by Nadene Goldfoot
There grow the vineyards about 4,000 feet above sea level from the Sea of Galilee towards Mount Hermon, where Israelis can ski.
Grapes, called the fruit of the vine, were listed as one of the seven blessed species of fruit in the land of Israel. Jews have been making wine in Israel since biblical times. In Roman times, wine from Israel was exported to Rome. By the 7th Century ACE, the Islamic Arabs wiped out the wine industy by pulling out the vines to close down the wineries as they did not drink wine. The Christian Crusaders that came from 1100 to 1300ACE revived winemaking, but Arabs returned, Jews were scattered and winemaking stopped.
A rabbi in Jerusalem in 1848 started a winery but it was short lived. By 1870 a Jewish agricultural college studied about wines and growing grapes. Finally in the late 1800's Baron Edmond James de Rothschild founded the modern Israeli wine industry.
There are six regions where the grapes are grown. Considering that Israel is about the size of New Jersey, you can see that everything is very close.
1. The Northern Galilee
2. Judean Hills around Jerusalem
3. Shimshon-between Judean Hills and Coast
4. Negev desert
5. Sharon plain just south of Haifa
6. Golan Heights.
Israel has been busy producing kosher wines that are mostly sweet that are exported to Jewish communities. However, the wine industry is growing. In the late 1960's the Carmel Winery, #5, made a dry table wine. By 1990, wineries like the Golan Heights Winery were winning awards at international wine competitions. By 2000 there were 70 wineries in Israel and by 2005 there were 140.
Now less that 15% of Israeli wine is for religious purposes. Some wineries are not even producing a separate Kosher line. The Golan Heights Winery and two other large producers account for more than 80% of the domestic market with the United States being the largest export receiver. Israel has been willing to adopt new technology and has a large export market. The culture in America is into wines with up-scale restaurants and love international wines. Israel has been exporting over $22 million worth of wine each year.
If you thought you were drinking the same wine grown in the bible days, you would be mistaken. Because of Muslim rule there are no more indigenous grape varieties. The wine industry uses French grape varieties imported in the late 19th century like Cabernet Sauvignon, chardonnay, Merlot and Sauvignon blanc. Also gaining in popularity are their Cabernet Franc, Gewurztraminer, Muscat Canelli, Riesling and Syrah. They also hae Emerald Riesling, Muscat of Alexandria and the crossing Argaman. The Golan Heights Winery is famous for its Yarden wines. Their label of GAMLA is very good. The Muscat of Alexandria comes the closest to the indigenous varieties of long ago.
Israel announced in 2008 that they would create a 150 acre wine park on the slopes between Zichron Ya'akov and Binyamina to promote tourism in the area and wine tourism in Israel in general.