For the wine-lovers, I have made a nice list of the best wineries in Israel. So for the oenophiles that want to get to know Israeli wine; I guess this one is for you! Israeli wine is produced by hundreds of wineries; ranging in size from small boutique enterprises to large companies producing over ten million bottles per year. Furthermore, wine has been produced in the Land of Israel since biblical times. In 2011, Israeli wine exports totaled over $26.7 million.
Viticulture has existed in the land of Israel since biblical times. In the book of Deuteronomy. In Fact, the fruit of the vine was listed as one of the seven blessed species of fruit found in the land of Israel (Deut. 8:8). The location of Israel along a historic wine trading route between Mesopotamia and Egypt brought winemaking knowledge and influence to the area. Wine played a significant role in the religion of the early Israelites with images of grape growing; harvesting and winemaking often being used to illustrate religious ideals. Moreover, in Roman times, wine from Israel was exported to Rome with the most sought-after wines being vintage; dated with the name of the winemaker inscribed on the amphora.
Best Wineries in Israel: Clos de Gat Winery (Judaean Hills)
One of the best wineries in Israel is Clos de Gat that is situated in the foothills of the Judean Hills; bordering Israel’s biblical Ayalon Valley, where Joshua defeated the Five Kings. An ancient “Gat” (Hebrew for wine press), pre-dating the Roman period by a thousand years, is located by the house set in the heart of the vineyards.
The region’s rolling hills and valleys have supported grapevine cultivation for thousands of years. The combination of thin topsoil on a bedrock of limestone; together with a unique micro-climate makes it possible to grow grapes of outstanding quality.
After months of painstaking analysis of diverse plots of land; Eyal, the owner, planted a selection of noble grape varieties: For example, Cabernet Sauvignon; Merlot; Petit Verdot; Syrah; and Chardonnay; with small, experimental amounts of Sauvignon Blanc and Viognier.
After all factors; however small, of soils, sub-soils; elevations, and micro-climates had been taken into account; each plot was planted with the variety most likely to produce the highest level of fruit quality.
Nana Winery in the Negev Desert
Another one of the best wineries in Israel is Nana Winery. The story of the Nana Winery is deeply rooted in its desert location. It is a story of challenges; dedication; love for the desert, and the common vision of Eran Raz and Niv Ben Yehuda. Eran Raz, known by his nickname; “Nana,” was born instilled with a love for the desert. In 2004; Eran decided together with his wife, Shahar; and family; to leave everything behind and realize a dream of moving to Mitzpe Ramon.
In 2007, the planting of the vineyard commenced in the upper section of the Zin River at an altitude of 800m above sea level. During that year, approximately 30 dunams of vineyards were planted; including the Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Syrah; Chardonnay; and Chenin Blanc varieties. The beginning of 2014 was marked by a visit to the vineyard from Niv Ben Yehuda; owner of 3 Corners Winery; which operates in Costa Rica; California, and Israel. His purpose was to find wine grapes of quality that depict the desert terroir. And the rest is history. Within a few years; their vision transformed into a unique winery on the wine map of Israel.
Margalit Winery (The Sharon Plain)
One of the best wineries in Israel is Margalit Winery is a family-owned winery founded in 1989. Originally they were situated in a small village named Kfar Bilu, near Rehovot, for two years. Then in 1994, the winery moved to its second home in an orchard near the city of Hadera. Lastly, the winery came to rest in the village of Binyamina, not far from the Mediterranean shore, midway between Tel Aviv and Haifa.
Before founding the winery they made many experiments in quality winemaking, using various varieties, and distributed the wines free, amongst friends. This was done for 6 years in their backyard with no real intention of making a profit. The 1989 vintage was the first one they thought was good enough by their standards before they went public.
The New Winery Launched in 1991
It was launched in 1991. The interest in the tiny winery grew slowly; probably because of two reasons. It was the first small winery in the Israeli wine industry; which was then controlled by very few large and medium-sized wineries. The second reason was because of the wine’s quality and its uniqueness.
So in the beginning, they had to find the grapes under the radar; because all the vineyards were tied up by long-term contracts. It took them some years to realize that unless they will own their vineyards and grow their own grapes; they would not be able to make wine as they wished.
Ten years later, their wine became one of the best wineries in Israel when Margalit Winery became known and established. They planted their first two vineyards in the Upper Galilee and Binyamina. In 2011 they planted a third vineyard nearby in Zichron Yaakov.
Evidently, the production grew gradually from 80 cases in 1989 vintage; to the current annual production of approximately 2,500 cases. A substantial amount of the annual production is sold at the winery on three consecutive weekends during March/April each year, directly to private customers. Wine lovers; connoisseurs; and loyal customers are invited to taste and buy the new releases. The rest of the wine is distributed to fine restaurants and quality wine shops in Israel and abroad.
On my private wine tours, I try to include as many wineries as I can. If we can sample different regions even better! One from the Golan Heights and the Judean Hills will turn out an excellent tour. So feel free to contact me as soon as you see fit that we could go on a tour together! And by the way, you can skip breakfast since amazing food is included.