The land of milk and honey… and wine
Israel is a country which conjures images of arid sun-baked hills, hot rustic wines, kosher restrictions and an industry which, boasting a winemaking history reaching back to biblical times, might well be forgiven for a certain stubborn traditionalism. Nothing, I discovered, could be further from the truth.
The Islamic occupation which started in the seventh century effectively saw an end to viticulture and winemaking in Israel until the nineteenth century when Baron Edmund de Rothschild appeared on the scene armed with cuttings from Chateau Lafite.
The modern winemaking revolution however, only began in the 1980’s and thus, unshackled by appellation rules and family tradition, a vanguard has emerged driving the industry forward towards the realisation of premium wine production.
Winemakers, sommeliers, journalists and importers are all part of this revolution and are collaborating to see the emergence of a strong and vital industry. In world terms Israel is still a fledgling industry but they have all the ingredients to be a serious player on the premium global wine stage.
Climate and Soil
Ella Valley, part of the plains of the Judean Hills
These is unquestionably a hot climate for winemaking, but just as the Argentines have climbed their mountains to overcome the heat, so too are the Israelis.
This tiny country boasts mountains with vineyards planted up to 1100m which are proving a Mecca to the quality conscious producers. They are drawn to the well-drained soils, large diurnal fluctuations, cool breezes and long sunshine hours. Add to this, soils that vignerons around the world prize; volcanic basalt in the Golan Heights and limestone sub-soils with a thin covering of terra rossa in the upper Galilee and Judea Hills. The volcanic wines show amazingly low pHs with the subsequent vibrant colour and dancing acidity.
At their best the wines boast fine, supple tannins, mineral and graphite depths with complex floral and fruit aromatics. Equally exciting are the terra rossa/limestone soils, combining rich concentration of fruit with a lithe tannic framework and fresh acidity providing the perfect canvas for the complex spicy fruit.