Eliyashiv Drori, the Ariel oenologist who heads the research, traces marawi (also called hamdani) and jandali grapes to A.D. 220 based on a reference in the Babylonian Talmud.
“All our scriptures are full with wine and with grapes — before the French were even thinking about making wine, we were exporting wine,” he said. “We have a very ancient identity, and for me, reconstructing this identity is very important. For me, it’s a matter of national pride.”
But as with everything else in this volatile region, the wine has not escaped political controversy. EU guidelines demand that any import coming out of the West Bank be identified with labels that tell of its origins in Israeli settlements. Palestinian farmers may risk trouble from their own neighbors for assisting in the production of wine – alcohol is taboo in Islam – let alone partnering with Israelis; although at Cremisan, a small winery near Bethlehem, Palestinians already work with Italian monks to produce wine from local fruit.
Archaeologists and geneticists are testing new methods for analyzing charred ancient seeds. In the endless struggle between Israelis and Palestinians, it is a quest to underscore Jewish roots in the holy land. …
“As usual in Israel, they declare that falafel, tehina, tabouleh, hummus and now jandali grapes are an Israeli product,” Amer Kardosh, Cremisan’s export director, sniped in an email. “I would like to inform you that these types of grapes are totally Palestinian grapes grown on Palestinian vineyards.”
Aside from the political difficulties, technical enigmas continue to test the dedication of the researchers, who are funded mostly by the Jewish National Fund, as they test DNA and search ancient manuscripts for clues as to the way the wine tasted back in biblical days and which grapes might have been used in its production. They are pleased so far with the results.
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