Israeli Wines

Israeli Wines 

Israeli wine is produced by hundreds of wineries, ranging in size from small boutique enterprises to large companies producing over ten million bottles per year. Wine has been produced in the Land of Israel since biblical times. In 2011, Israeli wine exports totaled over $26.7 million.[1]

The modern Israeli wine industry was founded by Baron Edmond James de Rothschild, owner of the Bordeaux estate Château Lafite-Rothschild. Today, Israeli winemaking takes place in five vine-growing regions: Galil (Galilee, including the Golan Heights), the region most suited for viticulture due to its high elevation, cool breezes, marked day and night temperature changes and rich, well-drained soils; the Judean Hills, surrounding the city of Jerusalem; Shimshon (Samson), located between the Judean Hills and the Coastal Plain; the Negev, a semi-arid desert region, where drip irrigation has made grape growing possible; and the Sharon plain near the Mediterranean coast and just south of Haifa, surrounding the towns of Zichron Ya’akov and Binyamina, which is the largest grape growing area in Israel.[2] Several of these terms for Israeli wine-growing regions, such as the Judean Hills, the Golan Heights and the Shimshon, actually refer to areas that are largely Israeli-occupied territories.[3] The definition of wines produced in the latter as Israeli is a subject of legal contention abroad

After many years where in Israel the wine industry was almost non-existent, the past twenty years herald a change in path. In the late eighties there were only a couple of wineries in Israel, making mostly boiled wines for sacramental use. That is part of the reason why wines from Israel are mistakenly considered to be boiled wines and Israel is not yet considered and recognized to be a wine region as many other countries are. Over the last twenty years, the Israeli wine industry has grown tremendously and today there are around 300 wineries of different sizes in all areas of Israel.[2][10]

Israeli wine is produced in five regions: Galilee (which includes the sub-regions of the Golan Heights, Upper Galilee and Lower Galilee); the Judean Hills, surrounding the city of Jerusalem; the Samson region, located between the Judean Hills and the Coastal Plain; the Negev desert region; and the Shomron region, which includes the Sharon plain located near the Mediterranean coast and just south of Haifa. As of 2012, Israel has 50,000 dunams of vineyards.[11] More than 80% of the vineyards planted in Israel are located in the Shomron, Samson and Galilee regions.[4]

The Golan contains some of the highest elevated vineyards in Israeli-controlled territory, with vineyard planted upwards of 4,000 feet (1,200 metres) from the Sea of Galilee towards Mount Hermon.[9] There are seven Israeli wineries in the Golan Heights that cultivate a total of 1,600 acres (647 ha). These include four boutiques, and Château Golan, Bazelet Hagolan, and the Golan Heights Winery whose Yarden, Gamla, and Golan labels enjoy international renown.[12]

To be considered kosher, a wine may only be handled by observant Jews from the time the grapes are crushed. If, however, the wine is boiled or pasteurized, it may subsequently be handled by anyone without losing its kosher status.[26] Additionally, kosher wine cannot contain any non-kosher ingredients or fining agents such as isinglass, gelatin or casein.[27] Although not all Israeli wine is kosher, virtually all of the large producers in Israel have kosher certification.

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