Unleashing the flavors of the Israeli desert with wine

Pinto Winery is committed to "deciphering" the Negev Desert terroir and producing elite wines from it.

If you think that great wine only comes from picturesque vineyards in the rolling hills of Tuscany or Napa Valley, think again. Welcome to Pinto Winery, located in the heart of the Negev Desert in Israel, where David Pinto and his family have set out to prove that the finest products and the most added value can also come from desert agriculture.

The family’s long-term commitment to the Negev Desert has resulted in a large vineyard next to the town of Yeruham, with grape varieties that are perfectly suited to the desert terroir. 

The only speck of green for miles, the Yeruham Vineyard is located on Wadi ‘Shualim’ (foxes), and aims to show the advantages and uniqueness of this terroir. With some 320 days of sunlight per year, only 80 mm of rainfall, extreme dryness, poor soil, and high temperatures, it is undoubtedly one of the world’s most harsh areas to grow wine in.

Pinto Winery is committed to “deciphering” the desert terroir and producing elite wines from it. They brought in as their chief winemaker Ya’acov Oryah, one of the leading winemakers in Israel, with a mission to produce — exclusively from the desert — some of the finest wines in the country.

Pinto explained that wines from the desert tend to be thin, very long, and mineral, so it’s crucial to preserve good acidity in the wine. Harvesting on time allows for the grapes to develop enough in the skin to receive depth and color while also preserving the acidity. Pinto believes that this approach is essential to crack this terroir and make the best wines possible.

“What are the advantages of the desert terroir?” Pinto asked. “Large temperature differences between day and night assist good maturation; the dryness that prevents almost completely rots and pests – and very cold nights in winter that strengthen the vines – all work to our advantage, and some varieties even perform better here than in other regions.”

Viticulture existed in this area since ancient times, with the Nabateans and Byzantines excelling at building small dams, planting in valleys, and channeling the very few rainfall waters. Some of the wines were of great quality, and findings indicate Negev wines were exported to Europe in those days.

Pinto Winery is still investigating and experimenting to find out how all these factors translate into the wine. 

“You have to learn the vineyard, we have to learn the soil, we have to learn the climate,” Pinto said. 

“To study all these things will take time. We have patience, but this is our mission. We have to try, we have to learn, we have to do the best we can from here, and we’re committed to that.”

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