To many, the words "Israeli wine" conjure up the culinary memory of the tooth-achingly sweet wines poured at Passover seders of yore. But the idea that Israel produces nothing but sugary kosher wines is a myth--in fact, Israel is home to hundreds of vineyards producing high-quality wines, many of them on par with those produced in traditional wine-making countries like France and Italy.
Israel's unusual geography gives the country five distinct wine-producing regions: the Galilee, Shomron, Shimshon (also known as Samson), Jerusalem Mountains (also known as Judean Hills) and the Negev. Each of these regions offers a unique climate for growing grapes--everything from chardonnay to merlot to cabernet sauvignon, petite sirah and more.
Israel's profile among oenophiles has risen steeply in recent decades: In 2015, Wine Enthusiast named the 2013 premium shiraz produced by Jerusalem Wineries to its list of the top 100 wines; since 2013 wines produced by Benhaim Winery in Ramat Hasharon and Golan Heights Winery have won medals in the international Terravino wine competition; and influential wine guru Robert Parker wrote in 2008 that Israel's "wines are getting better all the time, and some are superb." There are some 300 wineries operating in Israel now--until 1995, there had been seven. Now, there are boutique wineries and large-scale operations producing a wide variety of wines. Here, we explore the breadth and depth of Israel's wine producers from across the country's geographic regions.
Hadera is a beautiful coastal city 28 miles from Tel Aviv. Just south of Hadera is the Shomron's Margalit Winery, Israel's first boutique winery. Former chemist Yair Margalit has applied scientific know-how to winemaking since creating his beloved 1989 Margalit cabernet sauvignon.
Shomron is the largest wine-growing region in Israel, benefitting from warm summers and cool winters; the Carmel Mountain Range provides optimal elevation for growing and harvesting perfect grapes.
Blurring the line between art and science, agriculture professor Ben Ami Bravdo and biochemist Oded Shoseyov bring their knowledge to the Bravdo winery in Karmei Yosef. Bravdo produces high-quality kosher wines, including 2012's Landmark 2B, a blend of merlot and cabernet sauvignon that is, chemically, perfect.
Karmei Yosef is located in the Samson region, where the Mediterranean climate and grapes interact in amazing ways. Samson unites coastal plains and rolling hills to...