The Yatir region, located in the southern tip of the Judean Hills, has a rich and fascinating history of wine production. Passersby and onlookers can view the extensive and impressive wine press, a testament to a developed wine industry of over 2500 years, dating back to the first reign of the kings of Judah.
A large center of Jewish settlement existed in this region between the periods of the destruction of the Second Temple to the inception of the Islamic period. The livelihood of these early farmers was based mostly on growing and processing grapes and olives. The region was known as one of the finest for growing vines for the purpose of winemaking and from this very region wines were later exported to Egypt, Rome and across Israel.
David Ben Gurion had a dream of making the Negev region bloom and blossom and so when he wanted to plant a forest in the Yatir region, he consulted with selected experts to guide him through the process. After numerous discussions and assessments, the agronomists determined that the region, which was overly dry and warm, was unsuitable for planting trees. Ben Gurion had other plans in mind however: “Replace the experts!” he said and rightfully so. The forest, which borders the desert and which was planted in a semi-arid region, became one of Israel’s largest forests (stretching across approximately 40,000 dunams). The forest was named after the Levite biblical city of Yatir, whose ruins remained in great destruction. The site serves as a green lung and a hiking site, as well as an experimental model for innovative methods for combating desertification. The forest became a significant ecological tool and over the past several years has been researched by numerous scientists. In the heart of the largest planted forest in Israel, in valleys and slopes surrounded by a myriad of trees, such as Jerusalem Oaks, carob, pistachios, pine and olive trees, the Yatir Winery vineyards were planted.
The Yatir Winery was built at the foot of the Israelite Tel Arad Fort (an archeological site), located 10 minutes away from the vineyards of the Yatir Forest. This small and exclusive winery was founded in 2000 as a joint venture between local vine-growers and the Carmel Winery, who recognized the extraordinary potential of the Yatir region. These days the winery produces 150,000 bottles. Over the years, this southern winery, located in the heart of the desert, has turned into a symbol of the region. Its wines, which have been repeatedly awarded with high scores, exceptional recognition and medals, have been rated in recent years among Israel’s top wines by local as well as international wine critics.