resulted in the destruction of many of the remaining vineyards throughout the country particularly located in Judea and Samaria to be sacked.

A brief period of time, Crusaders in the Holy Land briefly revived the growing of grapes and vines were planted in areas such as Bethlehem as well as Nazareth. However, the revival of this land not long time. However, after it was time for the Crusaders came back to Europe they were able to bring back many noble grape varieties, including Chardonnay, Muscat and Shiraz that originated from the Middle East.

When the Ottoman Empire, the wine industry in the Middle East was erased due to the declining economic prosperity in the region, wars and epidemics that severely reduced the number of people. A lot of Jews and other groups who had backed the industry of wine left to settle in other countries.

There was still hope for those who wanted to come back and cultivate vines of grapes within the hills that their forefathers had cultivated. A desire to return to the land ignited in the minds of a lot of Jews who began to settle within and with their Arab neighbors around the middle of the 19th century. Since the time of the Ottoman rule until the time of the Ottoman the grapes of the region were cultivated exclusively for consumption. The revival of wine-making in Israel began in the middle of the 1800s, but it grew into a major industry by the 1880’s. It started out as an “cottage industry” that made wine at home in order to provide the Kiddush (sacramental) wine to those in the religion of Jewish community or communion as well as altar wines for Christian pilgrims who wanted “wine of The Holy Land.” The first evidence that was recorded of this was found in Jerusalem’s Old City of Jerusalem, at the time that the Shor family began making wine in 1848.
As the grapevines in Israel that began in a variety of ways spread throughout the world, and finally came back in the late 1800s, the people in Israel began to create “Aliyah” (or “ascent”) return to the land more frequently towards the end of the 1800s.

in 1882 Jews of Russia and Romania created new villages in the region, now called Palestine. They sought financial help through the Baron Edmond de Rothschild, a art collector and banker in Paris who also was the owner of Chateau Lafite located in Bordeaux, France, one of the most well-known wineries around the globe.

Baron Rothschild Baron Rothschild offered immigrants financial assistance. However, he, just like Moses from the Biblical account requested a report to study the possibilities for agriculture within the “Promised Land”. The suggestion of the experts of his report was that he plant vines and in 1882 those first vines were established and began to flourish. In 1887 Baron Rothschild visited the area which is now Israel to the very first time. He was captivated by the area around Mount Carmel, the place in which the Bible says Elijah sent fire down from heaven. Rothschild believed that this area may be one of the Tuscany as well as Provence of Israel which is why he decided to establish a wine industry. Rothschild hired the top Agronomists from France as well as winemaking experts from Bordeaux and the most sophisticated equipment available to ensure his plan was an success. The first commercial wineries of modern times began in Israel.

Vine in Modern Israel

It’s amazing that the rootstock (or the trunk) of a grapevine is able to be able to hold and develop different kinds of varieties at same simultaneously. This is achieved by grafting grapevines from new varieties onto an existing grapevine.

The grapevine and the resulting wine is a wonderful symbol for the people of Israel that once was wild, was then dragged away and then replanted and moved back to its initial soil. The Land of Israel has been the home of different people groups for many centuries, and consequently remains a subject of the weight of religious, political, and emotional weight and discussion. The year 1948 was the first time Israel gained independence. She has struggled for the right to settle her territory.
Israel is stunning partially because it is an emblem of unity and diversity.

A tiny country about similar to New Jersey, Israel is situated on the eastern shores of the Mediterranean Sea and is bordered by Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. Israel, which has an estimated population of 8 million, the majority of whom are Jewish, has many significant places of worship and archaeological sites that are that are revered for Jews, Muslims and Christians alike, as well as a long and complex time-line of peace and war.

Similar to the wine industry the food market in Israel has incorporated ingredients, recipes and flavors from all over the world to make Israel (and particularly Tel Aviv) one of the most famous food cities in the world. Mixing Ashkenazi as well as Sephardic Jewish influence, neighboring Lebanese, Syrian, and Turkish tastes, as well as high-quality Arab food, Israel is truly unique in its method of bringing together different people with their tastes.

Israel Close Up

Reflecting their diversity, the inhabitants of Israel the winemakers as well as the varieties of wine that are grown in the country are varied, distinct and abounding.

In the Second World War, the wine industry began to flourish again. When Israel in 1948, there were State of Israel in 1948 the number of wineries was fourteen that were in operation. There are now 40 wineries that harvest 50 ton or more 250 boutique wineries, and numerous “garagiste” or local wineries with less than half of them being Kosher.

Wine Regions and Wine Varietals

Israel has unique and traditional regional varieties and also Bordeaux type blends. The three most widely cultivated varieties that are found in Israel currently comprise Cabernet Sauvignon, Carignan and Merlot followed by Shiraz, Argaman and Petite Sirah. The majority of the finest red wines are Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot or Shiraz varieties or Bordeaux blends that are primarily based upon Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. The primary white varieties that make the top white wines of regions are Chardonnay as well as Sauvignon Blanc. There are also excellent White Rieslings, Gewurztraminers and Viogniers.

The area belonging to the state of Israel is just 7,992 sq. miles, which is just 263 miles from the north to south. Despite its dimensions, Israel is producing some of the top wines around due in large part, to the typical Mediterranean climate that is humid and hot summers and warm dry winters. Israeli wines have competed with wines from old and modern wineries, and consistently win the distinction of awards and praise.
Israel has the perfect conditions to cultivate grapes. the areas that produce wine are split into five regions in Israel: Galilee, Shomron (or “Samaria” in English), Samson, Judean Hills and the Negev.

The Galilee region lies in north Israel which is considered to be to be one of the top appellations. Two of Israel’s most prestigious wine-growing regions are located there, and are referred to as The Upper Galilee and the Golan Heights. Galilee mostly contains high altitude cooler climate vineyards, and also the mountains, forests with peaks that plunge and the stony Ridges. Absolutely, Galilee is one of Israel’s gorgeous wine region.

It is the region that Shomron is often referred to by the name of “Samaria”. It is Israel’s longest-running wine-growing region, having initially been replanted in late 1800s. Mount Carmel, Ramat Manashe and the Shomron Hills are part of the Shomron Region. The region is a beneficiary of Southern Carmel Mountain range and cooling breezes from the Mediterranean Sea. The scenery of Shomron is what you think of when you think of a biblical landscape and many of the biblical stories that were set in this region.

Samson doesn’t refer to any geographical location however, the region of wine is named in honor of the Biblical character who was a frequent visitor to the region. It comprises the central coast Judean Plain and Judean Lowlands located south and south east of Tel Aviv and it features an extremely humid, hot climate. The majority of vineyards used for large-volume wines are located in the Judean Plain region. The second region, called the Judean Foothills, is the most rapidly growing region, in terms of newly planted vineyards as well as start-up wineries. These hills, which are rolling, with limestone soils are seen on the way from Jerusalem.

This fourth area, known as the Judean Hills, is a excellent wine region that is underdeveloped and not well-developed that extends from the mountains north of Jerusalem along Gush Etzion to Yatir Forest which is located to the south of Hebron. Cool nights and warm days temperatures define the region. several wineries are producing top-quality wine from Israel.

The Negev is the region of desert which comprises half of the land of Israel. Wineries have been established in the highlands of the northeast in Ramat Arad, a semi-arid region, and located in central Negev Highlands. The region is extremely hot in the day, with cooler nights and colder nights. Due to the dryness and absence of humidity, only a few diseases can affect the grapes, and the vineyards are often covered by mists in the morning early morning hours.