MW trip to Israel

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Essi Avellan MW

Twelve Masters of Wine embarked on a trip to Israel, put together Eran Pick MW and Israel Export Institute. A full trip report will be published in the coming weeks.

Israel is an intriguing country with wine history dating back at least 5,200 years, but where seeds of modern wine production were planted in the late 19th century by the French Baron Edmond de Rothschild. Today, 5,500 hectares are cultivated and wine is produced by some 250 wineries.

We took a look at the high altitude area of Judean Hills as well as the country’s highest lying vineyards on Golan Heights close to the Syrian border, where vines may be cultivated at altitudes up to 1,200 meters above sea level. We also explored Galilee in the North close to the Lebanese border.

In Israel, the biggest viticultural concern is leaf-roll virus and other vine viruses, which are hard to combat due to scarcity of virus-free planting material, only available post 2009. We visited the country’s only licensed vine nursery run by Golan Heigths Winery. The second key issue is protection of the grapes from the sun, which may involve decisions on vineyard aspect, trellising and foliage management as well as netting the fruit zone of the vines. Practically all vineyards must be irrigated due to low rainfall.

The most widely planted varieties include Cabernet Sauvignon, Carignan, Merlot, Syrah, Petit Verdot, Argaman, Colombard and Chardonnay. Overall, Mediterranean varieties are on the rise but there is also increasing interest in indigenous grapes such as Argaman, Baladi Asmar, Marawi and Jandali.

We learned about particularities of Kosher wine production and market, and widened our understanding of the situation and issues on this political hot spot area. We tremendously enjoyed this in many ways eye-opening trip with its delicious Israeli cuisine, heartfelt hospitality and perfect organisation.

Essi Avellan MW

April 2018