The Fascinating World of Israeli wines

Posted on June 14, 2015

IMG_3523The world of wine is complicated , yet fascinating.

After completing the Israel Ministry of Tourism Wine Course for  Licensed Tour guides, I now have a better understanding of the Wine Culture in Israel.

Historically the earliest wild vines known to man were grown and cultivated in the mountains of Georgia, also known as Kafkaz. Archeologists have determined that vines were cultivated in the Greater Georgia Geographic  Region nearly 7000 years ago!

In the Bible, we read the story of Noah. After the Flood, when Noah leaves the Ark his first act upon reaching dry land is to plant a vineyard. Noah’s Ark lands on Mt Ararat, possibly between Turkey and Armenia,somewhere in the Georgian Region.

Archeologists have also determined that aprox 4000 years ago wines were cultivated and produced here in the Land of Israel!

Ancient Israel was always known for it’s wines. In the Bible Jacob blesses his son Judah, “binding his foal to the vine, and his ass’s colt to the choice vine;he washes his garments in wine and his clothes in the blood of grapes; his eyes are red with wine” (Genesis 49:11-12) .

The area promised to the tribe of Judah, was always known for its’ wines. There are many references in the Bible to wine; especially the wines and vineyards of the lands of Binyamin and  Judea.

Even  King Herod the Great was known to hoard the wines produced in Israel.

With the expansion of the Roman Empire, wines produced in Israel were exported to Europe. Israeli produced wines were enjoyed throughout the Roman and Byzantine periods.

With the Muslim invasion and conquering of the Middle East, the production and consumption of wine/alcohol was forbidden. Israel was no longer allowed to cultivate and produce wine as it had in the past.

Vines from Israel were taken and transplanted in Europe! Many of the great vines of European vineyards, have their roots here in Israel.

The 1880’s marked  the beginning of the Zionist Movement ,the movement that encourages Jews to move to Israel. Baron Edmond De Rothschild decided to support the Zionist Enterprise. He envisioned cultivating grapes and producing wines in Israel as had been done in the past. He sent vines from his best vineyards in   France to be replanted here. Amazingly, the vines fit right in!  It was as if the vines ,once returned to the ground in Israel, felt at home.

Yet it took almost 100 more years, for Israel to develop a wine culture and produce  great wines!

In the early days of Modern Israel, most wine was prepared for Kiddush (ritual purposes). The wine was very sweet; some say even too sweet!

In the 1990’s the Israel Wine Revolution began. The area of the Golan Hts was found to have great Terroir. Vineyards were planted, new tastes and flavors were developed. From here the revolution continued. Israel’s mediterranean climate ,geographical location, dynamic vintners and enterprising winemakers all contribute to great Terroir. New Vineyards have been planted throughout Israel.  Israelis started to develop a more sophisticated palate, and a new world wine culture was born.

Today you can find wines from Israel winning medal after medal; in wine contests all over the world.

There are over 250 wineries in Israel. Large, mid size, boutique and even “garage” wineries.

On your next visit, make sure to include a few wineries on your itinerary. You’ll be glad you did.

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