Saturday, 6 April 2013


Salesian Monastery/Winery: The Salesian order has managed the winery, located in the Cremisan valley near Bethlehem, since 1891. Wine sales support the educational and charitable work of the Salesians in the Holy Land.  I tried to arrange a tour through the winery but individual visitors do not seem to be accommodated by the monastery or their sales agent.  Tour groups are able to arrange visits and tastings. The  reluctance to receive visitors may also be due to the recent attention given to the winery and surrounding land because of Israeli plans to extend the "Separation Barrier" through the village.  The planned route would separate the monastery from the convent; the Catholic school from the community; and Palestinian farmers from their land.   En route to meetings in Bethlehem I stopped at the winery and was allowed to visit the store but I could not walk around the grounds or take photographs.  I tasted a number of single varietal and blended wines and decided to purchase wines made from local grape varietals. 

Baladi: This  refers to indigenous grapes found in the Middle East.  The Cremisan Baladi wine was red, but in some articles baladi is used with other varietal names (Hamdani-Baladi for example).  The red Baladi from Cremisan Cellars is a dry red wine with pleasant leather and dark chocolate aromas and flavours. I found it a nice change to "fruit-intense" reds.  

Hamdani Jandali: My internet research yielded little information regarding these grape varieties, with the exception of a study on the success of root grafting by scientists at Hebron University in the West Bank.  The district of Hebron is the center of viticulture in the West Bank.  As I drove between Bethlehem and the city of Hebron I was able to view commercial vineyards.  Once in the Hebron city I noted most houses grew grape vines for household consumption.   Given that the majority of the population in the West Bank is Muslim, wineries are in Christian communities. Cremisan and Taybeh are the only two Palestinian wineries. There are other wineries in the West Bank but they are operated by Jewish settlers in occupied territory and are the subject of campaigns to boycott products originating in West Bank settlements, as suggested by a United Nations fact-finding mission. 

The Hamdani Jandali wine had an aroma of green apple, grapefruit and a hint of sweet white flowers. The flavour was similar to the aroma; and reminiscent of an unoaked chardonnay.  At Cremisan I was told that oak is not used in any of their white wines.