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ISRAELI WINE

Adam S. Montefiore

“Thanks to adamontefiore.com, the most informative website about Israeli wine.” Martin Sinkoff.

Israeli wine is of interest to wine lovers and connoisseurs because of its rich diversity and variety. Israel has 6,500 hectares of vineyards from the Upper Galilee down to the deepest Negev Desert. The areas with the biggest boom in new vineyards are the Upper Galilee, Golan Heights and Judean Foothills. The bulk of the harvest is from August to October, but it usually starts in mid-July. Annually, the country produces up to 40-45 million bottles of wine and wine consumption is 5-6 liters per head.

GRAPE VARIETIES

The most planted varieties are Cabernet Sauvignon, Carignan and Merlot, followed by Shiraz/ Syrah and Petit Verdot. The main whites are Colombard and Muscat of Alexandria. However, most of the quality wines seem to be made from Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah or Shiraz, or are Bordeaux style blends, featuring Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Verdot. There is a revival of traditional varieties like Carignan and Petite Sirah. Grenache is making a comeback. The predominant whites are Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay, followed by Riesling, Gewurztraminer Roussanne and Viognier. Mediterranean varieties and Southern Rhone style blends are becoming popular. The most Israeli variety is Argaman, a cross of Carignan and Souzao. Other ancient local Holy Land varieties include Bittuni, Dabouki, Marawi and Jandali.

WINERIES

There are moshav wineries and kibbutz wineries. There are wineries run by ultra-orthodox Jews, Israeli Arabs and Christian monks. There is even one called Mony, situated at a monastery, which is owned by an Israeli Arab family and they produce kosher wines! There are five very large wineries – Carmel, Barkan, Golan Heights, Teperberg and Zion, which together have approximately 75% of the Israeli market.  Other wineries producing over a million bottles of wine a year are Binyamina, Tabor, Recanati, Arza-Hayotzer, Jerusalem VW, Dalton and Galil Mountain. These twelve large wineries control well over 90% of Israel’s harvest. There are roughly 350 wineries in Israel and in addition, numerous domestic wineries and garagistes. According to the most recent edition of Hugh Johnson’s Pocket Wine Guide, the top five rated Israeli wineries were: Domaine du Castel, Tzora Vineyards, Flam Winery, Sphera and Yarden.

EXPORTS

Israeli exports total more than US $60 million.  Over half of the exports are to the USA and Canada. The other main market is Western Europe, mainly France, Britain, Germany, Holland and Belgium. Other markets are Eastern Europe, in particular Poland & Russia, and the Far East, mainly Japan. The newest markets are Morocco and United Arab Emirates. Israeli wines are sold to more than forty countries in five continents.

WINE REGIONS

The main vineyards for quality wines today are in the Upper Galilee, Golan Heights and Judean Hills. Perhaps the most fascinating wine region is the Negev. IPEVO, the profession association of winemakers and viticulturists, created a wine map identifying the following fifteen regions:

GALILEE:                             Upper Galilee West, Upper Galilee East, Lower Galilee; 

GOLAN HEIGHTS:             Upper Golan, Lower Golan; 

COASTAL PLAIN:               Zichron Ya’acov – Hanadiv Valley, Judean Coast;

CENTRAL MOUNTAINS:  Mt. Gilboa, Shomron Hills, Judean Hills, Negev Judea;

JUDEA:                                Judean Foothills, Lachish; 

NEGEV:                               Ramat Arad, Mitzpe Ramon.

This section includes a fact sheet, map, essays and information about Israeli wine. There is also an archive of articles about Israeli wine under the headings Adam’s Articles (Wine Writer) and Jerusalem Post Wine Talk (Jerusalem Post.)