A look at the wine region in Israel

Anyone who has read the Bible knows how old winemaking is in Israel, but the modern-day wine industry there was launched by no less imposing a figure than the Baron Edmond James de Rothschild, then proprietor of the legendary Bordeaux estate Château Lafite-Rothschild, who planted vineyards there in the 1880s and later opened wineries at Rishon LeZion and Zichron Yaakov. There are hundreds of wineries in the country today, in Galilee, the Judean Hills, the Samson, the Negev, and the Shomron. Not surprisingly, considering the French origins of the country's wine industry, French grape varieties predominate — cabernet sauvignon and franc, merlot, syrah, chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, etc. The majority of Israeli wines are kosher. To qualify they must be handled exclusively by observant Jews from the moment of crush until bottling, and may not be clarified with animal-based products like isinglass or casein. Many kosher wines are pasteurized, because once they undergo that process, they may be handled by anyone without loss of kosher status — an obvious convenience. The heat treatment is considered by some critics to deaden the wine, and in any case Israeli wines have yet to achieve a reputation of real quality on the international market.