If you travel to Israel and want to sample the cuisine, you can find incredible pita, hummus, and falafel. Less well-known are Israeli wines. But for well over 100 years, Israeli vineyards have been producing wine, and recently some have received acclaim in international wine competitions.
Grapes have been cultivated in Israel since biblical times. The first traditional winery established in Israel was Carmel Winery in 1882, founded by Edmond James de Rothschild, who also owned Chateau Lafite Rothschild in Bordeaux. Today, Carmel Winery is the largest producer of wine in Israel.
Most wineries are located in the north of the country in areas like the Galilee, which offers a moderate Mediterranean climate and higher elevations. But recently, wineries have experimented with planting in the south in the arid Negev Desert, using drip irrigation.
In 2007, Robert Parker of the Wine Advocate awarded more than 90 points to 14 Israeli wines, bringing much more attention to Israel as a world-class wine-producing region. In addition to Carmel, other top wineries in Israel include Golan Heights Winery and Domaine du Castel.
Here are two Israeli wines to try:
GOLAN HEIGHTS WINERY Yarden Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 (Galilee) $25. With blackberry aromas and flavors of spice and dark fruit, this is a complex wine that should age very well. Available here.
CARMEL Sha’al Single Vineyard Late Harvest Gewürztraminer (Galilee) $23 for the 375-milliliter half-bottle. A wide variety of fruit flavors are present in this sweet wine, including apricot, apple, and honeydew, leading to a long finish. Available here.