WINES WITH A SENSE OF PLACE,
GROWN IN THE JUDEAN HILLS
THAT RISE FROM THE MEDITERRANEAN,
TO THE MOUNTAINS OF JERUSALEM

ABOUT

The Judean Hills Quartet is a group of artisanal wineries which provide a window into the rebirth of a beautiful wine region with a deep history. They tell the story of the renaissance of the Judean Hills, which is leading Israel to new levels of quality.  The four wineries have contrasting personalities and different wine styles, but they each share the unique terroir of the area. The Quartet’s purpose is to educate and explain about this fascinating, new quality wine region, in the same place where wine was made in ancient times

THE WINERIES

Israel has started a new stage in its development as a quality wine producing country.
The region that is leading the way in the search for ongoing improving quality and individuality, is the Judean Hills, which has been revitalized with wine content only in the last 20 years.

The renaissance of the Judean Hills can be seen in the wineries that are making authentic wines, expressing a specific terroir.
The Judean Hills Quartet tells the story of this region. Each winery is independent. The wines they produce are firmly entwined with the individual aspect and terroir they find in their own particular vineyards. A perfect synergy of the wine, a person and a unique place.

THE REGION

The Judean Hills is one of the newest and most interesting quality wine regions in the world, providing fascination to connoisseurs and wine lovers alike. It is this area where Israeli artisan winemaking has taken root. There are numerous small vineyards and over thirty small boutique wineries making wines with character and individuality. Wines from the Judean Hills show an elegance, spiciness and minerality, which seems to be unique to the region. The region is at the epicenter of the new Israeli wine quality and wineries from there have received notable international recognition at the highest level. They are today producing some of Israel’s very finest wines

The Judean Hills wine region lies between the Mediterranean Sea and Jerusalem. The central coastal plain south east of Tel Aviv leads to the rolling hills of the Judean Foothills. After the town of Beit Shemesh, the elevations rise sharply and continue to rise until Jerusalem. The vineyards tend to be small in size, covering the region like a series of postage stamps rather than a patchwork. One is in a wadi or valley, another on sloping hills. Yet each is a self-contained area with its own voice. Each in its own way offers a unique palette for the winemaker to interpret the particular terroir.

What is similar is that most vineyards lie within protected nature reserves interspersed with forests mainly of pine trees, but also oaks. Garrigue, a low growing Mediterranean scrub, may be found in small clumps, hugging the ground as if in an attempt to seek moisture from the rock hard limestone. There is a wild ruggedness to the surrounding area.

Particularly in the spring, a whiff of the aromas of wild oregano, sage and za’ater may be caught by the wind as these mingle with the beautiful wild flowers. Mediterranean aromas and flavors for Mediterranean wines. Occasionally young deers will be seen frolicking amongst the vines, darting here and there, using the vines to play a light footed hide and seek.

The area is beautiful. Each particular vineyard is totally original. The revitalization of the Judean Hills is recent, but the old man made terraces or ancient limestone wine presses give a window to a winemaking past. A passing look at the soils will unearth fascinating fossils, dating back to the Tethys Sea period, hundreds of millions of years ago. This underlines a rich and varied history this same area has undergone over millennia.

THE VINEYARDS

The vineyards in the Judean Hills tend to be small, each in their own microclimate and ecosystem. This partly explains why there are so many wineries in the area making small cuvées. Some vineyards lie in wadis (valleys), others are on terraces fitting the contours of the winding slopes.

The climate is perfect for producing high quality wine grapes. It is Mediterranean: warm, dry summers and cold, wet winters. There is usually no rain in the growing season. The precipitation over the winter months, usually from October to April, can reach from between 400 to 650 mm.

Elevations range from 400 to 800 meters (1,200 – 2,400 feet) which help provide a cooler climate and a longer growing season. Temperatures are assisted by the two most notable geographical features of the area: the Mediterranean Sea and the Jerusalem Mountains. The Judean Hills region is only 40-50 km from the sea, and the vineyards are the recipient of constant and ongoing winds off the Mediterranan, from the west. These have a cooling effect, providing ventilation and aeration for the vines, reducing humidity and bringing down average temperatures.

The Judean Hills are backed by higher mountains.  At nighttime, cool air from these mountains circulates to replace the warmer air below and this cools the vineyards to a surprising extent. At the height of the harvest, when Israel is sweltering, temperatures in the Judean Hills can fall to 15°C at night. Only on visiting can it be appreciated why the Judean Hills is arguably the leading region for white wines in Israel. Early morning mists in the summer months further protect the grapes.  Maximum temperatures in the summer are 30°C.

Average winter temperatures range from 7°C to 15°C. There is likely to be snow on the higher altitude vineyards on an annual basis.

Soils tend to be very shallow. The topsoil is terra rossa clay on a bedrock of limestone. This combination is very associated with Mediterranean climates. The soils are well-drained and rich in minerals.

  • Terra Rossa
  • Clay
  • Active Lime
  • pH
  • Stones
  • Depth
  • Terra Rossa
  • 50-70 %
  • 0-5 %
  • 7.0-7.5
  • Little to many
  • 0.2-0.7 m

HISTORY

The modern story of the Judean Hills began in the late 1980’s. Then a restaurateur by the name of Eli Ben Zaken planted vineyards in the Judean Hills to make a small production, handcrafted wine. At the same time Ronnie James, a veteran grape grower from Tzora, decided to make wine from his own grapes. Both started a revolution.

Up to then, the roles of the winemaker and vineyard grower were separate. They both did their jobs and yet rarely met, except perhaps at harvest. With the new pioneers, making wine in the vineyard by plot or parcel, became the new norm.

The Judean Hills developed as a wine region in terms of quantity and quality. It is today the most dynamic wine region in Israel and one of the fastest growing.

Ancient History

Israel is an ancient winemaking country which goes back to the dawn of wine culture.  The Judean Hills was considered the Bordeaux of ancient times. Grapes were grown on terraces. Wine was made in low lying limestone wine presses and stored in amphorae in cool caves. They were then exported around the ancient world.

After the Muslim conquest, the once proud wine industry was forsaken, though individual Jewish households continued to make domestic wine for ritual use from Arab grown table grapes.

The Israel wine trade was revived by the Rothschild family in the late 19th century and vineyards were planted in the coastal regions of Israel. A quality winemaking revolution began in the 1980’s led by imported expertise from California. This was a technological revolution bringing new world viticulture and vinification to Israel.

The rolling hills of the Judean Foothills were planted with vineyards in the 1950’s and 1960’s and there was another planting splurge in the 1970’s and 1980’s. However the grapes from these vineyards were sold to the large cooperative for use in simple blends.

As the desire increased for making better quality wines, Israeli wine moved northwards and eastwards in search of higher altitudes and cooler temperatures. As new vineyards were planted in the Judean Hills, its potential for producing high quality wines was recognized.

Send us mail

DOMAINE DU CASTEL

www.castel.co.il

Yad Hashmona
Haute Judee 9089500
Israel

Tel: +972 2 535 85 55
Fax: +972 2 570 09 95
castel@castel.co.il

SPHERA

www.spherawinery.com

Givat Yeshayahu

Tel: +972-54-6600595
Fax: +972-2-9998950
cheers@spherawinery.com

TZORA VINEYARDS

www.tzoravineyards.com

Tzora

Tel: +972-2-9908261
Fax: +972-2-9915479
info@tzoravineyards.com

FLAM WINERY

www.flamwinery.com

Yaar Hakdoshim, Eshtaol

972-2-9929923
Tamar 054-2113324
Info@flamwinery.com