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6 kosher wines for Passover

“Why is this night different from all other nights?"

The ancient phrase is uttered on the first night of Passover, which this year falls on Friday. It leads to discussions of Jewish tradition, the ritual seder meal and, often, to kosher wines.

Kosher wines are a little complicated, but they're becoming more popular in America, even among non-Jewish wine fans.

Put simply, kosher wines (kosher means "correct" or "proper") are made much like other wines, with a few extra steps including that the process must be carried out by Sabbath-observant Jews, using only kosher ingredients.

To go beyond that to "kosher for Passover," a wine also must be fermented with yeast from fruit such as grapes, plums and such and not from grains like wheat or oats.

Finally, kosher wines may be made mevushal, which in Hebrew means "cooked," rendering them proper to be served by non-Jewish workers as in a restaurant or hotel.

In the past, mevushal wines were boiled, greatly damaging their flavors. Today they are heated only to 185 degrees, where the first tiny bubbles start to form, then quickly cooled while their flavors are intact.

In all of these cases, other requirements also apply.

One big change: For decades, most American kosher wines were sweet, in part because the Jewish population centered on the East Coast, and the kosher wines came from upstate New York. The cold weather there meant many wines were from the concord grape, a high-acid variety that turned out very tart if made dry.

Many people still prefer the sweet wines. But today, kosher wines also come dry as well, in all varieties, from dozens of countries. You can find dry kosher Bordeaux, Burgundy, chardonnay, pinot grigio, merlot and many others.

Oh, and there's an advantage to kosher wines, even to nonkosher consumers. In many nonkosher wineries, workers clarify the wines by "fining," which means dropping egg whites, gelatin or other substances through them to carry any tiny pieces of grape skins, leaves and such to the bottom. It means that while the wines might be vegetarian, they no longer are vegan.

Kosher winemakers are not permitted to fine with animal products, instead often using a finely ground sterile clay called bentonite.

It means kosher wines are vegan.

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Highly recommended

2014 Bodega Flechas de los Andes Gran Malbec, by Baron Edmond de Rothschild, Argentina, kosher for Passover, not mevushal: aromas and flavors of black plums, black pepper and other spices, hint of earth, powerful; $21.

2013 Ramon Cardova Estate Bottled Rioja, DOC Crianza, Spain (tempranillo), kosher for Passover, mevushal: hint of oak, aromas of vanilla, flavors of black raspberries, herbs and earth, medium body; $27.

Recommended

2014 Carmel Winery "Appellation" Cabernet Sauvignon, Upper Galilee, Israel, kosher for Passover, mevushal: hint of oak, aromas and flavors of black cherries and black coffee, full-bodied, spicy, tannic, crisp acids, age-worthy; $18.

2014 Herzog "Camouflage" Limited Edition Red Wine Blend (12-grape blend), kosher for Passover, not mevushal: big, powerful and smooth, with aromas and flavors of blackberries, black coffee and spice, long finish; $25.

2014 Teperberg Family Winery "Impression" Merlot, Samson, Israel, kosher for Passover, mevushal: aromas and flavors of ripe cherries and other fruit, soft and smooth, long finish; $19.

2014 Tzafona Cellars Vidal Icewine, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Canada, kosher for Passover: intensely sweet dessert wine, with aromas and flavors of apricots and honey, with crisp acids; $40.

6 kosher wines for Passover 04/18/16 [Last modified: Monday, April 18, 2016 10:16am]
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