Econostrum | Economic News in the Mediterranean

Yatir: a wine cooperative looking to conquer the world’s best restaurants

Written by Hélène Lesman, JERUSALEM on Monday, February 20th 2012 à 08:50 | Read 1068 times



In 2000, three Israeli cooperative agricultural villages (“moshavs”) decided to make wine on the edge of the Judean Hills and the Negev desert, in a region where Israelis had never tried to grow wine before. By creating a joint venture with Carmel, the biggest wine producer in the country, the Yatir wine growers now export nearly 40% of their production.

Yatir Winery (Photo DR)
Yatir Winery (Photo DR)
ISRAEL. Yatir wines have already been awarded four stars in Huge Johnson’s Pocket Wine Book in 2011, and 2012 and have repeatedly received 93 points from renowned wine critic Robert Parker.  Although this young winery only produces 150,000 bottles per year, it already has distributors on three continents and in Mediterranean countries such as France and Italy. 

“Because of our cooperative system, and our association with Carmel, we have been able to rationalise our investments to create a wine of great quality from the outset”, explains Yatin Winery CEO, Yaakov Ben Dor.  Furthermore, as the estate is partly located in the Negev desert, the Israeli government funded 20% of the initial investment when the winery was being set up, as part of a government programme to fight against the desert’s advance.    

“The consortium with Carmel, a company that has been making wine since the 19th Century, and which produces around 15 million bottles per year, has particularly enabled us to export aboard since 2004, using Carmel distributors found throughout the world”.  Yatir wine exports increased from 15% of annual production in 2004 to 40% in 2011. 

Vineyard Workers

Yatir vines (DR Photo)
Yatir vines (DR Photo)
Up until 2006 Carmel held 50% of the Yatir estate, while the other half belonged to the winegrowers from the three community farms, grouped into a cooperative.  “We worked like this for six years, sharing all investment and profits 50/50 between the Yatir Cooperative and the Carmel Winery”, says Yaakov Ben Dor. 

But production costs quickly become too high for the Yatir growers and in 2006 the consortium was abandoned for another way of working.  “Today, Yatir wine production and profit from sales belong 100% to Carmel, while the vineyards and winery are fully owned by the cooperative of winegrowers.  The growers receive a wage from Carmel Winery, which supports not only sales and marketing, but also the transport of Yatir wines in Israel and abroad”, he said. 

“It is rare to find examples of cooperatives that make high-quality wine.  Yet we managed to win the bet and reach the best restaurants in Europe, the United States and Australia”, says Yaakov Ben Dor. 

Today Yatir is an example to many wine producers, including some Italian winemakers who visit the Yatir estate every year to take a leaf out of the book of this one-of-a-kind cooperative model making wine in the desert. 

Special issue : Ensuring the logistical safety and security of Mediterranean wines

En français : La logistique des vins méditerranéens

Special issue in partnership with Vinisud  

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