Wine, Food & Drink Articles

Submit Your Article View More Articles

You Do Not Have To Be Jewish To Love Israeli Wines

by Madelyn Miller

I am a nice Jewish girl. I grew up on Mogen David wine. I drank four glasses every Passover. Then I would help my mother wash and dry the glasses and put them away until next Passover. My parents occasionally drank wine in-between, but I thought wine was something you served with Matzoh.

That is probably why it took me so long to develop a real interest in wine. I don’t remember tasting any white wine before Mogen David came out with theirs.

Maybe that is why I have a preference for sweet wines.

Flash back a couple thousand years.


The Middle East was the cradle of the grape, with the art of winemaking beginning in the triangle between the Caspian and Black Seas and the Sea of Galilee. The Land of Canaan must have been one of the earliest countries to enjoy wine, thereby developing a wine culture more than 2,000 years before the Greeks and Romans took the vine to Europe.

In addition to the Bible, recent scientific and archaeological research indicate that the wine industry of the ancient Israelites was one of the mainstays of their economy. It was at its peak during the Roman occupation of Judea. However, when the Romans destroyed the Temple, the Jews were dispersed and the wine industry abandoned. The subsequent Arab conquest in 600 A.D. caused all vineyards to be uprooted because of the Muslim prohibition against alcohol. Apart from a small revival during the time of the Crusaders, the once proud industry was totally obliterated.

By the 19th century, a few domestic wine presses were owned by those Jews producing wine for religious use. In the 1880s, the immigration of Jews to Israel coincided with a return to agriculture. The ease with which vines grew on the coarse, sandy and stony soils was noted and vineyards were planted with the finance and expertise of Baron Edmond de Rothschild. Initially, the influence was predominantly French because the weather in Palestine was thought to match that of the south of France. Wine was made primarily for the Jewish market with price and sweetness being more important to the consumer than quality.

However, in the 1970s Israel began to benefit from the technological advances of the California wine industry. In the early 1980s there followed a concentrated period of planting vineyards in new areas, such as the Golan Heights and Upper Galilee, to improve grape quality, and new wineries (including the Golan Heights Winery) were built. The stage was then set for Israel to make world-class wines for the first time and the long history of winemaking in the region was finally matched by the high quality of its wines.


Golan Moscato Galilee 2004. This is the wine that captured my attention, and made me know I had to learn more about Israeli wine today. If you like sweet, sparkly, bubbly wines, you will love this as much as I did.

Golan Sion Creek White Wine Galilee 2003. Another good reason to drink four glasses of wine at your sedar.

Golan Emerald Riesling semi dry white wine 2004. Citrus, berry and floral flavors make this a good wine with spicy foods. Who serves spicy food at their sedar? Not my family. Everyone gets indigestion. So just drink the wine and don’t complain.

Yarden Galilee Heights Wine Gewurztraminer 2002. This is a white wine that can even go with beef, like my mother’s yummy brisket. If your mother doesn’t make yummy brisket, buy two bottles of this wine to console yourself.

About the Author

Madelyn Miller - Madelyn Miller is a food, wine and travel editor who writes for over a dozen publications including which now gets almost two million hits a month. She also contributes to Voyages, an Asian magazine placed in upscale hotels, Best FA

Visit Madelyn Miller's Website