Last Updated on July 24, 2023

French wine growers are increasingly more and more interested in desert winemaking as a result of climate change, inspired by success stories of Israeli winemakers in the Negev desert.

According to the International Organisation of Vine and Wine, climate change is harming production of wine in the mediterranean, due to increasingly higher temperatures and reduced precipitation in areas where wine is traditionally grown.

In 2019, wine production in Spain had already fallen by 24 percent, in Italy and France it had dropped by 15 percent.

Two bottles of wine locally grown in the desert of Israel
Rota wine, one of several desert wines grown in Southern Israel.

Growing wine in the Negev desert

Israel is a forerunner in desert wine cultivation with over 30 varieties of grapes grown in the small municipality of Mitzpe Ramon, in the southern part of the country, where there is a desert climate with temperatures regurarly reaching 37°C (100°F) during the day and then dropping sharply at night.

Israeli farmers in the Negev desert adopt new technologies and technique which allows them to use as little water as possible for growing their crops.

Negev’s Pinto Winery is expecting to produce 55,000 bottles of their Pinto wines this season, while also growing olive and argan trees.

Earlier this year, they have received a visit from French winemakers from Bordeaux, with whom they shared their desert viniculture tips and secrets for successful harvesting in extreme heat.

French producers have become increasingly worried about their vineyards following the heatwave experienced by Mediterranean countries such as France and Italy, which caused extreme dry conditions and harmed the grapes.

A vineyard near Mitzpe Ramon, in Israel's Negev desert.
A vineyard near Mitzpe Ramon, in Israel’s Negev desert.

Desert Wine

The majority of wine producers in Israel are still located in the north of the country, where the climate is mediterranean and rain more abundant. But more and more vineyards are appearing in the Negev desert, where the wine produced is “more dry, stronger in alcohol”.

Scientists and wine growers are working together to experiment with vineculture techniques that allow for the cultivation of different types of desert wines, including dessert and sparkling varieties.

The Pinto Winery currently grows Malbec, Syrah, Grenache, and Petit-verdot grapes for red wines, Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay, Roussanne, and Viognie for whites.

According to the CEO, there are two varities which do not grow very well in the desert: Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. With the threat of desertification in Mediterranean areas, we may soon have to bid farewell to these wines in favor of more desert-friendly varieties.

Video: A Wine-Oasis in the Israeli Negev Desert

A Wine-Oasis in the Israeli Negev Desert. Source: Official YouTube Channel of the State of Israel

Read also: What fruits and vegetables can you grow in the desert?

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