The majority of the world thinks about places like Italy and France when they think about wine. Israel is one of those places that you are probably not thinking about when you are trying to determine if a wine is going to be a good choice or not. Today, there is a multitude of different types of wines that come from various regions of Israel. These wines will surprise you as they are winning over wine critics from around the globe. Anyone who has ever read The Bible knows that wine has been produced for centuries. It is likely the longest produced item in the entire world and those who live in Israel have been producing for this long.
The History of Wine Production in Israel
According to the Old Testament Noah actually planted the first grape vines after the Great Flood had destroyed the Earth. Archaeologists have confirmed that grapes have been in the region for a very long time. Throughout the book, there are accounts of people consuming wine. Some of these include Jesus, Micah, Moses, and King David. These men all drank wine in ceremonial uses and for enjoyment with their dinners. Archeologists have found ancient equipment that was used in the winemaking process throughout Israel. Some of the locations have included the Negev Desert and Golan Heights. After the wine was being produced there, it quickly spread throughout the Mediterranean and the Middle East. One document that was discovered and is dated back to around 1800 B.C.E. states “…blessed with figs and vineyards producing wine in greater quantity than water.” It is important to note that the wine from this time period is not the same as the wine that we drink today. The same processes were not used and the wine would have been harsh and hard to consume on its own. For this reason, winemakers often added honey, botanicals, and other additives to make it easier to drink. One of the styles that become most popular in wine production was one that was very sweet. This wine became one of the first and most popular exports during the time of the Romans. It was so thick and sticky that people did not know if they were supposed to eat it, drink it, or use it as a building material.
In 600 B.C.E. when the Arabs conquered Israel wine production stopped because the Muslim laws prevented alcohol from being consumed. Some Jews who remained did continue to produce small amounts of wine to be used in religious ceremonies, but there was no wine for enjoyment or to be drinking during dinner. It would be more that one thousand two hundred years before wine would be produced on a regular basis in the region. During the late 1800s, wine started being produced again on a frequent basis. This is a time period that is called The Return to Zion, because of the fact that the Jewish people were now relocating back to Palestine. However, the region still was not known for the wine that was being produced there and it was not considered a commodity or something that would have been traded.
The true revival of wine production happened in the 1870s because of Baron Edmond de Rothschild. This was a very sweet wine that was hard for those who had been drinking other styles of wine to drink. Benjamin Disraeli, the British Prime Minister, described the wine of the time as “…not so much like wine, but more like what I would expect to receive from my doctor as a remedy for a bad winter cough.” Yes, the wine of the time would today be compared to our cough syrup and not to the wine that we enjoy with our dinner.
It was not until Israel became a state in 1948 that winemaking changed. Immigrants who moved into Israel brought their own processes of winemaking with them and this changed how it was produced, giving an ending result of wine that is similar to what is produced around the globe. The United States was actually a vital part of helping to increase production and make better wines in Israel. During the 1960s people in Israel actually consulted with viticulturalists at the University of California — Davis to learn what they needed to do to optimize planting and maximize their production. They also helped the people living in Israel to find the right variety of grapes for their climate. Many wine producers moved their production sites to the mountains. This helped the grapes to have a better ripening time thanks to the cooler temperatures. This also helped the producers to have access to more water. They were able to find flatlands where they could have a moderate climate and irrigation systems. While you can still find some very sweet and thick wines from Israel and there are still people who want this style of wine, today there are a wide range of wines that are produced in Israel.
Kosher Wines — Understanding What it Means for Wines to Be Kosher
It is important to note that not all wines that are produced in Israel are kosher. Some have wrongly assumed that any wine produced in the region would be kosher, but this is not the truth. The definition of kosher is that it is prepared by Jewish people in a facility that is used only for the production of Kosher products. The preparation of the wine that happens in every single stage from the time that the grapes are grown on the vine until it is bottled is handled by Jewish people who observe the Sabbath. There are no artificial additives or animal products that have been used or come into contact with the wine. Some kosher producers even go as far as to ensure that wine is mevushal. This means that the wine has been pasteurized to ensure that even if someone was not a believer who might have been a part of the production. This would again ensure that the wine is Kosher. If the wine is Kosher or has been through mevushal, there will be a label on the bottle. Without this label, you should assume that it is not Kosher.
A – Z Guide to Israeli Wine
Alicante — Alicante is a type of red wine. Alicante wine is something that is called Alicante Bouschet or Alicante Henri Bouschet more commonly. This wine has been cultivated since 1866 and while not a common wine, it is one wine that is commonly found in the Israeli wine market. The grapes are actually produced from a cross between Grenache and Petit Bouschet.
Barbera — Barbera grapes are not typically grown in this area. Barbera is typically an international type and is not native to the region. These grapes are typically found in Italian red wines. They are actually a very common grape in Italy and are becoming more common in Israel. They are known for being a darker color grape and for having low tannins and higher levels of acid.
Barkan — Barkan is a major producer of wine in Israel. They are located within the Judean Hills region of Galilee.
Binyamina — Binyamina is a producer of wine in Israel. They are located in the Upper Galilee region.
Cabernet Franc — Cabernet Franc is a type of red wine. Cabernet Franc is one of the best black grapes in the entire world. It is a great wine and can pair well with blends that include Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. The Bordeaux style is one of the more popular choices as well.
Cabernet Sauvignon — Cabernet Sauvignon is a type of red wine. Cabernet Sauvignon is one of the grapes that has tougher skin and is known for being extra durable. The grape has been used to make wines for a very long time. It is one of the most popular styles of red wine in the entire world and is something that you can find a great glass of when you are experimenting with Israeli wine.
Carignan — Carignan is a type of red wine. The Carignan is one of the grapes that are native to Spain. However, it is very commonly found in the wines that come from all over the world. The grapes are from throughout the Mediterranean and throughout various regions of the world.
Carmel — Carmel is a wine producer in Israel. They are located within the Shomron region.
Chardonnay — Chardonnay is a type of white wine. The Chardonnay is a green-skinned grape that is used in the production of white wine. It is a variety of wine that was first introduced in Burgundy. Today these grapes are grown throughout the world and are one of the main wine grapes seen anywhere. Chardonnay is actually considered to be the most popular type of wine in the entire world and the Chardonnay that comes from Israel is rising in popularity.
Chenin Blanc — Chenin Blanc is a type of white wine. This is a white wine grape that originated in the Loire Valley of France. It has a high level of acidity. This means that it works well with a wide variety of different wines and that you can make sparkling wines as well as regular wines. It is a very natural type of wine.
Climate — The best climate for growing grapes is cooler and wetter which is why the area in the mountains is one of the best areas for grape production and growth.
Domaine du Castel — Domaine du Castel is a wine producer in Israel. They are located in the Judean Hills region.
Galilee — Galilee is the most prestigious region in Israel and it includes both Upper Galilee and Lower Galilee along with the Golan Heights area which has higher elevation. This area is known for offering a mesh of Old World or ancient surroundings with New World techniques that are state of the art.
Gamay — Gamay is a type of wine that does not naturally come from Israel. Today producers are experimenting with new wine production methods and this is one of the ones that they are attempting. This wine comes from a purple colored grape that is used to make a wide range of different wines. This type of wine has been around since the 15th century.
Galil Mountain — Galil Mountain is one of Israel’s most popular wine producers. They are located in the Galilee region.
Golan Heights Winery — Golan Heights Winery is one of the largest producers of wine in Israel. They are in the Galilee region.
Grenache — Grenache is a type of red wine. This is one of the widest planted grape varieties in the entire world. It is a grape that is known for being able to ripen late. It grows best in a climate that is hot and dry which is why it grows so well in Israel. It is not like most grapes which need more water and irrigation if the climate is dry. This grape grows naturally with less water.
Malbec — Malbec is a style of wine that is not native to Israel. This type of wine is one that is now being produced in the area. Malbec is one of the most popular styles of red wine. However, it is also a grape. Malbec grapes are purple in color and have a really dark, almost inky color. These grapes feature robust tannins and are found in the western regions of France and throughout other areas like Israel.
Merlot — Merlot is a type of red wine. Merlot grapes are a dark purple with a blueish color. It is used in two different ways, both as a blending grape and as a varietal grape. Merlot is one of the most diminutive types of wine. The style of wine is likely named for the rich dark red color of the wine.
Mourvedre — Mourvedre is a type of red wine. Mourvedre is a type of grape that is red and from there comes this rich dark red wine. This is a type of grape that is found throughout the world and is very popular. It is quickly rising in popularity to a new favourite around the world. The Israeli blends are great and are a wine that you will quickly fall in love with.
Muscat — Muscat is a type of white wine. The Muscat family of grapes actually includes more than two hundred different varieties of grapes. These are one of the best grapes in the world for white wine. The colors of these grapes can be yellow, near black, and pink. There are so many shades and hues to be seen.
Nebbiolo — Nebbiolo is a type grape that is not native to Israel. This type of grape is one that is being brought into the region to help produce different types of wine. Nebbiolo is a type of wine that is typically associated with red wine. It is native to the Piedmont region. It is one of those wines that are now being produced in Israel and gaining popularity.
Petit Verdot — Petit Verdot is not a type of grape that is naturally grown in Israel, however, today wine producers are growing these grapes to get different unique styles of wine. This is a variety of red wine grape that is used in classic Bordeaux blends. It is a grape that ripens later than other grapes. As the grape ripens it will have additional tannin, flavors, and colors which are added in the blends where this ripe is used.
Pinot Noir — Pinot Noir is a type of red wine. Pinot Noir is made from the pinot noir grape which is part of the Vitis vinifera species of grapes. These grapes are some of the most sought after grapes for wine production in the entire world. The wine is derived from French words that mean black and pine which helps to explain the flavors that you get when you are drinking this red wine.
Recanati — Recanati is a wine producer in Israel. They are located within the Galilee region. They produce between nine hundred thousand and one million bottles of wine each year.
Samson Region — The Samson Region is home to the up and coming popular Judean Hills growing area. The conditions that are present in this region are the same as those present in Galilee. They offer a range of high-quality soils. The area has humid air, cooler winters, and warmer summers. The grapes that are grown here are very similar in taste and style to those that are grown in Galilee.
Sauvignon Blanc — Sauvignon Blanc is a type of white wine. The grapes that produce Sauvignon Blanc are known by the same name. They are a green-skinned grape that has originated in the Bordeaux region of France. The grape gets its name from French words sauvage and blanc. They are typically a dry but sweet wine.
Segal — Segal is one of the largest producers of wine in the region. They are located within the Galil region of Israel.
Semillon — Semillon is a type of white wine. Semillon is a grape that is golden skinned. This wine is a dry and sweet white wine and is most notably produced in Australia and France. It is a grape that has a thin skin and is susceptible to botrytis which makes it sweeter for the wines that are produced.
Shiloh Winery — Shiloh Winery is one of the producers of wine in Israel. It is known for its kosher wines and is produced in the Judean Hills region.
Shiraz — Shiraz can also be known as Syrah. This is a wine that comes from a dark-skinned grape. It is a variety that is grown throughout the entire world. They are used primarily in the production of red wines. These grapes have been growing in popularity in the last 20 years.
Shomron — Shomron or the Samaria Region is the area of Israel where Old World wine styles were developed. This is the coastal plains area of the country that is located below the city of Haifa. This is where Baron de Rothschild Carmel winery was first established. Today the region is producing more New World styles of wine with the commercial success that they are seeing with these styles. However, most of the wines that are produced are not expensive and are more value styles.
Soil Types — One of the things that make Israel’s wines unique is that they are often influenced by a variety of different soil types. Depending on location, one of these soil types or a mixture of two or more might be present: free draining gravel, limestone, volcanic ash, or clay.
Southern Negev Region — The Southern Negev Region is one of the hottest regions in the entire world. It is mostly a desert landscape. This is one of the places where wine was actually invented and wine was being produced here six thousand years ago. Today there is some viticulture that takes place in this region. However, this is only done at the higher altitudes where it is cooler in temperature. It is in the hills where the soil is able to retain moisture, but this region still often requires that you bring in outside irrigation.
Syrah — Syrah is a type of red wine. Syrah wine is often known by another name called Shiraz. Please look at Shiraz to learn more details about this time.
Tempranillo — Tempranillo grapes are another grape that is not native to Israel. These grapes are now being produced in the country. Tempranillo grapes are black and some of the darkest grapes that you can find. These are a great grape that is able to produce delicious full-bodied wine. The grapes originated in Spain, but are becoming more popular throughout the entire world.
Viognier — Viognier is traditionally an international grape and not one that grows naturally in the area. Wine producers are branching out and trying new grapes like Viognier in the area. This is a high-quality white wine grape variety. They are one of the only grapes that have been found throughout the world naturally. These grapes make a delicious rich full-bodied French wine.
Yarden — Yarden is one of the largest producers of wine in Israel. They are located within Galilee.
Zion Fine Wines — Zion Fine Wines is one of the producers of wine. They are located in Galilee.
Wines From Israel to Consider
This is a quick look at some of our favorite wines from Israel. These wines have unique components and are a perfect example of the vast variety and many styles of wines that are produced in Israel.
Binyamina 2007 Reserve Kosher Shiraz, $25
This wine comes from the Upper Galilee region of Israel. One of the things that you will first note when you are drinking this wine is the delicious scent that you gather when the wine is opened. It has a very high wine score of 90 points. It has notes of cigar tobacco, black tea, and has been tanned through the ripe fruit aromas that are not common everywhere in the world. This wine has a delicious black raspberry and cherry flesh that offer a delicious taste on the palette. It has a hint of smoked meat that you get at the end of the drink. It is a delicious kosher wine that is perfect for those who have to stay on a kosher diet.
Carmel 2007 Mediterranean Kosher Red, $60
This wine comes from the Shomron region of Israel. This is another wine that scores 90 points. It is made up of a blend of Carignan, Shiraz, Petit Verdot, Petite Sirah, and Viognier. It has a unique character and a lot of complexity. It is a delicious wine that features notes of cherry, black plum, currant fruit, sandalwood, licorice root, and cigar spice. It has gripping tannins and offers a well-balanced acidity that allows for a nice long finish. It is another choice that is kosher.
Domaine du Castel 2006 Grand Vin Kosher Red, $75
This wine comes from the Judean Hills region of Israel. It is a kosher choice so it fits into the kosher diets that many people have. It is rated as one of the best wine vintages to drink in 2019. It is a delicious top-selling wine and is among the top vintages in the entire world and it comes from Israel.
Recanati 2006 Special Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon – Merlot, $48
This wine comes from the Galilee region of Israel. The Recanati 2006 Special Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon – Merlot is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot wines. It is one of the best choices for a wine that is going to be great for everyone. It is a top quality wine that is enjoyable and will be perfect for pairings and tastings.
Yarden 2008 Heights Wine Kosher Gewurztraminer, $23
This wine comes from the Galilee region of Israel. This wine comes from Golan Heights Winery as the producer for the Yarden Heights line of wines. It is a rich wine that is alluring and has a delightful sensation of different flavors for the palet. There are hints of ripe stone fruit, chestnut honey, and baked apple. This wine has a full body flavor and offers an acidity that is crisp and smooth. It offers a nice long finish that is clean.
Barkan 2006 Reserve Kosher Pinotage, $25
This wine comes from the Judean Hills region of Israel. This wine is an interesting and unique delicious type of wine. It scored 88 points. It is a great wine that is most commonly produced in South Africa, but this variety from Israel is one of the best in the entire world. This type of wine is kosher. It has menthol notes that dominate the bouquet. It has background notes of dark purple florals and dark fruits along with coffee, berry, and anise. It features a dark and velvety texture that is delicious and lingers longer.
Segal’s 2006 Dovev Single Vineyard Kosher Argaman, $36
This wine comes from the Galil region of Israel. This is one of the most interesting and unique red wines that you can find anywhere in the world. It features an interesting velvet texture and a ripe flavor that is unique for a Merlot. This is a concentrated flavor with fruit aromas and fleshy black plum and cherry flavors that are going to have a unique savory herb. You will have a full mouth of structured medium tannins along with a pepper-infused jam that stays on the tongue long after you have swallowed.
Shiloh Winery 2006 Kosher Merlot – Shiraz, $30
This wine comes from the Judean Hills region of Israel. This wine has a lot of rich flavors that is unlike anything else that you will find anywhere in the world. It features the robustness of foliage. It also has the deep dark flavour of cocoa along with the flavors of dark cherry and plum that come from this blend of both Merlot and Shiraz. It is a delicious medium-bodied wine that features notes of a cigar box, milk chocolate, spice, and allows the drinker to have a delicious combination.
Yarden 2006 Katzrin Kosher Chardonnay, $26
This wine comes from the Galilee region of Israel. Yarden is a line of wines that are produced by Golan Heights Winery. This Chardonnay is a rich full-bodied wine. It has a lovely aroma of toasty flavours and offers the delicious subtleness of baked red apples, beeswax, and almond milk. There are many flavours that will unfold on your pallet. They have a delicious sweet orange and citrus core and finish with a delicious nutty and spicy sweetness that is unlike what you get with most Chardonnays.
With so many delicious wines, it is no wonder that the world is falling in love with wines from Israel. There is a wide range of different types of wine that you are sure to enjoy when you get the chance. If you are looking for a unique wine experience, you must check out the wonders of Israeli wines.