Israelis drink as much wine as Argentinians. Wine tourism is becoming increasingly popular. There are over three hundred wineries in Israel compared to forty boutique breweries. Israeli wines are consistently winning awards.
Winemaking in ancient Israel peaked during the Second Temple period when it was a major export. After the Jews were forced into exile, winemaking topped, and, with the Arab conquest in 600 C.E. came a ban on alcohol and the uprooting of all vineyards. The first recorded winery was opened in 1848 by a rabbi named Yitzhak Shor.
Baron Edmond de Rothschild, owner of the famous Chateau Lafite winery in Bordeaux, commissioned a study on the agricultural possibilities of the land of Israel, and in 1884 vine plantings began. In 1890, when the grapes were first harvested, a winery (“Mizrahi”) was built in Rishon LeZion, and in 1892 Zichron Ya’akov Wine Cellars opened. The Carmel Wine Company was formed in 1895 to market the wines. Its first market was Warsaw, Poland, and it had an office on 8th West 28th Street, New York. In 2013, it was acquired by the investment fund Kedma Capital. Operations at Zichron Yaacov transferred to Alon Tavor Industrial estate. The winery was replaced by “a state-of-the-art logistics wine facility” with an existentialist Wine and Culture Center tracing the history of wine being made under Ottoman rule, British mandate, and the state of Israel.
Carmel has employed three Israeli prime ministers: David Ben-Gurion, Levi Eshkol, and Ehud Olmert. The first telephone line in Israel was between the management offices and wine cellars! Also, the winery boasted the country’s first electricity generator.
Carmel harvest over 25,000 tonnes of grapes every year, half of Israel’s total harvest. Carmel’s chief winemaker is Yiftach Peretz, who studied at Italy’s Viticulture de Enologia. Previously, he worked at the Monta Rosa winery and Podere di San Pietro.
Carmel has vineyards across the country and uses grapes from every region- the upper Galilee and Golan Heights, Shomron, and Jerusalem hills to the lowlands of the Negev desert. The majority of Carmel’s recent vineyards were planted in the Upper Galilee region, the source of most of the finest wines produced by the Carmel Winery.
Vineries were initially established in Rishon LeZion, Zichron Ya’akov, Petach Tikvah, Ekron (now Mazkeret Batya), Rehovot, Ness Ziona, Shefaya, Bat Shlomo, and Ein Zeitim. Many of them were funded by donations from Rothschild. Carmel produces 17m bottles a year from Shani (Bordeaux blend), its Mediterranean range (with grape varieties like Verdot and Carignan), “Excellence” (the dry white uses Chardonnay and Emerald Riesling), Shiraz Kayoumi, and Golan Heights Gewurztraminer.
In the south in the Negev desert, at the foot of Tel the Arad Fort and Israel’s largest planted forest, sister winery Yatir’s chief winemaker Eran Goldwasser’s flagship red is Mount Amesa. Until the 2010 vintage, it was called “Yatir Merlot/Shiraz/Cabernet.” With the aroma of Mediterranean seasoning herbs (sage, rosemary, thyme), Mt. Amasa 2016 is composed of Petit Verdot 41%, Cabernet Sauvignon 31%, Syrah 12%, Malbec 12%, and Tannat 6%. Eran studied viticulture and viniculture at the University of Adelaide, Australia working at the Salitage winery in western Australia.
U.S. distributor : Royal Kedem – USA.
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