THE WINES OF ISRAEL
An interesting fact is that although Israel has a long history of winemaking, the country does not have its own indigenous grape varieties. Over the centuries grape vines have been imported, planted and wine making in Israel has gone through all sorts of changes and was sometimes frowned upon and halted for hundreds of years! We previously spoke of the reorganization of winemaking in the late nineteenth century in Israel but nothing more important has happened to Israeli wine than in the past 30 years or so.
While researching this blog I learned a couple of interesting things concerning one of the most famous Israeli wine stories of all time. That would be Jesus’ first recorded “miracle” at a wedding of Cana in Galilee. First, he brewed up about 150 gallons of the stuff! Quite the celebration I would say. Second, it apparently was very, very good wine. For, as Jesus and his disciples brought in the filled 6 stone containers and the head steward tasted it, he said “You have chosen to save the better wine for last”. At most weddings they began with the best wine and served lesser quality as time went on.
It is thought that all Israeli wine is Kosher but this is not the case although the majority are. Very high quality Kosher wine is awesome anytime! The health benefits of red wines have become well known throughout the world and about 70% of all wine produced in Israel is red and many produced in Israel are truly superb! Generally, warmer wine regions tend to produce better reds (Chile, Italy, Spain) while colder climates produce better whites (Germany, northern France). Israel has worked very hard to produce a superior white wine and their Sauvignon Blanc is winning awards. To be honest, the ever popular Chardonnay … “not so much”. Some of the smaller wineries in Israel don’t even attempt to produce any type of white much less a Chardonnay but it is a well known fact that Sauvignon Blanc pairs better with food. There have been some Riesling grapes developed in California that are now doing well in Israel and the results are quite good. Suffice to say that the white wine production in Israel is a work in progress, so it is just a matter of time.
Personally, my favorite color has always been red! Israeli Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah are now considered “World Class” and typical to Israeli ingenuity, the problems have not always been in the production of the wines but the actual growing of the grapes. A new form of “drip-irrigation” was invented and used to make it possible.
The Israeli wine industry is tiny compared to France, Italy, Spain and the United States but the market is growing steadily driven by demand for good Kosher wines in export markets, the ever-changing gourmet arena and the Israeli public developing a taste for fine wines and award-winning Israeli wines favored by internationally recognized wine connoisseurs at prestigious wine contests.
For a country whose wine production has really only been of late in the last century and up to the present, Israeli wines are amazing! One must always keep in mind that wine is a natural product governed by nature and its whims. One year will not be exactly like the next and that’s what makes wine so exciting! One year’s “Nicely balanced with soft tannins and a long finish” becomes this year’s “Fairly one dimensional and somewhat disjointed”. Wine, like people are individual with very different personalities! L’Chaim!!