Contributor Giovanni Lauricella reports on his experience in Israel with wine just after the Israeli – Hamas conflict began in July, 2014.

Israel…the current perception of this country in turmoil is that of strife, cultural tension, explosions, religious segregation, and fear for survival. That perception is not incorrect, but it’s also not an ubiquitous emotion felt by all on the ground in the Holy Land.

After recently returning from a business trip to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, I found myself a changed man.  I arrived to Israel on the day that the internal war was ignited.  The same day it was said Palestinians kidnapped and murdered three Israeli children. The following four days progressed from mourning and sadness to retaliation through the launching of missiles.  I happened to leave Ben Gurion airport just before the United Airways flight ban.

While the beginnings of this story may sound intense and frightening.  I am alive to tell it.  Unscathed and enlightened from the way of life in the Middle East.

Children play and carry-on with everyday life despite the conflict.

Children play and carry-on with everyday life despite the conflict.

Religious and cultural tension in the region is at the forefront of our thoughts thanks to the medias portrayal of the situation.  They describe life as coming to a halt.  What they don’t tell you is how restaurants are swamped with people still carrying on their daily lives.  How the highways are still filled with rush hour traffic as people go to and from work.  How the bottles of locally cultivated wine from northern Israeli vineyards are still being uncorked.

I, myself, never saw anyone running frantically in the street, but I did see gatherings of Israelis at posh lounges in Tel Aviv drinking small vineyards worth of wine while voraciously discussing the topics of tension. It was no different in Jerusalem, which was even closer to the heart of the matter.

Wine in Israel

When it comes to the wine of Israel, it tastes like the biblical ideology of the region as opposed to the explosive, militant perspective.  Dry, like the arid desert of its surroundings. Earthy like the stone, dust, and sparse sun-beaten foliage. Light bodied with the viscosity of water.

If you are looking for heavy bodied wines, bursting with fruit flavors, or the specialness of that complex blend you love from the grocery store…you won’t find it in Israel.

If you like smooth and subtle, light-to-the-tongue wine that does the trick after a long days work, or just want to relax for an afternoon sip in the park…then you will not be disappointed.  It’s a simple genre of wine…nothing complex about it unlike the ancient tension in the region. If you find yourself in a chic bar in Tel Aviv or a quaint restaurant in Jerusalem or even in an eclectic wine shop around the corner from home – there’s no need to go for the priciest bottle.  In my personal opinion, the depth and complexity of Israeli wine is quite minimal. Manage your expectations and don’t compare them to notorious regions where complex wines are derived from.  These aren’t the wines that most connoisseurs rave about.  Rather, try something different and simple.  Drink in the history of the land that the grapes are grown in. There is something more to the story of wine here beyond Wine Spectator ratings…

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