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First annual wine festival held in West Bank town of Taybeh

Wine has been produced in the Palestinian village of Taybeh for generations but it is now being made for export by a local winery
Co-owner Canaan Khoury pours a glass of wine for guests at the festival (MEE/Andre Dicenzo)

Along the winding narrow roads that cut up, down and around the rolling hills, ancient towns dot the hilltops and well-tended orchards of olive trees decorate the sweeping landscape. But this is not Italy, this is Palestine.

About a 20-minute drive from the bustling city of Ramallah, the small Palestinian town of Taybeh played host to the first annual wine festival at Taybeh Winery. Predominantly a Christian town, Taybeh has been known for its alcohol production over generations.

“Everyone makes wine at home in Taybeh,” winery owner Nadim Khoury tells MEE. “Grapes are famous in Palestine. There are 21 different varieties of Palestinian grapes and, as of now, no one has done any study of them. We are changing that.”

Homemade wine might be an ancient activity for the Palestinian town, but Khoury is producing it in a new way not seen before.

Five years in the making - and two years in production - this past weekend Khoury invited people from the community and surrounding areas to showcase his latest undertaking: Taybeh Winery and its first official wine, Nadim.

The name Nadim, while also being the name of the winery’s owner, also aptly means “drinking buddy” in Arabic.

Production is done in an expansive room with state-of-the-art equipment. The oak barrels have been imported from France and oenology (the science of wine) has been studied in the United States. The production process has been a careful marriage of Palestinian culture with an understanding of global trends in wine-making.

“We want to put Palestine on the international wine map,” says winery co-owner Canaan Khoury, Nadim’s son. “Because now Israel is up there. Israel is not as big as Chile or France, but it is up there.”

There are unique export laws imposed on products made in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. For example, in the case of the winery, having the word “Palestine” predominately displayed on the wine bottles and packaging is a big problem.

“We had some exporting issues with our beer a few years ago when we were trying to export to the US,” says Canaan, who also locally produces beer. “Because there’s no trade agreement between the US and Palestine, we would have to pay a lot in taxes [to keep the product labelled as a product of Palestine]. If we changed it to ‘West Bank’ we wouldn’t have that issue.”

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