newsJewish & Israeli Culture

US trade group helps Israeli wine industry at peak harvest time

Joshua Greenstein, vice president of the Israel Wine Producers Association, says many Israeli wineries are facing a looming crisis.

Joshua Greenstein, vice president of the Israel Wine Producers Association. Credit: Courtesy.
Joshua Greenstein, vice president of the Israel Wine Producers Association. Credit: Courtesy.

A trade organization called the Israel Wine Producers Association has been asking supporters of the Jewish state to “take a sip for solidarity.” It plans to donate 10% of sales from U.S. distributors to Israeli relief efforts.

Since Hamas’s Oct. 7 terror attacks in Israel, Israel’s wine businesses, which are a very large part of its economy and tourism, have been on hold, with grape growers and pickers called up to serve in the Israel Defense Forces during peak harvest season, Joshua Greenstein, vice president of the IWPA, told JNS.

“Lots are having friends and family help through the process,” Greenstein told JNS. “It’s a lot quieter and a lot slower.”

Unlike other industries that don’t have rigid schedules, wine production can’t be paused or run with limited staff, according to Greenstein.

“Grapes grow and ripen when they do,” he said. “The wine-making process is very hands-on. Without staff, many wineries face an impending crisis.”

Greenstein told JNS that it is tough to say how much money has been raised so far since so many stores are selling Israeli wines. He said that the trade group’s awareness campaign is growing, and stores are sending in photographs of their Israeli wine displays. Despite the wine industry—kosher and not—going through the same challenges during COVID-19 as others did and wine sales being down due to “the financial market and the economy in general,” Greenstein said that “everyone is doing their part to help Israel.”

Most of the 400 Israeli wine brands are available at major U.S. wine retailers, and many of the Israeli wineries have been established in regions with religious and historical significance, Greenstein said.

Wine country as seen in autumn in Napa Valley, Calif. Credit: Brocken Inaglory via Wikimedia Commons.

Herzog Wine Cellars is one of several kosher California winemakers and distributors that is participating in fundraising efforts to aid Israeli colleagues. In recent years, California wineries have recognized a growing demand for kosher wine, both from Jewish consumers and a broader customer base, which seeks high-quality, well-crafted wines. (Herzog referred questions from JNS back to Greenstein.)

Herzog is one of the largest distributors and importers of Israeli wine in the United States, Greenstein told JNS. The kosher companies Hagafen Cellars, Covenant and One Hope also operate in Napa Valley, the top U.S. region for wine.

“People that own a business, Jewish or not, why not give a bottle of wine from Israel? Everyone likes wine,” Greenstein told JNS. He also urged diners to think about Israeli wines when they eat out, saying “if you go to a restaurant, it’s important to ask for it.”

Amid rising antisemitism, wine importers and distributors have faced many of the same pressures as other industries.

Some stores that carry IWPA wines, for example, even in prime Jewish neighborhoods, fear putting up Israeli flags. 

“We’re so afraid of antisemitism,” he said.

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