A region that gets plenty of publicity but isn’t often recognized for their wine is the Middle East. Comprising of the nations in Western Asia that surround the Eastern part of the Mediterranean, plus Egypt in Africa, and Turkey in Europe, the Middle East is commonly known for political strife and conflict. We’re here to bring a little more awareness to some of the most beautiful countries in the world through our next four articles on the wines of Israel, Egypt, Jordan, and Lebanon.
Although Israel wasn’t a recognized state until 1967, the first winery in the geographical area was started in the mid-1800s. Viticulture, and larger scale wine production, took off in the late 19th century when the owner of the Bordeaux winery, Chateau Lafite-Rothschild, began importing his French grapevines, soon establishing the Carmel Winery which is still the largest producer of Israel wine.
For being such a small country, Israel has a wide span of climates from North to South, and East to West. In the South, the temperatures are high and the air is dry, whereas the North gets plenty of rainfall and even snow in the winters. There are five distinct wine regions in this 8,000 square mile nation: Galil, Judean Hills (the area around Jerusalem), Shimshon, the Negev, and the Sharon Plain.
The most notable among these are the Galil and Negev regions, mostly because of their remarkable climates. In the North, which is home to the Galil region, there is the Sea of Galilee and the Golan Heights, which are so high into the mountains, that in the winter they are covered by snow. The high altitude and volcanic soils create a nutritious and viable home for their 40 miles of grapevines to produce 20 different wine varietals.
On the complete opposite of the climatic and geographical end of the spectrum is the Negev desert in the South of Israel. The Negev technically covers half of the state of Israel and is quite hot and dry, however recent drip irrigation technology has allowed it to be a flourishing region for grapes as well as other produce.
Although many people associate Israeli wine only with the cloyingly sweet, Kosher wines like Manischewitz, this little nation-that-could is producing bottles that are beautifully created and can stand their own among the world’s best wines. Because of the climatic obstacles, many wineries around Israel have turned to scientific innovation to produce their beloved wines, and that has resulted in some incredible winemaking.
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