Cease-fire helping Israeli grape harvest

In the whole scheme of precarious life in the Middle East, making wine seems like incidental stuff.

However, winemaking is part of Israel's economy and the current cessation in hostilities with Lebanon-based Hezbollah is good news for people involvbed in that enterprise.

The cease-fire is allowing Israelis to harvest an especially promising grape crop that could prove to be the nation's best ever. Numerous soldiers just back from combat can be seen helping with the harvest.

"At the last minute," Noam Jacoby told an Associated Press reporter. He is the manager of the Recanati Winery, whose vineyards on the Lebanese border were declared a closed military zone during the war. Besides a few rows of vines that were plowed by tanks, Jacoby said, "it's not too bad."

Grape harvesting began this week in northern Israel, the richest grape-growing region. The weather has been perfect this season, but 34 days of fighting threatened the ability to take advantage of it.

"Treatments that had to be done were missed," Ronit Badler of the Galil Mountain Winery told the AP. "The wine, the grapes look good, but we'll have to see what happens."

Israeli wines have progressed in recent years beyond the stereotypical thick, sweet vintages and have been getting encouraging reviews from wine critics. The northern part of Israel is ideally suited to wine-grape cultivation because of its volcanic soil and its relatively cool climate with low temperature differentials between day and night.

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