Israeli wines and the innovative vintners responsible for raising the profile of the country’s products internationally are explored in the cover story and additional features in the October 15, 2016 issue of Wine Spectator, which hit newsstands on September 13.

Kim Marcus, managing editor of the venerable American publication, traveled to Israel to see the wine scene for himself, talk to the older and newer generations of winemakers and – above all else – taste the contents of bottles that are consistently winning accolades and prizes.

“Fine wine production is now part of a rich cultural tapestry as a generation of modern-minded winemakers explore[s] what is possible in their arid land,” he writes in the intro to his cover story, “Israel’s Transformation.”

“Following a boom beginning in the early 2000s, driven by Israelis’ search for quality from their native land and by a dawning appreciation for its wines in both Europe and America, the wine industry in the Jewish state is transforming at a rapid rate.”

His feature “Taking Flight” examines how “white wines help lead the way as Israeli vintners push boundaries,” reporting on the push to reintroduce indigenous wine-grape varieties from biblical times. (Click here to read ISRAEL21c’s “Try the wine that King David and Jesus may have sipped.”)

White wines being poured in the northern Israeli city of Tiberias. Photo by Mendy Hechtman/FLASH90
White wines being poured in the northern Israeli city of Tiberias. Photo by Mendy Hechtman/FLASH90

Marcus notes: “A millennium and a half ago, the land that is modern-day Israel was renowned for its wine. The numerous ancient wine presses still being discovered today demonstrate how great the demand was for wine from this part of the world.”

A travel piece titled “From the Galilee to the Golan Heights” presents a guide to “the top wineries for hospitality, the best restaurants for local flavors, and lodgings that put you in the heart of it all.”

The magazine includes an alphabetical listing of more than 100 wines reviewed for this report. (WineSpectator.com members can access complete reviews for 120 kosher and non-kosher Israeli wines Marcus sampled, all available in the United States.)

Israelis enjoying the annual Wine Festival at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, September 6, 2016. Photo by Hadas Parush/FLASH90
Israelis enjoying the annual Wine Festival at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, September 6, 2016. Photo by Hadas Parush/FLASH90

The wineries whose bottles made the list are 1848, Agur, Alexander, Assaf, Barkan, Carmel, Clos de Gat, Cremison, Dalton, Domaine du Castel, Flam, Galil Mountain, Gamla, Golan Heights, Gvaot, Jacques Capsouto, Karmei Yosef, Kishor Vineyards, Margalit, Matar, Midbar, Or Haganuz, Pelter, Psagot, Recanati, Segal, Shiloh, Shvo Vineyards, Somek, Tabor, Teperberg, Tulip, Tzora and Yatir Forest.

Wine researcher Elyashiv Drori in his Gvaot vineyard. Photo courtesy of Ariel University
Wine researcher Elyashiv Drori in his Gvaot vineyard. Photo courtesy of Ariel University

WineSpectator.com also offers “Ancient Traditions, New Wines,” a video of Marcus’ interview with Eli Ben-Zaken, owner and winemaker of Domaine du Castel in Israel’s Judean Hills.

According to the latest statistics from Wine Israel, there are 60 commercial wineries in Israel. The three largest – Carmel, Barkan and Golan Heights (and their respective subsidiaries Yatir, Segal and Galil Mountain) — account for 60 percent of the harvest. Israel also has more than 300 boutique wineries.

In this academic year, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem is introducing Israel’s first-ever degree in winemaking.