Wine industry saved by ceasefire

Friday, September 01, 2006 |  by Staff Writer
The ceasefire with Hizballah came just in time to save at least one industry in the Upper Galilee: wine making. Growers were able to tend their vineyards after 34 days of neglect during the conflict when thousands of Hizballah rockets were pelting the region and setting vineyards on fire.

The ceasefire came on the first day of the harvest.

The Upper Galilee is Israel’s best grape-growing region. Northern Israel offers ideal conditions for grapes: volcanic soil, an altitude of 2,400-2,700 feet and a relatively cool and stable climate.

Moshe Haviv, manager of Dalton Winery, uses his original joke as visitors returned to the north and stopped at his winery, asking whether they’d like to sample the “Katyusha special reserve.”

Dalton was among the hardest-hit wineries during the conflict, but Haviv expects a good year anyway due to weather conditions, a 20 percent increase in harvested land and growing international interest in Israeli wine.

Scrambling to salvage its vineyards, some wineries hired extra workers to harvest and ship its grapes, working 18 to 20 hours a day.

Other winemakers said it is too early to know the extent of damage to the burgeoning industry.

“The ceasefire was exactly on time, at the last minute,” said Recanati Winery manager Noam Jacoby. “Each day that would have passed, we would have lost part of the Chardonnay — you can’t miss the harvest time.”

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