Food & Drink The Israeli Experience Magazine

Wine all the way

In the last decade the wine industry has become a part of the Israeli culture, its geographic landscape, and its most popular tourist destinations – a growing field
by: Orly Genosar   |   15.03.2012
A Biblical element which we warmly take to, to this day, is that which has to do with wine and the joy that comes with it. In the Book of Psalms it is said: "And wine that maketh glad the heart of man”. History proves that the Land of Israel has always been a paradise for wine makers, that there were many wineries here, that wine was a popular drink, if not the most popular drink, and that its production was important in terms of economy and as a source of income. The many ancient wine presses that were found everywhere in this country will attest to that. The Jewish tradition that connects the wine to religious ceremonies has given it an important role and emphasized its significance. It thus gained a place in each and every home. And there it remained to this day.
But the great gap between the way in which wine was perceived in the past and the way in which it is being perceived today, and the changes which took place in regard to wine consumption and its quality, that have to do with tradition and culture, have made its usage mainly a matter of pleasure today. This change is responsible for creating a new genre of wine connoisseurs who are willing to invest time, energy and money in order to obtain an excellent product. And even though the process of wine making has not changed in essence, new technology has contributed to the creation of a new line of wine styles in varying qualities, which also serve for different purposes. And with time, boutique wineries, which wanted to give their wines special qualities and diverse flavors, have started to appear next to the existing commercial wineries.

The wine is on the map

The wineries of the Golan Heights region were among the first ones to create new points on the map of this renewing field, and they have done so very professionally. Wine used to be perceived as a luxury item but it very quickly changed its image and has become a cultural product and thus swept the masses. When this phenomenon has passed beyond being a trend, more than a decade ago, the people of the Yoav Yehuda area, for example, have realized that wine has been one of the inherent characteristic features of this geographic region since ancient times and thus that their return to working in this field is not coincidental. The number of boutique wineries has multiplied greatly in a short time and the people of the area have recognized that this huge potential must be realized. Then they have founded a wine club for the winery owners of the area (which today count more than 30), in order to create a place for mutual learning and cooperation, and slowly the concept of "The Wine Route” was created, which also included an annual wine festival. At that time, a great increase in the wine consumption in Israel was felt, the wineries have turned into a place for pilgrimage and the wines of the Holy Land have stated to win international prizes. The Negev region has also started to show first signs of a southern "Wine Route”. A few places have started to nurture vineyards and to produce wine and when the offered supply has increased the local authorities have decided to found a "Wine Route” that will eventually include about 30 agricultural farms. A similar process has started to take place recently in the area of Merom HaGalil Regional Council as well. Lovely boutique wineries which have started to be seen in the area have led the way and the authorities are currently working hard on making a plan for a Galilean "Wine Route” that will bring the wine related tourism to the region of the Galilee as well.

Wineries as a tourist attraction

There are of course international sources of inspiration for the developing Israeli "Wine Routes”. In the Chianti region in Tuscany, in the "Wine Routes” in South Africa and in California, and of course in the area of Alsace Lorraine in France, they knew how to incorporate their love for wine into green geographical regions which complete the setting for the travelers that come to visits them. Just like it is there, here as well tourism is the name of the game and it is that which brings in the faithful enthusiasts who know how to identify a quality wine by its appearance and taste and who purchase it as well.
Most of the wineries in Israel are open to the public and offer tours at the winery and wine tastings that are accompanied by a meal and some beautiful views, and you can combine a visit to these wineries with a trip in the nearby area. Every palate will find the wine that suits it: Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet and Petite Syrah are only a few of the vast selection that is offered for sale in the developing wine market, and we have not yet spoken of excellent blends, pomegranate wine and organic wine. The boutique wineries have so much to offer and they are spread across the whole country. And those who like wine will also find wineries in dark caves, in converted chicken coops, and even in houses’ private cellars. There are also wine tasting workshops offered for the purpose of instilling and spreading the wine culture, which also explain the whole wine tasting ritual and aim at turning all enthusiasts into connoisseurs.

And besides tasting good, wine also has a social effect, it connects people and there is nothing like it in turning each event into a joyful celebration. And if we started with "wine that maketh glad the heart of man”, we will end on a happy note as well – we will raise a glass and say "LeHayim” (to life) and remember that this small ceremony symbolizes the choosing of life, as once upon a time it was the custom to poison the wine of those condemned to death. Since then wine glasses are raised as a reminder of the custom of the mixing of wine – that of the guest with that of the host, which lifted the mutual suspicion of poisoning.
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