I was asked a few days ago if I could recommend any half-decent Kosher wine. It’s not too often that I get caught off guard with wine questions, but this one did throw me through a loop! I was going to recommend Manischewitz and see the look on the person’s face, instead I decided a little research was in order!
Kosher, in Hebrew, means "fit", "proper" or "correct", and is generally used to describe food prepared adhering to strict Jewish dietary laws. Almost all Jewish holidays, involve blessings with kosher wine.
Wine is said to have a long history in the Jewish religion, going back to biblical times, however it’s reputation hasn’t always been that great (going back to my Manischewitz comment). Jewish immigrants to New York initially used Concord grapes to make their wine, however the results were a little "unorthodox" (sorry – bad Jewish joke)! The problem with Concord grapes are that they are super high in acid, and need sugar to balance them out. The image of all Kosher wines being sweet stuck.
Over recent years, there has been a rise in the quality of Kosher wines all over the world, now that more "classic" varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah are being introduced. Kosher wine is now being produced not only in Israel, but throughout the world including regions such as Napa Valley and Bordeaux.
So which is the world’s best Kosher wine?
Well one of the recent vintages of Covenant Napa Cabernet was given a 90-92 point rating by Robert Parker, retails for around $90 a bottle and supposedly will drink until 2023 (at least that’s what their website says)! I’ve never tasted the wine and I’m sure it’s great, but just so you know you don’t need to spend $90 to get a wine with a 90-92 point rating! I was drinking a 90 point $13.99 Prosecco last night….I digress…
Kosher law (some of the oldest wine-making laws in the world) require the following points to be adhered to:
1. Equipment used to make the wine is used only for producing Kosher products.
2. From the time the grapes arrive at the winery, only Sabbath observant male Jews are allowed to work on the production of the wines. No-one else is allowed in the winery.
3. Only certified Kosher products (yeast etc.) can be used.
4. Grapes from new vines may not be used for making wine, until after the fourth year.
5. Every seventh year the fields must be left untouched and there is a prohibition on growing other fruits and vegetables between the vines.
6. Strict cleanliness is mandated. Tanks, presses and all equipment must be cleaned three times by steam cleaning or scalding hot water. All barrels must be brand new and/or used exclusively for kosher wines.
7. Kosher law however does not prohibit the use of specific grape varieties or limit the place of origin of vines, therefore Kosher wines can made made anywhere in the world as long as the above laws are observed.