Wine from Israel

The portal “Wine from Israel” is an outgrowth of an idea between two friends , which were amazed to find out that “under their noses” , in the geographical area where they live and work, there were dozens of small boutique wineries, producing quality wines, produced with love and passion by the winemakers.

Further examination showed that in Israel itself there are already some 300 boutique wineries of various sizes in addition to the commercial Israeli wine industry that receive increasingly growing global recognition for the quality of its wines.

The mission of” Wine from Israel” is to be an information gateway for international visitors to Israel or those just curious about Israeli wine. We will help you become better informed about the Israeli wine scene and of the ongoing activities of hundreds of commercial, boutique and “garage” wineries in Israel.
The knowledge and information in this portal will be provided through articles submitted from the wineries themselves. There will be articles about wine tours by the guides and by the guided. We will enrich your knowledge about local restaurants with the best wine orientation, wine shops and their ongoing activities, and in general enhance your wine drinking experience.

The obvious connection between inbound tourism and local wine, boutique and commercial, can produce stunning and great travel experiences Accompanied by authentic Israeli-scented memories, starting with the vineyards and ending in the palate with the aromas and flavors of the wines.

Israel is an incredible country in terms of tourism- different nations, different religions, different cultures and extreme geographic differences from north to south – all that in 27,880 square kilometers.
Small as it is, (about the size of New Jersey), Israel has a wide range of microclimates and soils that offer ideal conditions to nurture dozens of popular international wine grape varieties, mostly familiar and some less familiar to wine aficionados.

Unlike neighboring “Old World” European wine regions which may have strict regulations of which grapes may be grown and where, Israel’s viticulturists and wineries have embraced the “New World” custom of free choice in choosing what grapes to grow and where to grow them.

Israel is a “New World” wine producer in an” Ancient World” wine region. That being said many Israeli wine makers have been educated and trained all over the world including Bordeaux, Burgundy and Cognac in France , Milan in Italy, California, Australia, South Africa, New Zealand as well as being home grown.
We hope you`ll enjoy exploring Israeli wines with us and we`ll appreciate your curiosity and feedback along the way.

We invite you to share any information that you might have about your Israel wine experience, either by submitting an article or wine review, pictures or links to short movies , published at the discretion of the portal’s management.

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Bordeaux, Tuscany, Napa, Connawara, Stellenbosch, Mosel, Rioja, all names of famous wine regions in the world.

There are other famous regions that weren’t mentioned and one specific region that wasn’t ever recognized as a unique wine region, until recently. Israel is and has been wine country for over 3,000 years. It is the oldest wine country in the world and yet, still considered a ‘New World” wine region.

What gives Israel the status of “New World” is not the style of the wines, not the varieties, but rather its new awakening after so many years. This new awakening was part of three revolutions which designed the development of Israel wine. The first was the founding of the modern Israel wine industry and Carmel by Baron Edmund de Rothschild in 1882. The second was the quality revolution spearheaded by the Golan Heights Winery which was founded in 1983. The third was the maturing of the wine market in the 1990′s which brought with it the boutique winery explosion, wine imports, wine bars and wine shops, and a new generation of winemakers educated from all over the wine world.

Israel is well known in the world as being part of the Middle East. But in terms of wine we are either “The Levant” or “Mediterranean Basin. Israel is famous for being in the forefront of advanced technology & its agriculture and these come together in the vineyards. Whether it is meteorological stations on the Golan or experiments in the desert, Israelis are at the cutting edge of viticultural technology. Don’t forget that drip irrigation was an Israeli invention.

There are today in Israel over 280 wineries. There are 8 wineries producing over 1 million bottles and up to 12 million. There are another 120 wineries that produce between 35,000 bottles and up 100,000 bottles. All the rest of the wineries produce anywhere from 1,000 bottles to 30,000 bottles per year. What have made the Israeli wine industry interesting is these new small winemakers/wineries that have posed a quality challenge to the “Big 8″.
The beauty of this wine revolution is not only the wine but the locations of these new wineries. Israel is a very small country with 5 different growing regions from the northern peaks of the country to the very southern desert mountains.

Israel’s Wine Regions include:

The Galilee wine region is made up of the Upper Galilee, Lower Galilee, and Golan Heights. The Upper Galilee and Golan are considered to be amongst the best growing regions in Israel because of their cooler climate and higher altitude. The Upper Galilee is a mountainous area of plunging peaks and stony ridges, and the soils are heavy, gravelly but well drained. The Golan is a volcanic plateau with basalt and tuff soil. Both have snow in winter.

This is Israel’s largest wine growing region, benefiting from the Carmel Mountain range and breezes off the Mediterranean Sea. The main concentration of vineyards is in the valleys surrounding the winery towns of Zichron Yaacov & Binyamina. Soils are heavy, limey and the climate is typical Mediterranean.

The central coastal plains- known as Dan- and the rolling hills of the Judean Lowlands make up this region which is traditionally the second largest in Israel. The soils are limestone, alluvial clay and loam. The area has a coastal Mediterranean climate, hot, humid, summers and warm, mild winters.

Judean Hills:
The Judean Hills is an underdeveloped but quality wine region. The areas west of Jerusalem and south to the Yatir Forest, in the central and southern Judean Hills respectively, have proved to be wine growing regions of the very highest quality. Warm days and cool nighttime temperatures characterize the area’s climate. The soils are thin, limey and stony. The higher mountains receive snow each winter.

New vineyards have been planted in the higher regions of the central Negev, which is desert and in particular at Ramat Arad in the semi-arid northeast Negev. Soils are sandy to loamy and the temperatures range from very hot during the day, to cooler evenings and cold nights. The vineyards are often shrouded in mists during the morning hours.

So now you have a better picture of where we intend to go on our wine tour. Choose an area, and we’ll take you for a wine tour and tasting which will you’ll never forget.

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I’ve been selling Israeli wine for over 20 years, and I still get stumped by the same question. Which part of Israel produces the best wines? 40 years ago, the answer might have been the Sharon and Mediterranean Coast Line. 25 years ago, the answer might have been the Golan Heights. 15 years ago, one might have said the Arad Oasis in the Negev. 10 years ago one might have thought the Jerusalem Hills. In truth, all these answers may have been correct. Now, in 2012, we might have a different answer. The Shomron region. The region itself probably has the least amount of wineries per square meter. However, don’t take that as an indication of its grape growing, or wine making capabilities. This region has been producing great grapes and great wines for over 2 millennia. Evidence of superior grape growing potential in this region can be traced back to the Jewish Forefather, Jacob, who blessed the region with great grape growing prowess.

The blessing was again fortified by the Jewish prophet, Ezekiel. More tangible evidence exits throughout the mountain range in the form of all the ancient wine presses that can be found.

   So, ancient blessings aside, what makes this region so great for grapes? Well, let’s take a closer look at the some of the wineries that exist there. The northern most winery in the region is Tura. Based in the town of Rechalim, along Rout 60, winemaker Erez Ben-Sadon has his built his boutique winery, in, of all places, an old army barrack. Aside from making wine, which well get back to in a moment, he is also the grape grower, on the much sought after, Har Bracha (Mount Blessing) vineyard. He enjoys the snow topped mountains that the winter provides and feels the cool night summer breezes are a huge help. Many adjacent wineries, and some not so adjacent, come to buy grapes from him. Having grown up tending the vineyards, it was a logical transition to making wine. What was difficult was making “great” wine. It seems, true to its name, Har Bracha yields powerful (blessed) Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. These vineyards are carefully planted, pruned, and irrigated, to allow for these, world class, grape producing vines to flourish. Erez Ben-Sadon uses these grapes to their full potential and is now producing fantastic Cabernet Sauvignon. I refer to his 2007 vintage which has been bottle-aging rather well. I was able to taste this wine two weeks ago, in Jerusalem. The wine was full-bodied, long on fruit, with pleasant balance in respect to the oak and tannins not overpowering the other aspects of the wine. You can expect to pay around 140-150 nis per bottle. The most ironic part of the whole experience to me was, his best selling wine is a fantastic Merlot that he makes! The only down side to enjoying Tura wines is replacing them. They are hard to find as he does not make a lot.

   As we travel down route 60, we come to another boutique winery. This one is called Gvaot. Using grapes grown in the local Givat Harel mountain, vineyard, winemaker Shivi Drori, wields his magic. Well, for some, it’s magic. For Shivi, who has earned an MA in agriculture, its more of a science/ art combination. Relying on vineyards that are some 800 meters above sea level, he makes his wines to have a distinct fruit flavor profile. While he relies on old European style production philosophies, I can’t help but be reminded of new-world style Cabernet Sauvignon fruit, when drinking his wines. They posses an abundance of fruit that are in harmonious balance with the oak derived tannins that the wine received while aging in the new French oak barrels he employs. Shivi is also making a name for himself in another rdirection. To his creduit he has started to experiment with unique blends. For example, he now produces a Chardonnay /Cabernet Sauvignon blend. Very unique and worth a visit to the winery to taste. As Shivi is an agriculturalist, he tends his own vineyards and prefers to allow the vineyards to work hard to produce the best fruit possible. He believes intervention should only be done when needed. Once again, however, we have a similar issue with Gvaot. Like all other boutique wineries, supply for Gvaot is very limited.

   As we cross Route 60, we get to another winery. While this is also a boutique winery, they have the ability to go slightly more main-stream. This is the world Famous Shiloh Winery. What makes Shiloh Winery “World Famouse”? you may ask. Shiloh is historically famous as it was the resting place for the Tabernacle (Mishkan), when the Jews first entered Israel, before the Jerusalem Temple was built. Fast-forward to present day, while the region is famous for growing great grapes, the winery is famouse for the winemaker and his results. Shiloh Winery is still relatively young. The first vintage they produced was 2005. Much to everyone’s (except the winemaker and owner), the wine started to win local awards immediately. These awards were soon accompanied by international awards and accolades from wine critics around the world. Shiloh Winery was an investment idea of Dr. Mayer Chomer from Mexico where he is a professor of law. While the owner is known for his investment savvy, the winemaker is a very different story. Winemaker Amichai Lurie would be very content to leave the world behind and just produce great wine all day, every day, go home to his family, and go to bed. However, Amichai is truly a victim of his own success. It’s difficult to leave the world when the entire world wants your wine. Last year Amichai and Shiloh Winery, surpassed all expectations of the Israeli wine world by taking Three coveted Gold Medals in The “Eshkol Hazahav” wine competition. Not in just one category, but in all 3 major categories. Shiloh Winery was awarded Gold Medal in Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Shiraz. The best part is, those were not his best wines. His “Mosaic” is a blend of superior quality grapes that are carefully blended to make a superb wine. At this time, he has only made it twice 2006 and 2007.

Not to be one to rest on his laurals, Amichai continues to make fantastic wines. Most recently, the winery released a new wine celled Shiloh “Legend”.  Shiloh is one of the larger ones, of the boutique wineries. But don’t get to excited. Because his wines are great, they are still hard to find.