Although Israel may be a small country, it has a varied topography containing some of the world’s highest and lowest points, encompassing land that is perpetually sun-baked and in a state of permafrost. To go with this unique topography is a unique history. Remember that the land we call Israel was once part of the Greek, Ottoman and English empires, respectively. Every presence in the region imparted some wine-making knowledge and today that is on full display. The amount of Israeli wine sold at export went up almost 35% between 2009 and 2010 (the last year data is available). As Israeli wine gets worldwide recognition, the demand grows.
Although Israeli wine has a long history, it didn’t start to appear on the world stage until the late 1980s. Large vineyards like Carmel Winery and Golan Heights Winery were the first to pioneer unique approaches to winemaking, which became popular worldwide. Although Israel has an ancient wine making tradition, all the region’s indigenous grapes were killed off by Muslims whose religious beliefs forbade them from drinking alcohol. Most of Israel’s wine-making regions were only recently repopulated by grapes selected from France and Italy to thrive in Israel’s climate. While these grapes may be from Europe, their growth in Israel’s unique climate gives them a rare flavor.
Israel’s success as a wine-making region comes from the fact it is a melting pot of ideas. Traditional grape varieties take on new flavors in Israel’s unique climates. Winemakers can draw on long standing traditions or try something new entirely.
Now that we have discussed a bit about the region and influences, let’s talk about some specific wines that are outstanding examples of Israel’s wine-making prowess.
The Barkan Reserve Altitude Cabernet Sauvignon +720 is sure to excite the lover of Cabernet. These grapes are grown at a high altitude along the Lebanese-Israeli border. Although the daytime heat gives the grapes a strong, concentrated flavor, the cool of the evening breeze ensures they never get too ripe or sweet. The grapes are brought to life with hints of eucalyptus, which imparts a unique coolness onto the wine. The best way to describe this wine is to imagine taking a sip of excellent, dry Cabernet Sauvignon while taking a deep breath of mountain air into your lungs.
For an impressive white, turn to the Binyamina Reserve Chardonnay. This wine is all about letting the grapes speak for themselves. It is aged in stainless steel specifically not to impart any flavors on the grapes that aren’t already in their taste profile. The result is a dry white wine that bristles with assertive apple and citrus flavors. This flavor can only be achieved using Israeli grown Chardonnay grapes.