Recently, kosher wines have had an increase in demand, and a number of wine producing countries produce kosher wines under rabbinical supervision. And with the upcoming holidays (Chanukah as well as Thanksgiving), I wanted to showcase some of the wines I’ve tasted recently, so that you have time to find and buy the wine. I’ve also included some interesting tidbits about kosher wines and pairings. Enjoy!
Ten Things to Know About Kosher Wine
Courtesy of Royal Wine Company, a.k.a., Kedem @royalwinecorp
1) Kosher wine is made in precisely the same way as ‘regular’ wine. The only difference is that there is rabbinical oversight during the process and that the wine is handled by Sabbath-observant Jews.
2) Not all Israeli wines are kosher. Only about 30% of Israeli wine brands are actually certified kosher, but these kosher wineries produce over 90% of the Israel wine industry’s output.
3) In the 1980s, there were very few kosher wines. Buchsbaum says that Royal Wine only imported three kosher wines from Bordeaux back then.
4) The number of producers of kosher wines has dramatically increased in the past 10 to 20 years. To-date, Royal Wine Corp. represents more than 60 kosher wine producers. This is due to an increase in interest from consumers who are adding to their kosher wine portfolios, and in some cases building actual kosher wine cellars in their homes, a rare sight just two decades ago.
5) While a number of well-known wineries in countries from all over the world including France, Spain, Italy, and Argentina are crafting special runs of kosher wine, California is not. With the exception of Marciano Estate, which produces a kosher run of their Terra Gratia, a high-end Napa Valley Blend, all kosher California wine is made by fully kosher wineries such as Herzog Wine Cellars, Covenant and Hagafen.
6) The reason many Passover dinners feature red wine is because there’s a rabbinic opinion that red wine is preferable since it’s the same variety that Jews used during their Seders after they escaped Egypt.
7) Kosher wines can range in price from $5.00 a bottle to $500. The average price for a bottle of good kosher wine is $25.
8) The most popular Moscato in the U.S. happens to be kosher. Bartenura produces the largest selling imported Italian Moscato in the U.S. The Moscato in the famous blue bottle sells over 5,000,000 bottles annually, only a fraction of which to the kosher market.
9) Currently there is a steady increase in total wine consumption and a great interest specifically in high-end Israeli wines, as well as the better French wines.
10) Drinking wine can be a Mitzvah (good deed). Kosher wine is prescribed for use in many Jewish rituals: Bris Milah (circumcision), the wedding chuppa (canopy), and the Kiddush that starts all Sabbath and holiday meals. While most occasions call for just one cup, on the holiday of Purim, wine (in abundance) is the beverage of choice for the festive meal, recalling wine’s significant role in the “banquets” described in the Megillah story. On Passover, Jews are required to drink four cups of wine at the Seder.
Kosher Wine Recommendations:
Out of the samples I recently received, here are the ones I highly recommend, along with some suggested food pairings:
2013 Psagot Edom Jerusalem Mountain Vineyards, Israel ($35)
Blend: 75% Cabernet Sauvignon / 25% Merlot
Layered / intense / black fruits / spice / vanilla
Food: Anything grilled, or roasted
2013 Karmei Yosef Winery Bravdo יקב כרמי יוסף Coupage Red, Samson, Israel ($30)
Blend: 40% Cabernet Franc / 33% Cabernet Sauvignon / 27% Shiraz
Rich / ripe / dark fruits / dark chocolate / tobacco / spice
Food: Lamb Kebabs
2014 Yarden Chardonnay, Odem Vineyard, Israel ($20)
Aromatic / bright / pear / pineapple
2009 Yarden Blanc de Blancs, north Golan Heights Vineyard, Israel ($31)
Green apple / citrus / stone fruits
Food: Fried Chicken
2014 Yarden Malbec, Yonatan Springs Vineyard, Israel ($33)
Round / ripe / dark cherry / plum / tight / pungent / spice
Food: Braised lamb shanks with orange zest, dried prunes, garlic and golden raisins
2014 Yarden Cabernet Sauvignon, Israel ($33)
Complex / cassis / black fruits / spice / vanilla
Food: Anything grilled
2016 Galil Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon, Upper Galilee, Israel ($16)
Full-bodied / plums / herbs / tobacco
Food: Pizza and hamburgers
2016 Galil Mountain Merlot, Israel ($15)
Sweet / ripe / licorice / soft / spice
Food: Sambusa (a fried or baked dish with a savory filling)
2014 Gilgal Sangiovese, Israel ($15)
Rich / earthy / spicy / red fruits / violets
Food: Shakshouka (eggs poached in a sauce of tomatoes, chili peppers, and onions, spiced with cumin)
2016 Galil Sauvignon Blanc, Yiron Vineyard, Israel ($18)
Citrus / herbs / round / balanced / green apple
Food: Grilled fish
2014 Galil Yiron Red Blend, Upper galilee Vineyard, Israel ($32)
Blend: 56% Cabernet Sauvignon / 32% Merlot / 7% Syrah / 5% Petit Verdot
Dark fruits / eucalyptus / complex / dried herbs / oak
Food: Grilled meat
And if you’re looking for more pairings with middle eastern foods, check out this handy little guide from Golan Heights Winery.
Golan Heights Winery photo credit: Julie Eitan