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At the last supper, which grape variety produced the wine of blood red colour?

November 20th, 2013

In Israel Dr. Shivi Drori is searching through the ancient grape pips found by archeologists going back hundreds and thousands of years in an attempt to compare them with all the local grape varieties that he can find, whether they be wild or cultivated vines. In this search for wine makings Holy Grail, Dr Dori has so far has trawled up no fewer than 150 samples. Some are from cultivated vineyards, others from lone wild vines found growing up trees, or even from someone’s pergola on a private balcony. Suffice it to say, writes Adam Montefiore in the Jerusalem Post, that no vine in Israel is safe from his research.


So far, he and his colleagues – and he is assisted by a team of many of the leading local experts – believe that six varieties have the potential to make wine.

They are Marawi (a.k.a. Hamdani), Jandali (sometimes written Djandali) and Dabouki, which are white varieties, and Balouti, Zeitani and Karkashani, which are red. Historically, Dabouki was the most planted. I remember it was also used for the distillation of brandy in years gone by.

The whites are table grapes with large berries, but they have the aromatics for wine potential. Of the reds, Balouti and Zeitani are small-berried grapes. In Hebrew, balut means “acorn,” and zayit means “olive,” which are presumably names given because of the size of the grapes. They may even prove to have more potential for wine than for food.

When the first domestic and small wineries opened in the mid-19th century in the Old City of Jerusalem, these were some of the very same varieties they used to make their wines.

In Israel, notes Montefiore, everything is connected, and a story about a mere grape can go back to the dawn of history. It was from the Valley of Eshkol, from the same Hebron area where the Shor Winery was founded in 1848, that more than 3,000 years earlier the spies brought the bunch of grapes to Moses. It was so big that it had to be carried on a pole between two men. Referring to the Promised Land, they said, “It is a land of milk and honey, and this is the fruit!”

Have you ever wondered which grape variety it was? It was probably a table grape because of the size of the bunch and the berries. Maybe Muscat of Alexandria, one of the oldest varieties?

It is questions like that Dr Drori is trying to answer

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