As water becomes scarce, kibbutz moves from orchards to vineyards

Kibbutz Tzuba has launched eight new wines that "represent the agricultural experience of the people of the kibbutz."

pouring wine glass 88 (photo credit: )
pouring wine glass 88
(photo credit: )
Kibbutz Tzuba, tucked in the Judean Hills west of Jerusalem, is planting 145 dunams of wine grapes. Founded 60 years ago by Palmah members, the kibbutz is making the switch from a predominantly fruit-tree agricultural base to a full-fledged estate winery. "There are major water shortages. Because of that, we are forced to change what we grow," Steven Sherman, a kibbutz member who currently works in the orchards, told The Jerusalem Post. Apples, Tzuba's main crop for a number of years, need 750 cubic meters of water per dunam per year. Kiwis, which Tzuba has also produced in the past, need over 1,000. Grapes, on the other hand, need only 200, making them a more economically and ecologically suitable crop. But the water shortage is not the only source of trouble for the kibbutz orchards. Tzuba has not produced as high or consistent a yield as the large-scale farms, and its produce could no longer find a place in the fruit market. So innovation was called into play. In honor of the new vineyard, the kibbutz has launched a line of eight new wines that "represent the agricultural experience of the people of the kibbutz," said Eitan Green, general manager of the winery. One of the new wines, the 2007 Sangiovese, is inspired by Italy's finest but is meant to be something "unique to the Judean Hills," said kibbutz wine maker Paul Dubb. The winery prides itself on being 100 percent local; all of its workers are kibbutz members. Tzuba started growing grapes about 12-15 years ago, but like many of Israel's young vineyards and wineries, it only started producing its own wine in the past 10 years. Wine is not new to this area, though. In fact, the region is known to have produced wine for the Temple in biblical times, Green said. According to Green, though the young vineyard has been very successful due to its high-quality grapes and expert wine makers, many challenges still lie ahead. "Running a winery is a marathon," he said. "No one is in it for the short term; you have to be patient while building a brand name." Already the biggest estate winery in the country, Tzuba hopes to continue to produce high-quality wines that will catch on in both in the Israeli market and abroad. The winery has already won a number of awards: in 2008, its Belmont white 2006 won a gold medal at the Golden Bunch awards, and its Merlot 2005 has won the Best Value Award from Wine and Gourmet. Some of the kibbutz's other wines have also won awards. Last Thursday, Sherman helped visitors and supporters plant vines and take part in wine tasting on one of Tzuba's loveliest hills. "We must continue to grow to maintain our rights to this land," he said.