Israel is usually regarded as being part of the Middle East. It may be more accurately considered as being situated in the Eastern Mediterranean, a region also referred to as the Near East or ‘The Levant.’
CLIMATE: Mainly Mediterranean. Long, hot dry summers; short wet winters; snow on higher ground. Semi-arid & desert conditions, in the Negev.
SOILS: Volcanic in north; sandy red soils on coast & chalk & limestone on the hills.
HECTARES: 5,500 hectares (13,585 acres; 55,000 dunams).
HARVEST (METRIC TONS): 55,000
VINTAGE: August to end of October – (often begins late July & occasionally ends early November); Machine & hand harvested.
BEST VINTAGES: 2000, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2008, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2016.
Israel’s traditional volume varieties, Carignan & Colombard, apart from some quality old vine Carignans, are usually only used in inexpensive blends. They are gradually being replaced by international varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay & Sauvignon Blanc. Shiraz is proving both popular & suitable for Israel’s climate. Bordeaux varieties have been most successful to date, yet Mediterranean varieties may be more suitable in the longer term. There is research & experimentation with local varieties.
VARIETIES – METRIC TONS %:
Cabernet Sauvignon 19%; Carignan 13%; Merlot 12%; Shiraz/ Syrah 7%; Petit Verdot 6%; Argaman 5%; Colombard 4%; Muscat of Alexandria 4%; Chardonnay 3%; Petite Sirah 3%; Sauvignon Blanc 2%; Emerald Riesling 2%; Cabernet Franc 2%; Malbec 2%; Tempranillo 1%; Gewurztraminer1%, Viognier 1%.
LESS THAN 1%: Pinotage; Muscat Canelli; White Riesling; Pinot Noir; Semillon: Sangiovese; Tempranillo; Barbera; Muscat Hamburg; Chenin Blanc; Zinfandel; Grenache; Nebbiolo.
LOCAL INTEREST: Argaman, Baladi, Dabouki, Marawi / Hamdani, Jandali.
The top 12 wineries account for over 95%. of the wine market.
NO. COMMERCIAL WINERIES: 70
NO. BOUTIQUE WINERIES: 250 +
Wineries – 55% of Israeli wineries are Kosher; 45% Non-kosher.
Wines – 95% of Israeli wines are kosher.
LARGE WINERIES (More than 5 million bottles a year):
1. Barkan – Segal, Hulda
2. Carmel Winery, Zichron Ya'acov, Alon Tavor, Ramat Dalton (Kayoumi), Tel Arad (Yatir)
3. Teperberg Winery, Tzora
4. Golan Heights Winery, Katzrin
MEDIUM SIZED WINERIES (> 1 million bottles a year ):
5. Arza – Hayotzer Winery, Mishor Adumim
6. Zion – 1848 Winery, Mishor Adumim
7. Jerusalem Winery, Atarot
8. Tabor Winery, Kfar Tabor
9. Binyamina Winery, Binyamina
10. Recanati Winery, Emek Hefer
11. Tishbi Winery, Binyamina
12. Dalton Winery, Dalton
Some of the more prominent of the smaller wineries are listed below:
GALILEE & VALLEYS Adir, Jezreel Valley, Lueria, Naaman, Netofa, Ramat Naftaly, Shvo, Stern
GOLAN HEIGHTS Assaf, Bazelet Hagolan, Chateau Golan, Odem Mountain, Ortal, Pelter – Matar
MT CARMEL Amphorae, Bar-Maor, Margalit, Somek, Tulip – Maia, Vortman
SHARON PLAIN Alexander, Benhaim, Lewinsohn, Vitkin
JUDEAN FOOTHILLS Agur, Bravdo, Clos de Gat, Flam, Ella Valley, Mony, Tzora
JUDEAN HILLS Castel, Sea Horse, Tzuba
CENTRAL MOUINTAINS Gush Etzion, Gvaot, Psagot, Shilo, Tura
NEGEV Midbar, Nana, Ramat Negev, Yatir
WINE MARKET IN ISRAEL: US$ 315 million annually
IMPORTS: 20%, mainly from 1. Italy; 2. Chile; 3. Argentina; 4. France; 5. Spain
CONSUMPTION: 5 liters a head
MARKET SHARE: 65% red; 15% white; 8% sparkling; 2% rose;11% sweet (moscato style, dessert & sacramental)
EXPORT OF ISRAELI WINES: $ 50 m (2001: $ 8.01 m.)
% OF TOTAL PRODUCTION: 20%
MAIN IMPORTERS OF ISRAELI WINES
1. U.S.A; 2. France; 3. U.K; 4. Canada; 5. Poland, 6. Germany; 7. Asia
55+ % of exports to North America; 35+ % to Western Europe. Remainder to more than 30 countries in 5 continents.
ISRAELI WINERY RANKINGS
HUGH JOHNSON’S POCKET WINE BOOK
The number of stars given to Israeli wineries, in Hugh Johnson's Pocket Wine Book, are listed below.
THREE TO FOUR STARS:
Clos du Gat, Domaine du Castel, Margalit Winery, Sphera Winery,
ISRAELI WINE SCORES
ROBERT PARKER’S WINE ADVOCATE
The highest scoring wines in Robert Parker's Wine Advocate are listed below.
Clos du Gat Sycra Muscat 2006
Castel Grand Vin 2013
Castel Grand Vin 2014
Castel Grand Vin 2008
Castel Grand Vin 2006
Flam Noble 2010
Margalit Cabernet Sauvignon Sp. Res. 2007
Margalit Enigma 2006
Yarden El Rom Cabernet Sauvignon 2003
Yatir Forest 2003
JANCIS ROBINSON MW PURPLE PAGES
The highest scoring wine by Jancis Robinson MW.
Sphera White Signature 2015
HECTARES OF VINEYARDS BY REGION (%)
· GALILEE 41% – mainly Upper Galilee & Golan Heights
· SAMSON 27% – vineyards in central coastal plain, Judean Lowlands, Judean Foothills
· SHOMRON 17% – southern Mt. Carmel – mainly in valleys around Zichron Ya’acov
· JUDEAN HILLS 10% – Jerusalem mountains, Gush Etzion & Yatir Forest – southern Judean Hills
· NEGEV 5% – mainly Mitzpe Ramon
OFFICIAL WINE REGIONS
Region in Hebrew
Name in English
Wine regions in bold type are registered with the TTB (USA) and the European Community.
There is a great deal of domestic and international wine tourism. Larger wineries are more likely to have visitors’ centers. Smaller wineries are more likely to be open on Shabbat- Saturdays.
The main wine routes are the Upper Galilee & Golan (north), Mount Carmel (northern coast) and the Judean Hills & Foothills regions (center). These days there are also wine routes in the Negev (south) and the Central Mountains too.
THIRD PARTY RECOMMENDATION
“The corner has clearly been turned qualitatively. Israel has a real wine industry that deserves consumer attention. There are attractive wines with typicity and some distinction….Many are classic and charming and the best will impress anyone.” Mark Squires, Wine Advocate
“The…wines are getting better all the time and some of them are superb” Robert Parker, Business Week
“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.” Hugh Johnson, Pocket Wine Book
“Improvements in quality and consistency since the mid 1990’s have been remarkable.” Jancis Robinson MW, World Atlas of Wine
“The country’s entire wine industry has gained global recognition.” Tom Stevenson, Sotheby’s Wine Guide
"Israel is on track to make wines with a distinctive style and taste. Its an amazing turnaround for a nation that has been mostly overlooked in the world wine sweepstakes." Kim Marcus, The Wine Spectator
“Israel’s best Cabernet Sauvignons and Merlots are exceptional” Andrew Jefford, Wine Magazine
Israel has developed a wine industry that will confound preconceptions.” Mark Squires, Wine Advocate
“Israel is a rising star of the wine world” Oz Clarke, Wine
“Israel wine has been transformed in the last 20 years by producers who have imported wine expertise to go with their existing technological and agricultural prowess.” Hugh Johnson, Pocket Wine Book
“In such a climate, tending vineyards and producing wine is an act of courage and of optimism. I have enormous admiration for the majority of Israel’s winemakers…. Surrounded by anger, dogma, devastation, deprivation, mutual suspicion and….politics, they offer the possibility of hope for a better future.” Tim Atkin MW, The Observer/ Off Licence News
“Once, recommendation of Israel wines was mostly of a sentimental nature. That is no longer necessary.” Frank Prial, New York Times
“No-one should avoid wines simply because they have kosher certification. It seems generally irrelevant.”Wine Advocate
Israel Export Institute (Ministry of Trade & Industry.)
Israel Wine & Grapes Board (Ministry of Agriculture);
The Wine Route of Israel, Eliezer Sacks, Adam Montefiore (Cordinata)
Vineland, Ilan Nachum
Rogov’s Ultimate Guide To Israeli Wines, Daniel Rogov (Toby Press)
Wines of Israel, Eliezer Sacks, Adam Montefiore (Cordinata)
Wines of Israel, Israel Export Institute
The Bible of Israeli Wines, Michael Ben-Joseph (Modan)
The Book of New Israeli Food, Janna Gur (Al Ha’Shulchan)
Divine Vintage, Randall Hesketh & Joel Butler MW (Palgrave Macmillan)
Tasting The Past, Kevin Begos (Chapel Hills)
Parker’s Wine Buyer’s Guide No. 7, Robert Parker (Simon & Schuster)
Hugh Johnson’s Pocket Wine Book 2013, Hugh Johnson (Mitchell Beazley)
The Oxford Companion To Wine, Jancis Robinson MW (Oxford)
The Vine & Wine in Archaeology of The Land of Israel, Prof. Amos Hadas (Kronenberg)
Drink & Be Merry, Michal Dayagi-Mendels (The Israel Museum, Jerusalem)
Rogov’s Ultimate Guide To Kosher Wines, Daniel Rogov (Toby Press)
The Kosher Grapevine, Irving Langer (Gefen)
Pingback: The Truth About BDS – Santa Fe Middle East Watch – SFMEW.org
Very good post, “almost” comprehensive. when would 2019 edition be published?
Although challenging, with 300+ boutique wineries, I would expect to see more details on these. At least would recommend to start with those who owns also a vineyard (assuming these will last for long time).