When 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.
Twenty-five 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
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
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.