Much to the dismay of the wine industry, between the founding of the State in 1948 and until just five years ago, annual Israeli wine consumption remained at about 3.9 liters per capita. Compared to the 60 liter plus consumption of the French, Italians and Spanish, this was rather low. Nor did it compare well with the 11 liter figure of the United States.
Happily, things are changing, and as Israelis become more aware of the culture of wine, figures have risen to between 6-6.5 liters. While this remains low, it seems that more and more Israelis share a growing appreciation of high quality wine. Like the rest of the world, Israelis are moving from semi-dry to dry wines, from whites to reds, from light to heavy and, most important, are moving towards higher quality wines. Twenty-five years ago, more than 80% of the wines produced in the country were sweet. Today, with more than 7,500 acres devoted to wine-producing grapes with about 50,000 tons of grapes annually, nearly 80% of the wines produced are now dry whites and reds.
Equally important, Israelis are also drinking an increasing number of wines from abroad and wines from France, Italy, Australia, California and Washington State, Chile and Argentina are as readily available as are Israeli wines. Some see the increase in popularity of imported wines as having a negative impact on local wineries. Wiser consumers realize that these imported wines simply pose a challenge to the Israeli wine industry to continue to improve the quality of their own wines. Best of all, within Israel wine is not associated with alcoholism, and the vast majority of those who enjoy wine drink in moderation, almost invariably with meals and in the company of friends.
Daniel Rogov is the restaurant and wine critic for the daily newspaper Ha'aretz. He is also the senior writer for Wine and Gourmet Magazine and contributes culinary and wine articles to newspapers in Europe and the United States.
Source: Israeli Foreign Ministry and Rogov's Ramblings. Reprinted with permission.