From the depths of the Dead Sea to the snow capped mountains; from barren desert to fertile valleys; from the Mediterranean beaches to the holy city of Jerusalem, Israel’s remarkably diverse landscape invites exploration. Add to this the mountaintop fortress of Masada and the vibrant port cities of Tel Aviv and Jaffa with their celebrated culinary scenes, and you have an exciting destination for both tourists and locals.
Little known, but evidently thriving is Israel’s wine industry. Stylistically aligned with the New World and slowly garnering a reputation on the international stage for its innovative and quality-focussed approach to winemaking, Israeli viticulture has developed in line with the steady growth in demand for kosher wines.
Israel enjoys a Mediterranean climate with warm, dry summers and cold, wet winters. However microclimates across the country’s wine zones are diverse and plentiful, with some areas being simply too hot to produce reliable grape yields. Of the five recognised regions, Galilee and Judean Hills offer perhaps the most dependable terroirs for quality winemaking, with the cooler climate sub-zone of Golan Heights (Galilee) considered a particularly exciting area. Negev - a desert region in the south of the country, Samson - between Judean Hills and the central plain and the region of Shomron (Samaria) near the Mediterranean coast, make up the quintet.
Bordeaux varieties, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot dominate the red grapes, whilst Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc are the principal whites. Less prevalent but emerging varieties include Syrah, Riesling and Gewürztraminer, with Israel’s new generation of winemakers keen to experiment with grapes previously untried in these terroirs.
Although small in comparison with most wine producing countries, the Israeli industry has grown from strength to strength since its re-emergence as a serious wine nation towards the end of the twentieth century. Plush, intense Cabernets with dark fruit flavour profiles and huge potential to age, well balanced, full bodied Chardonnay varietals, and many other exciting wines, have deservedly caught the attention of critics and consumers across the globe, placing this evidently flourishing industry very much in the spotlight.
In many ways the Negev region is one of the most visually striking wine regions there is. Harsh desert scenery provides a backdrop for a small number of wineries. Located in the south of Israel, not far from the Egyptian border, the poor chalky soils provide an intriguing base for full red wines from varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.
The Samson region is home to Israel’s largest winery - Carmel Winery - whose extensive vineyards extend across the coastal plains just south of Tel Aviv. Summers and winters are moderate and provide excellent viticultural conditions for varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.