Why drink Kosher Wine?
I am sure we have all heard of kosher wine but do we really understand what the term means? For most wine drinkers it is not an essential term to look for on a bottle of wine but for some it is key if they are to be able to enjoy a fine glass of wine. Some of the kosher wines are now valued as fine wines a fact which is reflected in the price, so perhaps it is worth mentioning there are several wine accessories which enable you to hold the wine in suspense (once opened). Products like Vacuvin give a tremendous advantage to wine drinkers because it is now possible to open and enjoy higher priced wines in the knowledge that the wine can be enjoyed over a number of days. So instead of rushing a fine drinking experience select the best bottle of Kosher wine that you can afford and grab a wine saver product, a fine glass and a wine aerator and enjoy the wine tasting experience to the full.
The term Kosher is from the Hebrew ‘yayin kashèr ‘ and it refers to a wine produced from grapes under strict supervision and in accordance with Jewish religious law, including the dietary laws. Every detail and all the ingredients used in the wine-making process must be deemed to be kosher for the wine to be granted the hechsher or seal of approval by a kosher organization or designated rabbi.
There is also a wine which is referred to as ‘kosher for Passover’ this means it is a wine which has been produced with the additional requirement of having been kept out of contact with grain, bread and dough (which include yeasts). Kosher wine can be found in a variety of styles and types- Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Syrah and Zinfandel to name but a few. So everyone can enjoy the simple pleasure of red or white kosher wine-by-the glass.
Hagafen Vineyard, Napa
Hagafen Cellars uses the well-drained soils of the Napa Valley to produce a number of kosher wines based on the concept of hand-selection and small lot releases. Ernie Wier is proud to be a natural wine-maker
committed to producing hand-crafted wines designed to enhance the natural terroir of the vineyard. When I use that elusive French term terroir I am referring to the mystic of the uniqueness of the soil, the atmosphere, rain, and sunshine, sometimes referred to as the elements; all of which combine with the vines in an individual way to produce uniqueness in the grape each year.
Ernie uses his skills, developed over the years, to enhance and develop each harvest into fine wines so note that in your wine tasting experience, no two years will be exactly the same. He has stated that his ‘goal is to showcase the best our land has produced’. Ernie is also justifiably ‘proud of our success and honoured to be able to produce these fine wines according to Jewish dietary laws’ ; a fact which allows them to display the OUP Mev kosher label.
You will also note in a little video on the blending of wine, where you can see Ernie working on a 2008 and a 2009, he is talking about those tannins for which we developed the WineWeaver wine aerator. Tannins are completely natural and to be expected according to the grape, the harvest and the wine-makers choices as each one gives the wine its unique characteristics.
Hagafen has one other amazing accolade which I would like to mention, wine from the estate has been served at the White House on a number of esteemed occasions. So, with the image of the White House in your mind’s eye why not take a look at the Hagafen Gold Medal 2009 Prix Reserve Cabernet Franc. This fine red wine has been described as a ‘luscious, rich, velvet and complex’ and we happen to know it would benefit from a little aeration though the WineWeaver upon popping the cork. The price of the wine is around $60 so it is also one for a special occasion or when you want to spoil yourself or someone you love. Alternatively, why not try the very cute labelled Don Ernesto Clarinet 2013 which is a delightful Temparnillo wine. Alternatively, why not try them both as the underlying grapes are different so the wine-tasting experiences will have the additional fun of allowing you to try out one wine-maker and two grapes. See if you can spot his personal style in the wine.
Four-Gates Vineyard, Santa Cruz
Not so far away in the Santa Cruz Mountains is the artisan wine-maker Benyamin of Four Gates. Benyamin Cantz may have the smallest kosher vineyard in the USA but he is not one to waste space so he has managed to plant four varieties of grape on his un-irrigated 3.5 acres plot of land. The list of grapes covers both red and white wine- Chardonnay, Merlot, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Franc. All of the grapes are tended and blended by this one-man operation. The grapes are also ertified as organic by California Certified Organic Farmers and the wine are considered ‘kosher for Passover’ as it is estate bottled by Benyamin. The wines will carry a certain intensity of flavour as they are produced from smaller, stressed grapes more akin to a French method of growing grapes. If you want to sample some of his fine and rare red or white wines you will have to contact Benyamin via the website as he is currently busy with the harvest- yes, I know it is very early this year and we are waiting to see if something special is happening.
Chateau Valandraud, France
Outside of the USA, Jean-Luc Thunevin of the Chateau Valandraud is producing a kosher Saint Emilion wine. In 2001 Jean-Luc chose a few areas of his Bordeaux vineyard for the purpose of producing kosher wines which are considered to be Mevushal. In the past Mevushal wines were heated to 90 degrees C or 194 degrees F, a process which had a negative effect on the taste of the wine.
More recently, there has been a switch to a process known as flash pasteurization which still enables the wine to be classified as Mevushal but does not have the same negative impact on the wine produced. This is a fact you can check out as Robert Parker, one of the most famous of people for ranking the quality of wine, gave the 2005 Chateau Valandraud a 90-92 point rating. Don’t expect this little kosher wine to fall into the affordable wine bracket when you find it but it is a top rated wine so would you anticipate anything else!
As this is just a taster to the topic of the kosher wines, you might want to try ‘Rogov’s Guide to Kosher Wines’ if you are interested in checking out a list of some of the best 500 kosher wines worldwide. Suffice to say, the market is demanding kosher wines of quality and there are some fine wine-makers who are up to the challenge of providing it. And just think I haven’t even had the space to write about kosher champagne or sparkling wines yet.
“Hagafen Cellar photo by Jim Heaphy – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Hagafen_Cellars.jpg“