Video – Israeli winemakers have been setting up grape growing operations in the Negev desert in an effort to utilize the many benefits that the harsh climate brings to the grapes. Israel’s northern mountainous region bordering Syria was once the most popular site for wine growing, but now more and more producers are cultivating desert wine.
The Negev region produces only 5% of Israel’s vineyard plantings, but is widely viewed as an untapped area that represents an opportunity for Israel to increase global exports and establish itself as a modern tourist destination.
Shelley Goldman, Midbar Winery co-owner: "This is the new frontier, and anybody who gets in now is, you know, headed for a wonderful, exciting ride."
The area’s harsh climate gives grapes a special quality that cannot be found elsewhere. The extreme dryness and drip method of irrigation equals better water control, and there is no need for pesticides because insects cannot prosper in the arid climate.
The drastic difference between day and night temperatures balances out acidity, and means grape picking happens at night to avoid the daytime heat.
Israel has over 250 wineries that produce some 36 million bottles of table wine every year; the country’s exports total around $27 million.
Even though the country has had some success, The Wine Institute of California says that in recent years Israel only saw 0.02% of global market share, numbers that are dwarfed by Italy and France who boast well over 15% each.
Despite the heavy competition, winemakers in the Negev are striving to turn Israel into a major player on in the global wine market.