Israel Wine Industry

03/10/2008
Israel is a country the size of New Jersey or Wales. To put everything in perspective, it must be understood that Israel has a miniscule wine industry compared with most wine countries. more »

Israel Wine Industry

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Israel is a country the size of New Jersey or Wales. To put everything in perspective, it must be understood that Israel has a miniscule wine industry compared with most wine countries. The San Bernake vineyard in Monterey, California and Gallo?s ?boutique? winery, Gallo of Sonoma, each produce more wine than the whole of Israel put together. There are approximately thirty five countries producing more wine than Israel on an annual basis.
However Israel has a very dynamic, quality driven wine industry.

Vineyards
There are 40,000 dunams (4,000 hectares/ 9,880 acres) of Israeli wine vineyards spread across five registered wine regions: Galilee, Shomron, Samson, Judean Hills and the Negev. The country?s most traditional vineyard area is in the Shomron region around the winery town of Zichron Ya?acov. The fastest growing regions are the Galilee, in particularly the Upper Galilee and Golan Heights, and the Samson region, mainly in the Judean Foothills.
The bulk of the vintage takes place in August to October. However it usually begins in late July and can go on until the beginning of November. Most of the harvesting is mechanical, but some traditionalists or older vineyards are harvested by hand.
The harvest in metric tonnes for the last five years was:
2007: 42,156
2006: 45,175
2005: 45,483
2004: 53,468
2003: 45,242

Production
In total, Israel produces about 42 million bottles of wine and grape juice. Out of this, about 35 million bottles of wine are produced, of which just over 10% are sacramental wines. These are the sweet, usually red, wines that have gave kosher wines such a bad name. Not included in these figures are about 7 million bottles of natural grape juice. Israel used to be a big producer of brandy, but this has declined as tastes have changed.
The wines include the full spectrum of wine styles including table wines, sparkling wines, dessert wines and fortified wines.
Today, 75% of the consumption within Israel is for red wines, 25% for white wines and less than 5% for sparkling and rose wines.

Wineries
There are over 200 wineries in Israel, many of them small domestic based garagistes. However there are 30 wineries harvesting more than 50 metric tonnes a year.
There are five large wineries harvesting more than 2,000 tonnes a year. They are:
1. Carmel Winery , 2. Barkan, 3. Golan Heights Winery, 4. Teperberg 1870, 5. Binyamina Wine Cellars. These five wineries account for over 80% of the wine harvest in Israel.
The big three ? Carmel, Barkan and Golan Heights ? have a powerful position controlling between 65% to 70% of the local market and Israeli exports. Their brands are the most visible. They are:
Carmel ? Limited Edition, Single Vineyard, Appellation, Private Collection, Selected
Barkan ? Superior, Altitude, Reserve, Classic, Domaine and Segal (which is marketed separately)
Golan Heights ? Katzrin, Yarden, Gamla, Golan
There are further five wineries harvesting more than 500 tonnes are year:
6. Tishbi Winery, 7. Galil Mountain, 8. Dalton Winery, 9. Tabor Winery and 10. Recanati Winery. These top ten wineries, in terms of size, account for 90% of the grapes at harvest.
Other wineries harvesting over 100 tonnes a year are: Arza, Hacormim, Zion, Hebron Heights, Yatir, Ella Valley, Domaine du Castel and Flam. Arza, Hacormim and Zion are the so called ?Jerusalem?wineries, which traditionally cater for the ultra orthodox Jewish market, including larger than normal quantities of grape juice and Kiddush wine.
As far as ownership is concerned, of the larger wineries: Carmel is owned by S.C.V. des Grandes Caves, whilst Golan Heights Winery is a partnership between the winery and Golan Vineyards Inc. Both are types of co-operative.
Owners from the drinks or food & beverage industry are also investors in Israeli wine. Barkan is owned by Tempo Beer Industries, Israel?s largest brewery. Tabor is owned by Coca Cola Israel, Israel?s largest drinks company. Binyamina is owned by a supermarket chain.
In terms of the wealthy banking & industrial families, Recanati is owned by the Recanati family and Ella Valley is said to be owned by the Safra family.
Teperberg, Tishbi, Dalton, Castel and Flam are family owned wineries. Arza, Hacormim, and Zion are owned by members of the Shor family.
The largest three wineries also own other wineries or brands. Yatir Winery is owned by Carmel (100%), Galil Mountain by Golan Heights (66%) and the Segal brand is owned by Barkan
The top wineries in terms of quality may be endlessly discussed. However there is a near consensus between Rogov?s Wine Guide, Hugh Johnson?s Pocket Wine Book and Tom Stevenson?s Wine Report, each of which ranks Israeli wineries. The following wineries, shown here in alphabetical order, tend to be part of the ?top ten?: Carmel, Castel, Chateau Golan, Clos de Gat, Flam, Galil Mountain, Golan Heights, Margalit, Yatir.
As far as brands are concerned, the largest selling wine is Yarden Mount Hermon Red. The largest selling brand is Carmel Selected.

Kosher
Of the top 20 wineries in size, only Flam is producing non kosher wine. All the rest produce wine that is certified kosher. However though this affects image in certain quarters, it does not affect quality. In the Wine Advocate?s first generic tasting of Israeli wine, the top six rated wines just happened to be kosher. The kosher certificate does not have any significance with regard to quality. What are commonly regarded Israel?s three best wineries: Castel, Golan Heights and Yatir ? all produce exlusively kosher wine.
There are a number of wineries producing quality wines, which are not kosher. The best of these are arguably: Chateau Golan, Clos de Gat, Flam, Margalit, and Tulip. Also most of the small boutique wineries in Israel produce wine that is not kosher.

Exports
Exports of Israeli wines have been steadily rising, particularly in the United States. In 2007 exports were US$ 21 million, whereas in 2001 exports only amounted to US$ 8 million. Over 55% of Israeli wines are exported to North America and about 35% of Israeli wines go to Eastern Europe. The remainder go to Eastern & Central Europe and the Far East.
The top five importers of Israeli wines are: 1. USA, 2. France, 3. UK, 4. Germany and 5. Canada. In America, the dominant market is the East Coast, particularly New York.
Approximately 95% of Israeli exports has been from the following wineries: Carmel, Golan Heights, Barkan, Teperberg, Dalton, Binyamina, Tishbi, Galil Mountain, Castel and Recanati. However more and more Israeli wineries are exporting each year.

Offical & Governmental Organisation
The advances in Israeli wine are mainly because of the pursuit of excellence , ambitions, and investments of the many individual wineries that have broken through in quality terms. It is not because of any of the official bodies. They do not have the authority or budgets lead the drive made by the wineries themselves.However there are moves to rewrite the Wine Standards for Israel and to reorganize the wine regions. These changes are long overdue and eagerly awaited. The three governmental bodies dealing with Israeli wine are:

The Israel Wine & Grapes Board
Founded in 1962, the Israel Wine & Grapes Board is affiliated with the Ministry of Agriculture. Directors of the Board comprise representatives of wine growers 50%, wineries 25% and appointed officials from the Ministries of Industry and Trade, Finance and Agriculture 25%. The Board is responsible for representing the growers and it oversees research and planting of new varieties. Their responsibility includes table wines, sacramental wines, grape juice and brandy. The Board is situated on Carlebach Street in Tel Aviv.

?Israel Wine Institute
The Israel Wine Institute was established in 1957 by the four main wineries of that time. It is affiliated with the Ministry of Trade and Industry. Its main role includes research and quality control. All imported and exported wines and alcoholic drinks have to be approved by them. They are situated in Rehovot.

The Israel Export Institute
The Export Institute, part of the Ministry of Trade and Industry, was created to advance Israel exports. Their Food & Beverage Division is also responsible for wine. They organize Israel stands at exhibitions like Vinexpo in Bordeaux and occasional generic tastings abroad. They also host visits to Israel by wine journalists and wine buyers, particularly during Israwinepo, Israel?s main wine exhibition. Any wine related queries from overseas, should be directed to them. The main contact is:
Ms. Michal Neeman, Food & Beverage Executive,
The Israel Export Institute, 29 Hammered St, Tel Aviv 68125, Israel.
Tel. + 972 3 514 2859; Fax +972 3 514 2881;
E-mail: michal@export.gov.il;
www.export.gov.il

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