Historically, the Middle East and Eastern Mediterranean are known as the cradle of wine production. The ancient land of Canaan is in fact one of the first areas where the vine was grown, almost 2000 years before it arrived in Europe. Recent excavations prove the early history of wine in Israel due to the many wine presses found from the Golan to the Negev. Inscriptions and labels on the wine jars illustrate that wine was good for trade.
Certainly the long and turbulent history of the people of Israel and their land may have later slowed down wine production in this area. It was only in the 1960’s that the wine industry redeveloped thanks to a strong demand for kosher wines throughout the world, particularly from the USA.
In the 1990s, wine producers and international consultants showed greater interest in wines from Israel. This attention resulted in the introduction of new technologies and machinery, a more quality-conscious attitude of winemakers and an adaptation of the market to commercial trends increased red wines production from 30 to 60% of the total overall production.
But that was only the beginning. Today, there are more than 200 wineries in Israel producing exceptional wines. The approach to Israeli wine making is stylistically quite New World. International varieties are the most widespread with the best reds made from Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah.
Experts agree that the ideal conditions for growing grapes are found in two geographic strips in the world – between 30-50 degrees in the south and north of the equator.
Israel offers prime real estate for wine production as it is located in the northern strip. Further, different microclimates make it ideal for creating superior grapes and wine. While the northern regions have abundant rain and sometimes even snow, just a few hours away the southern regions are very arid and desert. These climatic differences allow for the successful cultivation of different grapes.
Galilee is definitely one of the best areas and home to some of the best wineries throughout Israel. It is located in the north of the country where temperature variations between day and night, and rightly drained soils are particular suitable to the vine. Within the region the cooler area of the Golan Heights is one of most promising growing regions.
The Negev is a semi-arid area that considered a real conquest of will and technology. It is divided into two sub-zones: Ramat Arad and Southern Negev. The first is certainly the most promising with vineyards located about 550 meters above sea level and favorable climatic conditions.
Shimshon consists of a coastal plain and rolling hills all well influenced by the Mediterranean Sea. Here important wineries are located although often most of them tend to acquire grapes from other wine regions.
The Sharon Plain (including Binyamina the largest wine area of the country) is a hilly area with good production of Israeli wines.
The Jerusalem Mountains wine region has been always known for its production of sweet wines for religious celebrations; however, vineyards have recently focused on replanting new vines with grape varieties more suitable to its territory. These plantings are providing excellent regional results.