As hostilities continue between Israel and Lebanon, the 2006 vintage in Israel is under threat from the Katyusha rockets that Lebanon continues to fire into the country.
Thousands of rockets have been fired by Hezbollah into the Galilee, where three of Israel’s main wineries are situated: Galil Mountain, Dalton and Carmel’s new winery at Ramat Dalton.
There are 600ha of vineyards in the Galilee, Israel’s finest wine region. Apart from Carmel, Dalton & Galil Mountain, other wineries such as Amphorae, Barkan, Flam, Margalit, Recanati and Saslove all produce their best wines from Upper Galilee vineyards.
Dalton’s English-born owner, Alex Haruni, told decanter.com, ‘We take each day as it comes. We are unable to work in the vineyards.’ He said some workers went to the winery to try and prepare a shipment for export, but rockets were falling too close and they had to abandon their task.
Galil Mountain is situated right on the northern border. Carmit Erenreich, the marketing director, said, ‘The winery has been closed since the beginning of hostilities. We will do what we can when the situation allows.’
The best vineyards in the Upper Galilee are in two areas. The Kedesh Valley, on the border, has been made a closed military zone by the Israeli army. This includes the vineyard, where the Zarit Cabernet Sauvignon is produced by Carmel. It was at Zarit where the whole conflagration began, when Hezbollah crossed the UN-agreed border.
The second area is Merom Hagalil, in the foothills of Mount Meron. Here rockets have damaged vineyards both at Ben Zimra and Meron, which is where a suicide bomber blew up a bus a few years ago.
Lior Laxer, chief winemaker of Carmel said, ‘We are prepared to bring the fruit to our Zichron Ya’acov Winery, south of Haifa, instead of our winery in the Upper Galilee, if we have no alternative.’
Carmel, founded in 1882 by Baron Edmond de Rothschild, has produced wine continuously under the rule of the Ottoman Empire, the British Mandate & the State of Israel; through world wars, Arab Israeli wars, intifadas, gulf wars and suicide bombings – without ever missing a harvest.
Most of the vineyards in the Upper Galilee are mechanically harvested, which at least can be done quickly with fewer people being necessary. Those that require hand picking will be far more problematic.
Written by Adam Sebag Montefiore