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Israeli winery defies EU label rules

A Golan Heights winery has openly defied new EU guidelines on the labelling of settlement products by printing the Israeli flag on the caps of bottles destined for export.

Bazelet HaGolan Winery in Golan Heights has chosen to advertise its Israel identity on bottles for export in defiance of EU guidelines (Photo: Twitter)

The boutique Bazelet HaGolan Winery last week announced its plans to print the blue-and-white flag of the Jewish state on the caps of Chardonnay bottles destined for export to countries in the EU.

The winery’s move came a day after the EU published its long-deliberated new guidelines on the labelling of what it described as “Israeli settlement products”.

Golan Heights is a disputed region on Israel’s border with Syria, Lebanon and Jordan. Israel captured the region from Syria and occupied during the Six-Day War in 1967. It then unilaterally annexed the territory in 1981, though the annexation has never been recognised under international law.

There are approximately 30 Jewish settlements on the heights, with an estimated 20,000 settlers. There are also around 20,000 Syrians in the area. Golan Heights’ volcanic soil is heavily planted with vines and the region is home to a growing boutique wine industry.

The EU states that territories captured by Israel in the Six-Day War are not part of the internationally recognised borders of Israel. As such, goods from such territories cannot be labelled ‘Made in Israel’ and should instead be labelled as coming from settlements.

In the run-up to the decision, Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu appealed to the EU, arguing that the new guidelines were a form of discrimination and would encourage those factions that wished to “eliminate” Israel.

“There is no doubt that the main purpose of the measure is to exert political pressure upon Israel,” a foreign ministry spokesperson told The Jerusalem Post.

“As the preparation of the labelling guidelines has been pending for more than three years, the recent steps beg the question why the EU decided that it should be done now.”

Following the move to print the Israel flag on its bottle caps, owner Yoav Levy called on Jews around the world to exclusively purchase “blue and white” products in support of Israel, adding that Europeans would lose out from the EU’s new guidelines.

“We are proud of our national flag and hope that other wineries will follow our example and bear the Israeli flag on wine bottles destined for export to Europe,” Levy told The Jerusalem Post.

The drinks business reported in 2013 how Israeli wine producers were fighting EU pressure over the way in which the labelled their wines.

According to Wines Israel, the country’s wine industry produces around 28 million bottles per year, with a revenue of $200 million (£131m). Total production in Golan Heights is around 5.5 million bottles per year.

Around 55% of Israeli wine exports are to the US, with France and the UK the next biggest importers.

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