Israel has one of the longest and most extensive wine histories of any country in the world, with winemaking and trade dating all the way back to Egyptian and Roman times.
Today, winemakers work hard to battle the harsh elements to ensure the wines of Israel are of high quality.
There are five officially designated areas for wine production in the country, and the majority of wine grapes grown in Israel today are famous and internationally recognizable.
A Guide to The Wines of Israel
Wine Regions of Israel
While many new wine-growing regions have emerged in Israel over the past few decades, there are five official designations in the area, which are called “Geographic Indications”.
Galilee is the most famous and important of the five wine regions, and some are much smaller than others.
The Galilee region of Israel is one of the most famous places in the entire world, as many biblical stories take place in the area.
Today the region is home to some of the highest quality vineyards in the entire country, and Galilee is renowned for making wines of the highest quality.
The entire country of Israel experiences a very harsh warm climate year-round, and the Galilee region is strategically placed to counter the environmental factors. The best vineyards in the region are planted in higher elevation areas in the area’s mountains.
There are three large wineries that grow a significant amount of their wine grapes in the Galilee area.
Carmel, Barkan, and Golan Heights are all large-scale operations that grow and harvest everything from Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay to Carignan and Semillon.
Golan Heights Winery Yarden Cabernet Sauvignon is a powerhouse bottle of wine that combines one of the largest wine producers in all of Israel with the most popular wine grape in the entire world.
While the Judean Hills may not currently be a powerhouse when it comes to Israeli wine production, the area is well suited for growth in the coming decades.
This mountain range has a mild elevation, helping to moderate the extreme temperatures.
One of the most famous wine producers in all of Israel is located in the Judean Hills region. Domaine du Castle is one of the most prominent and well-known wineries in the entire country, and it has become famous for its production of classic French red wine grapes.
Domaine du Castel Grand Vin is a Bordeaux Blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot grapes that is extremely popular both domestically and on the international wine market. This bold red wine has gained popularity for its refined taste and superior age-ability.
Negev is one of the hottest wine-producing regions in the entire world and experiences very little rainfall.
Wine production would be impossible in this region without intricate irrigation systems that must be carefully placed and maintained.
Pinot Noir is the most prominent wine grape in the region of Negev, and the wine grapes of the highest quality in the region are produced in the areas of the highest elevations.
This is not one of the larger wine regions in Israel, accounting for only about five percent of the country’s wine.
Barkan Vineyards Classic Pinot Noir is a very popular and affordable example of high-quality wine from the Vegev region of Israel. This bottle showcases some of the best qualities of Pinot Noir from this up-and-coming wine region.
Samson is an Israeli wine region with two primary sub-regions that are responsible for the vast majority of its production today.
The region covers areas of the Judean Foothills, as well as the Central Coastal Plain, which is a flat wine-growing area with a harsh warm climate.
There is no one dominant Grape varietal in the Samson region, and everything from red and white still wines to sparkling offerings is produced here. The majority of both red and white wines are carefully balanced blends of internationally recognizable wine grapes.
Mony Vineyard ‘Via Mony’s Masterpiece’ is a red blend that is one of the most searched for and sought-out bottles of wine in all of Israel.
The bold and strong flavors of this blend make it a great “steakhouse wine” that is well suited to the American palate.
The Shomron wine region is home to the single most historic and famous wine producer in all of Israel.
Carmel Winery has been in operation for over 140 years and is owned by the same family that runs some of the most famous chateaus in all of France.
Cabernet Sauvignon is the most popular wine grape in the region, along with other popular French grape varietals like Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc. Bordeaux Blends are some of the most popular and expensive wines.
Tura Estate Winery ‘Mountain Peak’ is a very famous Bordeaux Blend from Shomron that has received a 90-point score from Wine Spectator.
It is one of the most highly rated wines in all of Shomron and is considered by many to be the best bottle from the region.
Top Wine Grapes of Israel
The majority of wine grapes grown in Israel today are of famous grape varietals that are some of the top sellers in the world.
This production of easily marketable grapes coupled with the fact that wine quality has increased year over the year makes the future bright for Israel’s wine scene.
Cabernet Sauvignon is a thick-skinned red grape that is the single most popular wine grape in the entire world today.
Cabernet Sauvignon wine is categorized as big and bold, with grippy tannins that stand up well to fatty and rich foods like red meat and heavy cheeses.
Golan Heights Winery Yarden El Rom Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon is one of the highest quality bottles of Cabernet Sauvignon from the entire country of Israel and has drawn premium prices as well as fantastic reviews worldwide.
Merlot is another famous French red wine grape, and it is known for producing smooth red wines that are slightly juicy, fairly low in tannin, and of full body.
Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon complement each other well and are often mixed to produce the famous Bordeaux blend.
Domaine du Castel Petit Castel is a very popular example of the famous Bordeaux blend using Israeli wine grapes. It has been awarded 90 points by Wine Enthusiast, and can usually be found for $60 per bottle or less.
Syrah is a thick-skinned and bold red wine grape that is fairly similar to Cabernet Sauvignon in terms of tannin and flavor, though Syrah tends to have a bit more “pepper” or spicy notes associated with its tasting profile.
Clos de Gat Har’el Syrah is a highly regarded bottle of Syrah from the Judean Hills that has also been awarded 90 points by Wine Enthusiast.
Red fruit is immediately apparent on both the nose and palate and the wine is layered with notes of tobacco and chocolate.
Sauvignon Blanc is one of the most popular white wine grapes in the entire world, and it is most known for its strong aromas that can range from “grassy” to floral and fruity.
Some representations of Sauvignon Blanc have a distinct smell of citrus fruit, and acidity is usually high.
Golan Heights Winery Yarden Sauvignon Blanc is a solid representation of Israeli Sauvignon Blanc that is produced by one of the largest winemakers in the country.
It has received an 87-point score from Wine Enthusiast, making it a fantastic value at under $20 per bottle.
The Semillon grape is used in many parts of the world to produce dessert wine, though its primary use in Israel is for use in white wine blends.
The full body and bold flavors of Semillon make it a perfect candidate for mixing with more delicate white wine grapes.
Matar by Pelter Sauvignon Blanc – Semillon is a white wine blend from the Galilee region that has received an 86-point score from Wine Enthusiast, as well as high marks from a variety of other wine critics. The two grapes work harmoniously to achieve a balanced blend.
Chardonnay is the top-selling white wine grape in the entire world, and Israel produces quite a bit every year.
This French wine grape is either used to make single varietal wines or blended with other grapes in Israel, most often the Gewurztraminer.
It may come as no surprise that one of the largest wine producers in all of Israel produces a large amount of the world’s most popular white wine grape.
Golan Heights Winery Yarden Chardonnay is a very popular bottle both domestically and on the international market.
Brief History of Israeli Wine
History suggests that wine has been an important part of life in Israel for thousands of years, with famous ancient civilizations like the Egyptians and Romans using the area for the transportation and production of wine.
The winemaking industry all but disappeared when alcohol consumption was made illegal in the country for hundreds of years for religious reasons.
One of the major events that helped begin the rebirth of Israel’s winemaking was a massive foreign investment by the Rothschild family.
By the 1980s a number of winemakers from all around the world began investing heavily in the area, and three large-scale wine producers established a foothold in both wine production and distribution throughout the country.
A large portion of the wines exported by Carmel Winery, Golan Heights, and Barkan Wine Cellars are produced using particular methods to produce Kosher wine.
There is a large demand for Kosher wine in many different countries, and Israel is the world’s top producer.
Wines of Israel – Conclusion
Israel is a country with a rich wine history as well as a bright future in the world of wine.
There are five primary regions that are responsible for most of the country’s wine production, and the vast majority of grapes produced are internationally famous varietals that are easily marketable to an international audience.