A project at Ariel University in the West Bank headed by oenologist Eliyashiv Drori is using DNA testing to identify and recreate ancient wines that long ago might have been enjoyed by the likes of Jesus Christ and King David.
The result? Wines such as marawi, released by Recanati Winery, produced from grapes indigenous to Israel. Drori traces marawi grapes to A.D. 200 “based on a reference in the Babylonian Talmud,” according to The New York Times.
Drori says, “All our scriptures are full with wine and with grapes — before the French were even thinking about making wine, we were exporting wine. We have a very ancient identity, and for me, reconstructing this identity is very important. For me, it’s a matter of national pride.”
Redeveloping these local varietals presents an opportunity for Israeli winemakers to have a unique product that is distinct in a competitive global marketplace. Well-known Israeli vintner Avi Feldstein says, “If you are a true winemaker, you want to express a place. Without locality and the diversification it gives, wine is reduced to alcoholic Coca-Cola.”
This initiative, however, has not been met without obstacles resulting from political tensions in the area. Palestinian farms that sold grapes to Recanati insisted on anonymity, fearing backlash for working with Israelis. In response, vintner Ido Lewinsohn says his wine is, “clean and pure of any political influence,” and that the grapes “are not Israeli; they are not Palestinian. They belong to the region — this is something beautiful.”