Desert Wine

Desert Wine

the prime minister makes a personal request, one usually tries to comply.
So when David Ben Gurion went to Elisha Zurgil’s wedding in 1967, and asked
him to plant a vineyard with wine-quality grapes in the Negev, the request
was taken seriously. Well-versed in the agricultural successes of the Nabateans
1000 years earlier at Avdat (a few kilometers from Kibbutz Sde Boker), Ben
Gurion envisioned modern vineyards that would make the desert bloom. A true
DIYer and pioneer, Ben Gurion knew that the best way to ensure easy access
to a good glass of wine at the end of the day was to have the facility in
the proverbial backyard.

years after Elisha Zurgil made his promise to Ben Gurion, the vineyards were
planted. Just as Ben Gurion foresaw, they are proving to be a successful
experiment within the environmental constraints of the Negev Highlands.

Experimental station
agronomists mix the brackish water with piped-in fresh water at different
concentrations to ascertain optimal grape-growing water ratios. It was discovered
that grapes irrigated with brackish water tend to have more berries per
kilo of yield and are smaller than grapes irrigated with fresh water. These
smaller, thicker-skinned grapes have a high sugar content in both the red
and white varieties, which in turn causes the wine to age well!

Today the Kibbutz Sde
Boker vineyard consists of two white varieties and two red varieties. The
whites, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay, mature before the reds, Merlot and
Cabernet Sauvignon.

The wine is not being produced in
commercial quantities yet. Elisha did, however, give us a taste of the same
wine he recently presented to the President of Israel, Ezer Weizman. We do
not pretend to be wine experts, but what we tasted was good.


learn more about wine making in the desert, and Ben Gurion at Kibbutz Sde
Boker, join Elisha for a tour of the area – and a possible wine tasting.


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