Israel’s wine industry is highly respected by wine connoisseurs, and many of their wines have been winning international awards. Why are today’s Israeli wines so good?
Let’s not even talk about the old cliché of kosher wines being sickly sweet. Todays Israeli wine industry includes hundreds of award-winning world class wines, most of which are also kosher. There is no doubt today that Israel has joined the list of top quality wine producing nations.
To quote just a few of the experts: Robert Parker wrote in Business Week: “The…wines are getting better all the time and some of them are superb”. Jancis Robinson MW wrote in her World Atlas of Wine: “Improvements in quality and consistency since the mid 1990’s have been remarkable”, and Tom Stevenson in Sotheby’s Wine Guide says: “The country’s entire wine industry has gained global recognition.”
Upgrading Israel’s Wine Industry
So how has this happened? In his Pocket Wine Book, Hugh Johnson explains: “New vineyards with classic varieties and a focus on cool climate, high altitude regions has transformed Israeli wines, as has modern technology and internationally trained winemakers.”
Leading winemakers in Israel have been trained in Europe, California and Australia, and they have brought their expertise to the Middle East. They have worked with Israel’s technology geeks to develop new methods for harvesting the grapes, processing their juice, and controlling the wine-making process. The more progressive wine growers are slowly replacing their traditional indigenous grape varieties, Carignan and Colombard, with international varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. They are experimenting with different grapes to see which are the most suitable for Israel’s climate and also popular in the market, and the winning varieties today are Shiraz and Bordeaux.
Where the Wine Grows
Israel has a mainly Mediterranean climate with long, hot dry summers and short wet winters. There are five registered wine growing regions which have different soil and climate patterns. In the north – the Golan and the Galilee, the soil is volcanic and winters are cold. The Shomron is a high altitude region including Mount Carmel, the Sharon region and the Shomron Hills, where the climate is cold at night and hot during the day. The Samson region, including Israel’s coastal plain with its sandy red soils and the lower Judean hills region, is dotted with award-winning wineries like Clos de Gat, Flam, Ella Valley, Mony, and Tzora. The Judean Hills region has a cooler climate and chalk and limestone soils. With its semi-arid and desert conditions, the Negev is not an obvious location for vineyards, but there are wineries in Mitzpe Ramon that are producing quality wines.
Altogether, Israel has 70 commercial wineries that produce more than 5 million bottles a year, and over 250 boutique wineries, all competing for a share of the local and international wine markets. If you have visited other wine-growing regions around the world, you will know that there is much to learn and enjoy when you visit a winery!
Wine Tours in Israel
Shatour Israel organizes Israel winery tours for many incoming groups. Talk to us about enjoying a full-day tour of one of Israel’s wine-growing regions, or just a gourmet meal with a wine tasting at one of Israel’s award-winning vineyards.