Rebekah Pizana is a food and wine journalist and recipe writer. Rebekah's columns have been published in newspapers, magazines and online since 2006.
The Israel Wine Tour is the first wine tour I’ve ever taken. I tend to be more of a spontaneous, do-it-yourself type and have never booked a tour in my wine drinking life. But traveling to a wine region as unique as Israel, I knew I needed something more formal and guided to experience the country on a deeper level.
The history goes back to Biblical times when wine was used as food, boiled down to syrup, and consumed for calories. Wine consumers make up a very small percentage in the country, which is understandable once you hear the history at length. You will see a lot of young people in Tel Aviv drinking beer, and artisan cocktails are very much in style in the city centers’ modern bars.
Trying to remain Kosher, while respecting the terroir and making internationally recognized wines has to be difficult. Some of the new, large production wineries boil the wines to avoid having to comply with Kosher labeling. The price goes down but, sadly, the quality can be lost in this process. Only in the past 20 years, with increasing exportation, visiting wine reviewers and aficionados, have Israel’s wines been recognized as some of the best in the in the world (IMO).
One of five of Israel’s vine-growing regions is the Judean Hills, less than a one hour drive from the heart of Jerusalem. Our tour guide Barak was extremely knowledgeable and well-educated, telling us not only about the history of Israeli wine, but details on most of the historic sites, small town (or kibbutz) and neighborhood we drove through on the tour.
The varietals offered are similar to those in France, the Bordeaux grapes of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot. Flourishing whites include Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. You’ll find a number of the boutique wineries are experimenting with other varietals. With Israel’s ideal conditions, especially in the Golan Heights region, any varietal seems to do well and every wine you taste is full of all of the flavors nature intended.
Note, Wine Tastings are by Appointment Only (safe to say this is country-wide):