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The Israeli wine region of Galilee is perhaps best known for the most famous wine story of them all - the wedding of Cana, at which Jesus is said to have miraculously transformed water into wine. Today, wine still flows freely from this fascinating corner of the Mediterranean, and modern techniques and rapid expansion is catapulting Galilee wines into the twenty-first century at an impressive speed. The region itself is split into three unofficial sub-regions - Upper Galilee, which features a remarkable array of different soil types and microclimates, Golan Heights, and the smaller Lower Galilee which is typified by the red, iron-rich soils around the base of Mount Tabor.
The viticultural traditions of Galilee are mostly influenced by France, which sets it quite far apart from neighboring Lebanon. When one considers the terroirs of Galilee, however, it all starts to make sense - the soil type and drainage of the majority of the region is highly similar to the Loire Valley and Burgundy. Today, Galilee winemakers are tending to focus on big-name, bestselling grape varietals like Chardonnay, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, although many wineries continue to produce less well-known varietals such as Muscat of Alexandria, which have a more established history in Israel.
Since biblical times, Israel has been an important production center for wine, and continues to be so to this day. All over Israel, the Mediterranean climate the country enjoys ensures that grapes grow to full ripeness, and the vineyards are helped considerably by the mineral rich limestone soils which typify the geology of the wine regions. Interestingly, in Israel, up to fifteen percent of all wine production today is used for sacramental purposes, and the vast majority of the wines produced there are made in accordance to Jewish kosher laws. Israel is split into five major wine producing regions; Galil, The Judean Hills, Shimshon, The Negev, and the Sharon Plain, and in recent years the wine industry of Israel has brought over twenty five million dollars per annum to the Israeli economy.
With its dark blue colored fruits and high juice content, Merlot varietal grapes have long been a favorite of wine producers around the globe, with it being found in vineyards across Europe, the Americas and elsewhere in the New World. One of the distinguishing features of Merlot grapes is the fact that they have a relatively low tannin content and an exceptionally soft and fleshy character, meaning they are capable of producing incredibly rounded and mellow wines. This mellowness is balanced with plenty of flavor, however, and has made Merlot grapes the varietal of choice for softening other, more astringent and tannin-heavy wines, often resulting in truly exceptional produce. Merlot is regarded as one of the key 'Bordeaux' varietals for precisely this reason; when combined with the drier Cabernet Sauvignon, it is capable of blending beautifully to produce some of the finest wines available in the world.