For years, religiously important kosher wines didn’t exactly scream quality; instead, they were thick, syrupy sweet and dessert-like. But there’s good news for the Jewish High Holy Days. In the last 20 or so years, new kosher producers have emerged to take on the granddaddy of kosher wine, Manischewitz, by expanding varietal choices and delivering vino even the nonreligious might deign to consume.
What makes wine kosher?
Contrary to some beliefs, kosher wines are created the same way as all others, only with a few stringent rules. According to the folks at Royal Wines, America’s leading kosher wine producer, there are two rules when making kosher wines: 1. Animal-derived material, such as gelatin, is removed from the process. One exception is the use of egg whites (from eggs containing no blood) in the “fining” or “clarifying” stage, a voluntary step that removes sediment left over from fermentation; 2. From beginning to end, all equipment must be kosher; for example, the fermentation tanks must be “koshered” (sanitized with a special hot-water spray process), and Orthodox Jewish workers must handle all wine-making duties. This rule continues through the bottling stage, until the cork and seal are in place.
Kosher wine: a celebratory rite
Wines have deep significance in Jewish holidays. During Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year in early October, wines are poured during the celebratory dinners. And spring’s Passover seder meal also highlights wine in the festivities. But with better wines to choose from, kosher diners can now kick up their heels and explore the dry side, and perhaps it’s time non-Jews venture out and explore the kosher plains. Besides, kosher cab pairs just as well with gefilte fish as with pot roast. Shalom.
Wine recommended by Bern’s Fine Wines and Spirits:
2007 Golan Heights “Yarden” Chardonnay $17.95
“A ripe style. Amber in color, with a rich spicy aroma and flavors to match. Baked apple and peach notes carry through to the buttery finish. Kosher. Drink now. 600 cases made.” 85 Points Wine Spectator
2006 Golan Heights “Yarden” Cabernet Sauvignon $25.95
“Produced and bottled by Golan Heights Winery of Israel,Yarden Cabernet Sauvignon is produced from Cabernet Sauvignon grapes grown in the Golan Heights and Upper Galilee. The cool climate, rocky volcanic soil and high altitude are ideal for growing Cab. Aging in French oak barrels for 18 months yields a concentrated wine of impressive complexity with layers of berry, blackcurrant, chocolate, leather and oak.”
Winemaker Jeff Morgan’s Covenant Cabernet Sauvignon & “Red C” Cabernet Sauvignon are “two of the finest kosher wines money can buy” praises Robert Parker. The fruit is sourced from the superb Larkmead Vineyard on Napa’s valley floor, just north of St. Helena. These cuvees are 100% Cabernet Sauvignon aged in 50% Taransaud French barrels that are made under a rabbi’s strict supervision.
2006 Covenant “Red C” Cabernet Sauvignon $39.95
“The 2006 Red C is the second wine of Covenant, and includes a press wine. This is soft, round, deliciously fruity Cabernet that is meant to be drunk in its first 7-8 years of life. The name, of course, is a play on words … just think it over. Jeff Morgan continues to make one of the finest kosher wines on Planet Earth.” 90 Points Robert Parker