One aspect of Aliyah that is sometimes overlooked, is finding food we miss from home. Good chance that the wines we regularly drank from the Napa Valley, USA, from Stellenbosch near Cape Town and those from vineyards in South Australia are not available here. But, at some point, down the line, we will be ready to explore alternatives.
Wine has been produced in Israel since biblical times and while Israel does not feature on the top-ten list of wine producing countries, hundreds of local wineries, ranging in size from small boutique enterprises to large companies produce over 30 million bottles per year.
The top 4 major wine regions of the world; France, Italy, U.S.A. and Spain, produce over half of all the wine in the world.
Did you know that the modern Israeli wine industry was founded by Baron Edmond James de Rothschild, owner of the Bordeaux estate Château Lafite-Rothschild? He also imported French grape varieties and helped establish the Carmel Winery in 1882.
Does Israel produce good wine?
You can spend a lot of money on a bottle of wine but price does not always indicate quality. So how do you find a good quality Israeli wine at a reasonable price?
The Israeli wines we see on supermarket store shelves probably look similar to the wines you are used to back home and most come from approved vineyards here in Israel.
A substantial number of local wines, mostly the sweet ones, are used in religious and sacramental rituals.
There are many small, boutique wineries that produce small batches and will customize their wines according to their customers’ preferences.
The Best Israeli Wines
There are many types of local wines and over the years I’ve tried Shiraz, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Bordeaux Blends, Chardonnays, Pinot Noir, Muscats and others too. Most are quite pleasant.
How much is a bottle of wine in Israel?
On supermarket shelves we’ll see best-value-for-money wines from vineyards like; Recanati, Barkan, Golan, Binyamina and Segals. Starting price-point for a decent wine is around 50NIS/bottle.
Israel’s most expensive wine is a Cabernet Sauvignon from the Golan Heights winery retailing at over 700NIS/bottle and it definitely wont be found on supermarket shelves.
Sweet, Kiddush and sacramental wines are the cheapest at around 20NIS/bottle.
Carmel and some Teperberg wines come in at around 35NIS/bottle (both red and white).
The variety of grapes
Most Israeli wineries use the same varieties of grapes for their wines. If you’d like to try something new or different, try a wine from a small winery.
A traditional wine has alcohol levels ranging from 12 to 16% – while the French or Italian standard, would be around 15% – to 25% alcohol.
What about Kosher wines?
Surprisingly, not all wines produced in Israel are kosher. Orthodox Jews believe for a wine to be considered truly kosher it should be prepared only by Jews. This is not always the case. Some will consider wine made by non-Jews to be kosher only if heated; mulling, cooking and pasteurizing wine renders it kosher.
Tips for pairing wine with food
The experts say
- Pinot Noir: Pairs with earthy flavors
- Chardonnay: Great with fatty fish or fish in a rich sauce
- Champagne: Perfect with anything salty
- Cabernet Sauvignon: Fabulous with juicy red meat
- Sauvignon Blanc: Goes with tart dressings and sauces
- Dry Rosé: For rich, cheesy dishes
- Zinfandel: For pâtés, mousses and terrines
- Riesling: Pairs with sweet & spicy dishes
Pairing wine with chocolate
At your next dinner party, instead of serving the usual deserts, try serving fabulous chocolates paired with wine
- White chocolate: Pairs well with Riesling and sweeter Rosè
- Milk chocolate: Pairs well with Pinot Noir, Merlot, Gewürztraminer
- Dark chocolate: Pairs well with Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon & Merlot
A few Hebrew ‘wine-words’ you might want to know
Which is your favorite wine? Let us know in the comments section below.