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Israel - Wines

Wines from an ancient land

Israel is a ‘new world’ wine country, in one of the oldest wine regions on earth. In this Biblical land, one can find a curious combination of the new, old and ancient world of winemaking in a country no bigger than New Jersey or Wales. It is one of the smallest wine producers in the world.



History
2,000 years before the Greeks and Romans took the vine to Europe Ancient Israel was one of the earliest wine producing countries. It took a Rothschild to renew the tradition and create a modern wine industry. Baron Edmond de Rothschild, owner of Château Lafite, built wineries and planted vineyards in the late 19th century. The initial advice and expertise was French. However, the quality revolution only really began with expertise from California, in the 1980’s.

The area of vineyards has increased to nearly 5,500 hectares with well over 250 wineries, many of them domestic garagistes, which have sprung up in the last 10 years. Wine fever has gripped the country.



Israeli Wine Today
Approximately 30 commercial wineries harvest more than 50 tons and produce about 35 million bottles of wine annually. The largest ten wineries - Carmel, Barkan-Segal, Golan Heights, Teperberg, Binyamina, Tabor, Tishbi, Recanati, Dalton and Galil Mountain - have over 90% of the market.

Famed for its agriculture the invention of drip feed irrigation now used worldwide revolutionized the global agricultural industry. Israel’s viticulturists are technologically advanced making its wine industry dynamic and constantly on an upward quality curve.



The main grape varieties are Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Shiraz, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc with interesting varietal Cabernet Francs and Old Vine Carignans and Petite Syrahs. Amongst the whites, there are also Gewurztraminers, Rieslings and Viogniers. Winning major awards for dry white wines, sparkling wines and for some luscious dessert wines Israel’s red wines are best regarded.



The Regions

Being Eastern Mediterranean, Israel’s climate reflects that with a surprising variety of different mesoclimates. This long narrow country has five wine regions: Galilee, Shomron, Samson, Judean Hills and the Negev. The top quality wines are produced in the higher elevations like the Upper Galilee, Golan Heights and Judean Hills.

Recognition

World-wide, Sommeliers, retailers and wine critics’ interest in Israeli wine is growing. Robert Parker and Hugh Johnson, Decanter and the Wine Spectator particularly have clicked that something exciting is taking place in Israel where currently the best quality wines in the Eastern Mediterranean are being produced.

Tal Gal-Cohen, Bailli Délégué



Photo credits: Amphorae Wines; Carmel Winery; Domaine du Castel; Galil (Amit Geron); Golan (Rina Nagila)

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