“Once again you will plant vineyards on the hills of Samaria. Those who plant them will once again enjoy their fruit”. (Jeremiah 31:5)
Clearly one of the oldest and most famous industries in the land, winemaking was always an important identifying feature of Israel. Numerous ancient wine presses, some dating back 3000 years, carved in the stony regions throughout the country serve as incontrovertible testimony to its centrality in the ancient wine making process.
However, with the arrival of Muslim rule, which lasted for about 1100 years, Israeli wines virtually disappeared. Since Muslims are prohibited from drinking wine, virtually all Israeli wine production ceased and the vineyards were uprooted to make way for olive trees and the production of olive oil.
With the return of Jews to Israel in larger numbers through the 1800s, and the birth of the Zionist movement in the late 1800s, wine again became one of them most important industries here.
The Carmel Winery company was started in 1882 by the Baron Edmond de Rothschild , and gave jobs to many of the Zionist pioneers. It grew with Israel itself, and for about 100 years it held a virtual monopoly on wine production in the country. Most of the country’s grapes were sold collectively to Carmel. One of the first wineries to compete and break that monopoly is also one of the more celebrated of the country’s wineries — The Golan Heights Winery. It released its first vintage in 1984, and thus was launched a revolution in Israeli wine production. Now there are a variety of boutique wineries throughout the country many of them situated in the ancient hills of Judea and Samaria.
One of the reasons for this is the unique feature of the Judea and Samaria region – the climate. Although Israel is known for its hot climate and little wind, the Judea and Samaria region, with its winding hills and exposed valleys, is cooler and more suited for the delicate production of wine. Here the grapes are picked in the early morning hours when the air is still clear and cold. The wine from this area has been improving with time and just recently the Tura vineyard in the settlement of Rachelim won both the gold and the silver medals in the annual Eshkol HaZahav – the Golden Grapes – competition.
For those who would like to learn more about Israel’s modern wines and how to appreciate their subtle differences, experiment with Irving Langer’s new book The Kosher Grapevine. Langer embarked on an exploration of the intracacies of fine wine – and now he’s ready to share his knowledge with you. Langer guides you on a fascinating, often whimsical journey, teaching you all you need to know: the differences between red, white, and sparkling wines; the ten steps of wine tasting and how to navigate a restaurant wine menu. He provides a solid list of resources including wineries, critics, and helpful websites. Bursting with facts, folklore, and humor, The Kosher Grapevine will transform you from a ho-hum Kiddush sipper to a savvy wine aficionado.