The days of bringing just a limited number of brands to a Passover Seder may be long gone, but the wealth of Kosher wines available today in the marketplace is still not common knowledge. When selecting a wine for the Passover holiday or other occasions, people used to look to Israel or California more than any other country. But now, Kosher wines are available from old world countries such as France, Italy, Spain, and New World countries such as Chile, Argentina, and South Africa. Of course, Israel and the USA still offer great products, but if you want to surprise your wine-loving host with a special bottle that will wow them, the selection is quite impressive!
Kosher wine is keeping pace with the rest of the industry, and we are now seeing many of the same trends that have taken place on the larger wine scene – the exponential rise of rosé wines, sparkling wine, wine in cans, Pet-Nat, non-dosage Champagne among other trends. Royal Wine Corp. is the largest distributor of Kosher wine in the USA, and according to Gabriel Geller, Director of Public Relations, he said, “Our selection of great Rosé wines has grown by 300% over the past five years.” He also noted they had increased their French, Italian, and Spanish offerings considerably.
While many in the larger Orthodox community have a known passion for good scotch, wine is an essential part of the Passover seder. At least four cups of wine are used during the seder. Bringing a Kosher wine is not necessary unless the family keeps kosher. One could bring any fabulous bottle of wine, but it is also the perfect occasion to discover what is happening in this corner of the market.
How does one know if a wine is Kosher? It may be printed on the back label and will probably say, “Kosher for Passover.” For a wine to be Kosher, the only people who can handle any part of the winemaking process must be Sabbath-observant Jews. This includes the period from the crushing of the grapes to when they are bottled. Moreover, any products used in the winemaking, be it the yeast, fining agents, or any other product, these too must be Kosher. In addition to being Kosher, some wines will say they are Mevushal, which literally means cooked wine. This process is done by heating the must before fermentation or by heating the final wine before bottling. Whether using this latter process or not, a Kosher wine will bear the seal by a Rabbi who has supervised the production from start to finish. In countries that don’t have people trained in making Kosher wine, they will bring in a Rabbi from another country to oversee the production.
Does one have to bring a Kosher wine for Passover? According to Anne Marie Markovich-Girard, Vice President of Sales at Israeli Yarden Winery, “People can bring Kosher wine or dessert. But more importantly, just bring – in a spiritual way – hope, an open heart, and an open mind to elevate and transform oneself. Passover is a celebration of transformation from cultural slavery to freedom.” That is something we can all toast. Salute!
Here are some noteworthy Kosher wines for the Seder table from around the world!
Freixenet Excelencia Kosher Brut NV
Sparkling wine is always welcome at any celebration, and this lovely Cava from Catalonia can do the trick. Cava is always a traditional method sparkler with secondary fermentation taking place in the bottle.
Grapes: 100% Macabeo
Aromas: Apple, pear, and brioche
Palate: Similar to the aromas. Bubbles are fine, numerous, and persistent, just what you want in a bottle of sparkling wine with a lovely perlage—refreshing acidity and inviting, with a long floral note on the finish. Great aperitif.
Terra di Seta Chianti Classico 2018
Terra di Seta is a Kosher winery in the Castelnuovo Berardegna area in Tuscany run by a lovely couple, Daniele Della Seta and Maria Pellegrini. They are the only fully kosher winery in Italy with a bed and breakfast to boot. Perfect pairing with a roast, brisket, or other main courses.
Grapes: Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon
Aromas: Cherry, bramble, and cedar
Palate: Dusty cherry, black currant, earth, and mushroom with a long finish and restrained oak use.
If you want to go to a new world country, Backsberg in South Africa offers a host of wines from sparkling wine to Pinotage to Chardonnay, all Kosher and Mevushal. Backsberg is a winery with 100 years of history and is South Africa’s first carbon-neutral producer. They are also attentive to the environment.
Grapes: 96% Merlot, 5% Durif
Aromas: Chocolate, plum, and vanilla
Palate: Red fruit, oak, and fine tannins mark the palate with a long, persistent finish. It would be a complement to the meat course served at the seder.
Wines from Carmel Winery, one of the oldest in the country, with more than 140 years of history, is a great option. The winery was founded in 1882 by Baron Edmond de Rothschild, the owner of the famous Chateau Lafite-Rothschild in Bordeaux.
Private Collection Cabernet Sauvignon 2018 is both Kosher and Mevushal and hails from Galilee.
Grapes: 100% Cabernet Sauvignon
Aromas: Black fruit, stewed plum, spice on the nose.
Palate: Fruit-forward with cedar and vanilla undertones, this medium-bodied wine will be a crowd-pleaser. It could be perfect for younger, large families for the four cups of wine required at the seder.
Carmel Signature collection Mediterranean 2017
Grapes: A blend of six grapes, 41% Syrah, 22% Carignan, 20% Mourvedre, 8% Grenache, 7% Tannat, 2% Viognier vinified separately and eventually blended. It is quite sophisticated and brought Israel’s Mediterranean location home to me.
Aromas: Hints of garrigue, black and red currants, lovely spice, and lavender.
Palate: It is rich and enveloping, layered with nuanced oak- a lovely and balanced wine in a beautiful box.
Yarden is another winery from Israel with a long history. The company owns two wineries, Golan Heights Winery and Galil Mountain Winery that includes many brands. The Galilee (or Galil) is the most northern and generally considered the best appellation in Israel. The highest quality area within the appellation is the Golan Heights (or simply the Golan), the coldest region in Israel. The vineyards on this volcanic plateau rise from 400 meters (1,300 feet) above sea level to 1,200 meters (3,900 feet) and receive snowfall in the winter. Golan Heights Winery is located in the town of Katzrin in central Golan.
Yarden Chardonnay 2018
Aromas: Apple and pear, with a hint of lanolin and oak.
Palate: Clean, straightforward, baked apples, some oak, and good acidity enveloping mouthfeel. Great pairing with fish or for those who are not eating meat or do not drink red wine.
NBA All-Star Amar’e Stoudemire makes a line of wines in Israel and now in the USA. He is the first kosher winemaker of color.
Stoudemire Clarity Rosé 2020
Grapes: Pinot Noir
Aromas: Strawberry, melon, and candied fruit on the nose.
Palate: Aromas continue on the palate together with rose and pomegranate.
A great wine for an aperitif or to drink with side dishes during the seder.
Feature photo is of Yarden Odem Organic Vineyard
So much change in the field. Pretty impressive.