Founded by the late Daniel Rogov, focusing primarily on wines that are either kosher or Israeli.
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What constitues an Israeli wine?

by AlexR » Sun Jul 27, 2008 5:55 am

Hello,

I would like to preface my question with just a little background.

First of all, I asked the question of Daniel Rogov in a private mail, and he encouraged me to ask it on the forum.

Second, I have no axe to grind with any of you.
Discussion is good, controversy is OK, but I have not started this thread to create any bad blood. I promise.
I am simply unaware of the situation today, and would like to know where things stand.

The question is this:
How much wine labelled as Israeli is actually produced in Israel, and how much in the Occupied Territories?

For instance, I was led to believe that much wine is produced in the Golan Heights.

I would not dream of boycotting a wine because it was produced in the Golan, for instance.
I would just like to know how production is classified, what the labelling laws are, how Israeli and foreign consumers
view this, and any particularities concerning wines from the Territories.

Best regards,
Alex R.
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Re: What constitues an Israeli wine?

by Daniel Rogov » Sun Jul 27, 2008 7:16 am

Alex, Hi….

As I said in our private correspondence, this is a perfectly legitimate question and received in precisely the good spirit and good taste with which it was posted.

A bit of background first. Generalizations are always somewhat tricky but I think it fair to realize that within Israel there are two general categories – those who speak of the "occupied territories" and those who speak of "Judea and Samaria", the first by the use of that term defining themselves as politically to the left, the second to the right.

As part of that, there is to many a major distinction between the Golan Height and others of the territories. The Golan Heights poses an interesting geo-political controversy because before the 1967 war its "ownership" was never fully defined by any international body, only Syria claiming it as part of their land. It may well be that the Golan will have to "return" to Syria in order for a possible peace to be reached but the vast majority of the Israeli citizens living on the Golan (many for three generations now) will give up that land in the hope of peace. The large population of Druze living on the Golan are frankly torn between wanting to stay "part of Israel" or of returning to Syria. Giving up the Golan will be sad for for many others but it is a price that may have to be paid in that hope. On the other hand, those in (choose one) Judea and Samaria/The West Bank/The Occupied Territories, settled there for idealistic and religious reasons and, as we have seen in other cases will not give up easily and may even offer armed resistance to the Israeli army if called on to leave. Not all, but many.

To the wine issues. Indeed, the very best winery in the country (The Golan Heights Winery) is located on the Golan as are several excellent medium-sized and boutique wineries (including among those Chateau Golan, Pelter, Assaf, Bazelet haGolan, Odem Mountain, etc). I think that even the most left oriented people in Israel do not consider the Golan as "occupied territory" and purchase these wines with no moral compunctions whatever. As to percentage of wines produced on the Golan, I would estimate about 15% of Israel's total production. Interestingly, because of the soil, various micro-climates (call that terroir if you will), and talent pool, many of the wines produced on the Golan Heights are among the best in the country.

As to the other areas in question, indeed wine production there has blossomed in recent years with one medium-sized winery (Hevron Heights Winery) and at least twenty boutique-artisanal wineries, those wines ranging in quality from excellent to poor. Despite the number of wineries, however, production in those territories accounts for less than 0.5% of the total production of wines that might be considered "Israeli".

As to consumers – within Israel, no-one that I know (but I am sure there are a few) has any moral objections to buying wines that come from the Golan but a large number do have a problem and will not purchase wines produced in "the occupied territories". On the other hand, others perceive those territories as part of the "Biblical land of Israel" and buy those wines with pride. Abroad, although several countries have banned importation of wines from those territories (including in two cases even from the Golan), others have largely Jewish audiences that diligently hunt out these wines.

As for me as a professional critic - in my annual Rogov's Guide to Israeli Wines, wines are included regardless of whether from "Israel proper" (that is to say, the pre-1967 borders) or "greater Israel". In my book I do mention more or less precisely where every winery is located, that allowing the reader/potential consumer to make his/her own decisions as to what purchases they might consider moral or otherwise. Considering that I write about wine and not politics, I think that is about as far as I can go (one does, after all, have to have a certain level of faith in the intelligence of one's reading audience). I also think it only reasonable to write about all wines that are, shall we say "made by Israelis either in Israel or its contingent areas" as those wines are of interest to my readers. My safeguard in writing about these wines and not letting any possible political bias is that I taste these wines blind, always matched by wines from other regions within Israel and abroad.

As to personal policies, as has been discussed on my old forum, I will not travel to what I consider the occupied territories until there is an independent Palestinian state and my invitation comes from a Palestinian citizen. That poses no problem for me, as I gladly meet winemakers and winery representatives in Tel Aviv or Jerusalem both to do tastings and to break bread, and I do obtain all of those wines for blind tasting purposes. If the truth be told, as good as some of these wines may be (and I obviously exclude the Golan for reasons given earlier), I will not purchase them for my personal drinking.

As I have also said, some of our members will disagree with me – even very strongly - on these issues. I hope they know me well enough to know that their own reactions, no matter how far from mine they may be, will be most welcome additions to this thread. These issues do arouse strong emotions. As always, all that I ask is that our reactions be based on reason and posted in a civil tone. Please note, Alex, that your own reactions to what I have said here are also most highly invited.

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Re: What constitues an Israeli wine?

by Lior Yogev » Sun Jul 27, 2008 11:47 am

Hi Rogov,

I enjoyed reading your post, which seems as objective as possible. Only one small and wine-irrelevant point to make, where I disagree regardless of personnal opinion: I don't agree with your statement that settlers will offer armed resistance to the army, I believe that none at all - but most certainly not many of them (worst case scenario - a handful of lunatics, which seems an extreme scenario).

Lior.
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Re: What constitues an Israeli wine?

by AlexR » Sun Jul 27, 2008 3:09 pm

Daniel,

You have provided a very informative and carefully thought-out answer that I don't think could offend anyone.

The most important piece of information is that the vast majority of Israeli wine is made in Israel proper.

Thanks for lighting my lantern,
Best regards,
Alex R.
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Re: What constitues an Israeli wine?

by Jacques Levy » Mon Jul 28, 2008 10:16 am

Rogov hi,

Are there wineries in the West Bank that produce wines from grapes sourced in the pre-1967 territories? And vice versa, are there wines in the pre-1967 areas that produce wines from grapes sourced in the West Bank? If yes (to either or both questions), what is the labeling criteria for these bottles?

Curious Jacques
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Re: What constitues an Israeli wine?

by Daniel Rogov » Mon Jul 28, 2008 2:22 pm

Jacques Levy wrote:Are there wineries in the West Bank that produce wines from grapes sourced in the pre-1967 territories? And vice versa, are there wines in the pre-1967 areas that produce wines from grapes sourced in the West Bank? If yes (to either or both questions), what is the labeling criteria for these bottles?


Oh boy. Those certainly sound like simple questions but we have to keep in mind that (a) there is no official, quasi-official or industry sponsored body in Israel that keeps accurate records of such "minor details" and (b) that the representatives of some wineries either avoid telling the truth or out-and-out lie when they consider it necessary.

Leaving the Golan Heights out of the picture is no problem because there is no secret that many of the best grapes in the country come from this region. To what I believe were your intended questions.

- With one major exception, the wineries in the West Bank rely primarily on their own local vineyards and sometimes sourcegrapes from Palestinians who also raise grapes. On the other hand, some of those wineries buy not only grapes but even finished wines from larger wineries within the 1967 borders and use those as their own.

- To the best of my knowledge all of the wineries within the pre-1967 borders rely entirely on grapes from the major grape growing regions within the country. One or two located within Israel do have some vineyards in areas that might or might not eventually be contested but those are small in number.

- As to how wines from Judea and Samaria or "The Occupied Territories" are labeled, depends on the integrity of the producer, some being quite fastidious in naming the location of their vineyards, and others using appelations such as "Judean Hills" (not a full lie), "Israel" (depends on your political point of view whether this is a lie or not" or, in some cases, after sourcing grapes on the "other side of the border" having a second wine-making facility located within the pre-'67 borders and using that appelation (in this case an out-and-out lie). As to controls.....forget that!!!!! As to punishment for whatever existing legal labeling procedures exist....well, forget that too.

There will come a day of reckoning and I do not personally believe we will have to wait for the appearance of the Messiah for this. Only for the foundation of a well structured, well-funded and intelligently run Israeli Wine Institute.

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Re: What constitues an Israeli wine?

by Jacques Levy » Mon Jul 28, 2008 5:07 pm

Thanks for the answer, Rogov. I wasn't trying to stir the pot, genuinely curious about that issue
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Re: What constitues an Israeli wine?

by Isi M » Tue Jul 29, 2008 3:35 am

What constitutes an Occupied Territory ?

What is considered occupied ?

As for most of our "friends" whole Israel is "occupied".

I tried not to enter this discussion, but i slipped....
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Re: What constitues an Israeli wine?

by Daniel Rogov » Tue Jul 29, 2008 3:51 am

Isi, Hi....

Being neither a diplomat nor having more than the usual education in military history and without entering into the specific political debate, I would suggest that a good working definition of "occupied territories" can be found by reading exerpts from the Hague Convention agreement of 1917 that defined "the laws of war". A precis of these can be found at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Military_occupation .

I think there is little debate about what is and is not "occupied" in the MIddle East. The debate is primarily over which of those occupations are moral and which immoral.

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Re: What constitues an Israeli wine?

by Michael Greenberg » Wed Jul 30, 2008 5:41 pm

Strictly from an "IF" point of view -IF there was a peace deal and the GOLAN was given back to Syria would the syrians"take over" the wine industry there or turn the vineyards into other farmland?

We know there are wine industries in Lebanon and Turkey--BUT both of those countries have significant Christian communities and certain western secular influences so that MUslim Shariah pressure against alcohol doesn't wipe out these industries--there is some tolerance for it...Given too that Syria's political leaders are socialist and not Muslim fanatics,though like most Arabs they hid behind the skirts of Islam to demonize Israel--if a REAL peace were made with the GOLAN given to Syria,the Syrians would be crazy to wipe out the wine induustry
there--though I can't see them promoting more wine consumption in their own society...THUS they would be smart to use the existing Israeli expertise to continue producing the same wines for EXPORT to ISRAEL and to jews abroad...it would be a boon to their economy and GDP...all that would change would be the labels Eg a GOLAN HEIGHTS WINERY product saying "PRODUCT OF SYRIA" instead of "PRODUCT OF ISRAEL" --as long as SYRIA gets its "cut"
in taxes royalties it logically should not want to ruin a good thing ...but that hasn't been the Arab way before --so the likelihood of tearing it down is more likely..still if they did allow a continuing wine industry in the way I suggest.it would change a lot of things..in this sense the GOLAN TEST would be a template for real change and PARTNERSHIP,import-export deals,joint-ventures among Arabs and Israelis in the region..OR they could just turn it back into shacks and goatpaths..Hopefully sanity would prevail.

As for "occupied territories" --that is a loaded term that the ARAB PAL's see one way as Jews occupying(militarily and in settlements) their land --and Jews/Israelis see ARABS occupying (residentially = also in settlements) parts of their historical homeland..."legal or :illegal" are useless terms in such a historical land dispute because there are both fictions and facts on the ground..If anyone expects "international law" (whatever that is) to solve this dispute--they are crazy--only the 2 peoples disputing over territory they each regard as only rightfully theirs can resolve this mess...And the Saviour (Obama) ain't gonna do it either.
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Re: What constitues an Israeli wine?

by Ehud W » Thu Jul 31, 2008 6:16 am

Michael Greenberg wrote:Strictly from an "IF" point of view -IF there was a peace deal and the GOLAN was given back to Syria would the Syrians"take over" the wine industry there or turn the vineyards into other farmland?


I think this issue was raised before and the conclusion was that the Syrian will NOT take over the wine industry in the Golan Heights but probably will allow Israeli existence in the Golan for a defined period of time (a few decades, let's say, as part of the trust building process) and thus Israeli operation of the wine industry there for that limited time.
Bottom line, IMO - the Syrians, as Muslims, will not follow Lebanon in allowing local owned wine industry.
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Re: What constitues an Israeli wine?

by Daniel Rogov » Thu Jul 31, 2008 6:38 am

Ehud, Hi…..

True that this was discussed earlier but my own speculations go in very different directions than your own.

One has to keep in mind that the vineyards of the Golan stretch from almost the southernmost to the northernmost portions of the heights. That means that a leaseback arrangement would have to include not only the vineyards but the roads, the infrastructure and even the communities there. In other words, it would mean that although Syria would claim sovereignty over the Golan, the laws of Israel would hold sway during the entire time of the leaseback. As has been suggested, that is a reasonable option. Whether Syria will recognize it as a viable option may be a very different story altogether.

As to developing a wine industry of its own, moves are already underway in Syria to develop precisely such an industry and one wonders whether if, in such a development, they would be willing to give up the excellent soil and climatic situation of the Golan Heights. If that is the case, as sad as it may be, past and quite recent history has shown that if Israel must abandon the Golan Heights the vineyards will be plowed under by bulldozers.

More than that, shariya (Moslem religions law) says that even the cultivation of grapes for the purpose of making wine is forbidden, even if those grapes are then sold to others. Much with regard to Syria's own now miniscule but developing industry and the future of Israel on the Golan thus depends on how Syria will decide to deal with various fundamental movements within their own and neighboring states.

You and I know that with both reason and good will the solutions are actually quite simple. Saddest of all, whether those on either side will show either reason or good will remains open to question. I cannot help but feel, for example, that Syria, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the Gulf Emirates and other Moslem states are more afraid of El Quaida than even the USA and Europe and this may have a great deal to do with solutions and non-solutions.

All speculation of course……

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Re: What constitues an Israeli wine?

by Ehud W » Thu Jul 31, 2008 9:24 am

One paradox I know of - Morocco, a Muslim (and Arab) country, has its own wine industry!
Yes, the wine is sold only to tourists, and one can get it only in hotels, and the wine itself is not of best quality... all true, but where there is the will there is the power, isn't it?
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Re: What constitues an Israeli wine?

by AlexR » Thu Jul 31, 2008 9:33 am

Dear Ehud,

I had a wonderful vacation in Morocco last year.

While there I had a delicious Château Roslane:

http://www.lescelliersdemeknes.net/en/? ... %20ROSLANE

Honestly, this was world class wine.

By no means cheap, and probably not representative, but it does show that the country is able to produce some very good stuff.

Best regards,
Alex R.
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Re: What constitues an Israeli wine?

by SemionL » Thu Jul 31, 2008 2:53 pm

Daniel Rogov wrote:Alex, Hi….
...
and at least twenty boutique-artisanal wineries, those wines ranging in quality from excellent to poor.
...


OT:

Hi Rogov,

Is it possible to get a list of Judea and Samaria produced wines
that scored@Rogov 90+
Preferably with places to get'em, within the green line, anyway

And on topic - Some older vintages of GHW CS still have "Galilee"
on it's label, how to classify those?
--
Semion
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Re: What constitues an Israeli wine?

by Otto » Thu Jul 31, 2008 5:06 pm

Daniel Rogov wrote:More than that, shariya (Moslem religions law) says that even the cultivation of grapes for the purpose of making wine is forbidden, even if those grapes are then sold to others. Much with regard to Syria's own now miniscule but developing industry and the future of Israel on the Golan thus depends on how Syria will decide to deal with various fundamental movements within their own and neighboring states.

You and I know that with both reason and good will the solutions are actually quite simple. Saddest of all, whether those on either side will show either reason or good will remains open to question. I cannot help but feel, for example, that Syria, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the Gulf Emirates and other Moslem states are more afraid of El Quaida than even the USA and Europe and this may have a great deal to do with solutions and non-solutions.

All speculation of course…


What part (and which judicial school) says so? It has been years since I've researched the topic, but when I last looked at it seriously, it seemed that bans of alcohol within the Islamic world are pretty recent inventions and are largely influenced by the (mostly) 20th Century spread of Wahhabist ideology. IIRC, all the major schools of law in Islam determine that of the five categorizations of all deeds (forbidden - should not do - neutral - should do - must do) drinking alcohol in moderation is a neutral deed. In line with this, I think there are only two countries that expressly ban alcohol: Libya and Saudi Arabia. In SA it is obviously a religious thing, but in Libya it seems rather to be a curious idea of Qadhdhafi's instead (it is a secular state, after all....). In other countries (especially in the areas most influenced by Wahhabism) there are more or less strict regulations of alcohol (e.g. non-muslim foreigners may purchase and drink (UAE and I guess the other Gulf States) or the country's religious minorities may purchase and drink (as in Iran and Yemen where the Christian and Jewish minorities are allowed to possess and use alcohol). But for most of the Muslim world it seems that even drinking is not as strictly banned as western media makes it out to be - at least my Muslim friends in Syria (even the most conservative city, Hama, has a liquor store right in the middle of the city!), Jordan, Egypt, Turkey, etc. etc. all drink, and the profusion of legal places to buy alcohol would seem to indicate that there is plenty of local demand! Theory and practice both seem to indicate to me that there isn't such a radical ban as common perception would suggest.

But I agree with you that hard-line, Wahhabi-inspired Islam is sadly gaining more and more foothold, and that might change the practicalities. But if the Jawlan heights did go back to Syria now, I would be surprised if viticulture didn't continue there (it does go on legally and publicly in so many other areas of Syria) - and if it did stop, I think it would be more of a petty political backlash than an actual religious idea though it might be worded in religious terms.

-O
I don't drink wine because of religious reasons ... only for other reasons.
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Re: What constitues an Israeli wine?

by Daniel Rogov » Thu Jul 31, 2008 5:44 pm

Otto, Hello....

As I am not a Talmudic scholar, neither am I well enough versed in the Koran to quote chapter and verse. I do believe though that Mohammed told those who followed him to avoid all intoxicating beverages ... "if something intoxicates in large quantities it is forbidden even in small quantities". I also recall three mentions in the Koran - one forbidding Moslems to pray while intoxicated; another to the effect that alcohol was an abomination of Satan, meant to turn the people away from God and prayer; and yet another instructing the followers to abstain completely.

I would suggest though that history, cultural tradition and religion sometimes walk hand-in-hand in odd ways. Israel, for example, is a secular country but any cafe that dared to open on holidays such as Yom Kippur or the eve ofTisha b'Av would receive a quite significant fine and have its windows broken or far worse and ambulances responding to heart attack victims are still stoned in some neighborhoods. As to Moslems drinking alcohol, indeed there are, as there are Jews who eat shellfish and pork. Whether one does or even talks about those things in public or not depends on one's level of religious belief and following; on the neighborhood in which they live; on their family' and, of course on the perceived potential punishments for being caught, that either by God or by public or self appointed and potentially punishing agencies.

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