Golan Geography and Wine
The Golan Heights have a varied climate. The northern part is 1,200 meters above sea level and often cold. The Golan’s Katzrin area, on the other hand, is only 400 meters above sea level and is 11-13 degrees warmer. Because of these temperature differences, many different varieties of wine can be produced from Golan grapes. White Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Red Pinot Noir all need colder temperatures while Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Muscat all need warmer weather. Six varieties of wine can be grown on the Golan’s 1,950 acres, while French Bordeaux’s 250,000 acres only support three varieties of wine. In addition, the Golan’s volcanic soil provides great drainage for the vineyards.
These ideal climate and soil conditions are what led 11 Golan farmers to start planting vineyards in the 1970s. By the 1980’s the Kibbutzniks and Moshavniks in the Golan decided that they needed to improve the quality to the wine being produced. Israeli wine has always had a negative stigma. Israelis used to refer to their wine as “hammer wine,” because drinking it felt like getting hit over the head with a hammer. The Israeli winemakers hired graduates from UC Davis in California, purchased expensive state-of-the-art wine producing machines and even acquired European vines. They also began a new marketing campaign to promote their new wines. Carmel Mizrachi, once thought of as a mediocre kosher wine, began to earn international respect. Now, Israeli wines can be found on shelves right next to wines from traditional wine-producing countries such as France, Italy, South Africa, Australia, Chile and the USA.