Wine from Israeli-held Golan Heights to hit Dubai shelves

TEL AVIV (Reuters) - The Golan Heights Winery, which grows its grapes on the plateau that Israel captured from Syria in a 1967 war, will display its bottles on shelves in Dubai this week, the Israeli company said.

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The sale of Golan wine in Dubai, and soon after elsewhere in the United Arab Emirates, follows a normalisation in relations reached between the UAE and Israel last month.

The UAE foreign and economy ministries did not respond to requests for comment on the wine deal. The Gulf state has described the Golan as Syrian territory, and along with the international community did not recognise Israel’s annexation of the area in 1981.

Last year, U.S. President Donald Trump recognised Israeli sovereignty over the Golan, which Israel captured in a 1967 war. The UAE said at the time the U.S. move “disrupts all efforts to achieve lasting peace in the Middle East”.

The Golan Heights wine brands - Yarden, Gamla and Mount Hermon - will be sold through African + Eastern (A&E), one of the largest importers of alcohol in the Gulf, Golan Heights Winery said in a statement.

The wines will be available in hotels, restaurants and retail alcohol stores. In the UAE only non-Muslims are legally allowed to drink.

Kosher wine from South Africa is already sold in the UAE but this will be the first Israeli-made wine in the Gulf state.

The Golan winery is targeting the wave of Israeli and Jewish tourists expected to visit the UAE as well as other tourists and locals who are allowed to consume alcohol.

“This is an historic launch and we expect a successful and long-term collaboration with the Golan Heights Winery,” A&E CEO Jason Dixon said in the statement.

Golan Heights Winery CEO Yair Shapira said the UAE was a market “with interesting and unique potential”. He said his firm would “open the gate” and introduce UAE residents and guests to the Israeli wine industry.

Reporting by Tova Cohen; Additional reporting by Alexander Cornwell in Dubai, Editing by Jeffrey Heller and Raissa Kasolowsky