The Meaning of ‘Orla’ according to Judaism
In Israel, all kosher wineries, as well as many that do not observe kashrut laws, traditionally perform the Mitzvah (divine commandment) of ‘Orla’ in wine. The meaning of ‘Orla’ is a negative precept that suggests that fruit should not be harvested and eaten in its first three years. In vineyards, the tradition is upheld by harvesting the grapes starting from the fourth year. Interpretations of the Mitzvah explain that one of the reasons for this interval is so that the Israelites would be able to enjoy the fruit at its highest quality, a quality met only after four years. This interpretation is true even without being related to a Mitzvah, since in its first years of growth the grapevine has to stabilize and get stronger, which is why during this time its fruit do not reflect their full potential. Without fruit being used during these initial years, the grapevine is able to stabilize itself in terms of growth and fruit quality. Since our winery is a kosher winery, all our vineyards abide by the ‘Orla’ Mitzvah.
Matching the Grapevine to the Soil and Growing Location
There are four reasons to select a variety of grape for growing: the ability to design and control the grapevine, flavor, commercial and marketing potential, and other unique characteristics. On one hand, the ultimate grapevines are those that are easy to design and grow, and are very fertile, but on the other hand, these grapevines usually produce only reasonable wines rather than interesting ones. Selecting the type of grape to grow depends on a number of factors, including biological, climate and commercial circumstances. Selecting the right grape variety is crucial in order to decide on the wine’s nature and flavor. From the moment the grapevine is planted in the vineyard, the vigneron has to “live” with his decision for many years. Uprooting and replanting the vineyard is extremely costly and wastes valuable time, especially since it takes around seven years from the moment the vineyard is planted until the wine is ready to be marketed. In our winery, we grow a number of varieties, all of which are red. The reason for selecting these varieties is partly because of our love for the variety, and partly due to our previous growing attempts, which have showed that our growing area produces quality wines for these specific varieties.
The Growing Area’s Effect on the Wine
Up until recently, many assumed that the main factor that had a major impact on wine production was the soil’s fertility. Soils that had high fertility levels meant that the grapevine required less effort to obtain nutrients, which in turn produced a lower quality wine than those grapevines that had to work harder. Today more emphasis is placed on the climate conditions of the growing area, with temperature being considered the main factor. The temperature is what initializes the hibernation process and it is what causes it to stop. In addition, it is what causes the differences between growing areas. Grapevines develop best during a hot, dry and long summer, followed by a cold winter. This type of climate allows the fruit to ripen slowly and provides a better balance between sugar and acid. Kedesh Valley, the location of all our vineyards, experiences ideal temperatures for growing red grapes. Because it is surrounded by the Naftaly Mountain range, a unique micro climate is created, which sees the cold night air entrapped in the valley before being dispersed in the early hours of morning.