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  • Marco Giovanetti

The new quality Kosher wine: Beyond Manischewitz

Jewish ceremonial life has revolved around wine throughout history. Wine is a notable aspect of many important Jewish ceremonies for the observers who practice the religion since it is regarded as a drink that holds great significance and comes with its own benefits when consumed ritually. For instance, wine had a prominent role in the sacrifices made in the Jerusalem Temple two to three thousand years ago. In addition, the Four Cups of Wine, which stand for the Jewish Exodus and emancipation from slavery, play a significant role in the Passover Seder. Additionally, Kiddush is said over a cup of wine before every Shabbat and holiday meal. Jewish marriage also includes the "Seven Blessings" at the end and wine under the chuppah. This article will discuss what makes a wine Kosher and briefly survey the historical Kosher wine culture in wine-producing regions such as Israel and Spain and previous winemaking history in Iran.

Defining Kosher wine

Kosher wine must be produced in accordance with Jewish Orthodox laws and under the stringent supervision of an Orthodox Rabbi. In other words, the production process can only use ingredients that are kosher. Kosher wine can be made exactly the same way as non Kosher wine using Vitis Vinifera varieties, however, the only real distinction is that Jews who observe the Sabbath must oversee the entire process of making kosher wine. One of the common kosher certification symbols, which resembles a circled "U" and denotes certification by the Union of Orthodox Rabbis, is one of the many different kosher certification emblems.

Another sign indicating the wine is kosher is a "K" in a circle, a "K" in a star, a "cRc," or a Hebrew letter " ‎כש"

The myth of boiled Kosher wine

Wines that are kosher are not always boiled. This popular belief gives kosher wine a low quality image. Mevushal is a subset of kosher that calls for the wine to be heated to 85 degrees Celsius, which is well below boiling point and only needs to be held there for a short period of time. Utilizing contemporary methods like flash detente, mevushal can be produced. This method involves rapidly pumping and heating grapes in a vacuum chamber. As a result, the grapes burst, adding colour and fruit to the must in a matter of seconds as opposed to weeks with cold maceration. Since anyone, including non-Jews, can handle the wine through the mevushal procedure, it is well appreciated in commercial settings such as weddings or banquets.

Kosher wine history in Spain and Iran

Kosher wines have left their mark on the histories of Iran and Spain.In Iran, up to the 1979 revolution, each Jewish family crushed fresh grapes to make their own wine, which they used for holidays or family gatherings starting in the early days of the country until the 1979 revolution.

In fact, the eminent Persian poet Hafez makes mention of "a hidden Jewish drink" in one of his poems, which alludes to Jews producing wine. Furthermore, to secure protection for their neighborhoods from potential antisemitic attacks, Jews in various Iranian cities gave away free wine they made to neighborhood Muslim street watchers group also known as loties.

In California, one of the largest Persian Jewish diaspora centers, Jewish winemaking heritage is still alive. Among the well-known Persian wineries in the Santa Ynez Valley is the Dr. Jamshid Maddahi's Jamshid winery. The doctor bought a piece of land in Santa Ynez just ten years ago with the intention of producing wine. He crafts several bottlings including a Petite Sirah, a Syrah, and a Cabernet Franc are just a few of the wines that Jamshid Winery produces. The wines get outstanding regular scores from American wine periodicals such as the Wine Enthusiast.

With the Sepharad Jewish tradition, the Kosher winemaking tradition in Spain continued to flourish. Jews from Spain gave the Iberian Peninsula the name Sepharad as early as Roman antiquity. Also, Spain is known as Sepharad in contemporary Hebrew, and Iberian Jewish descendants call themselves Sephardim. In careful observance of the Torah's laws, the Jewish communities of the Sepharad (Spain) were secretly trading wines, which was a crucial factor in the spread of Spanish wine culture across the continent. This era of Spanish Jewish wine practices came to an end with the Reformation, which Spain violently suppressed as Europe once more plummeted into a bloodbath.

The first wine to reach the Americas was a Kosher wine from the Jewish Spanish town of Ribadavia. Ribadavia was well established in the 11th century and became significant wine hub in 1065 when King Garca picked it as the Galician region's capital during his brief rule. On Columbus' second journey of exploration, wine arrived via La Hispaniola ( Dominican Republic). A sick priest on board the ship Santa Mara insisted on a "cup of the fine wine of Ribadavia to fill his thirst and soothe my aches and pains," according to the navigator's journal. The few kosher wine producers in Spain today offer high-quality bottles. For instance, the remarkable wine "Celler de Capcanes" from Monsant and Elvi, a family-run winery from Tarragona.

Since biblical times, wine has been produced in Israel. Today, many Israeli wineries are producing some of the finest kosher wine available worldwide. The five main wine-producing areas in Israel are the Galilee, Shomron, Shimshon, Jerusalem Mountains, and Negev. It can be said that the Israeli winemaking industry started with the establishment of Carmel Winery in Haifa. Israel specialized in sweet kosher wines until the late 1980's, when smaller boutique wineries started to appear. Beginning in 2000, Israel had a two-fold increase in the number of wineries in just five years, with the majority producing a sizable volume of kosher wines.

In conclusion, Spain and Israel both have long histories with kosher wine. The popularity of boutique vineyards in Israel is raising the bar for quality kosher wines, while Spain focuses on carfting kosher wines from historical premium geographic areas such as Montsant. Other intriguing kosher wines are produced in France and Italy as well. For example,one of the earliest Italian producers of kosher wines is Pitigliano. When the Jewish population of the Papal States was compelled to flee their homes and seek safety in this Tuscan town in the 16th century, the company began operating. In addition, in Bordeaux, France some 50 prestigious Chateaux including some from the 1855 Classified Growth hierarchy have produced Kosher wine at one point or another.

For more information on Kosher wines, do not hesitate to consult David Raccah's Wine Musings Blog ( David has more than 18 years of tasting experience and regularly tastes Kosher wines around the world. The tasting notes are very professional and the blog’s language is very comprehensive. It is a highly recommendable read.

Find our Kosher wines selection on Vintrail wine marketplace:

The 2021 vintage is surprising. A purple colour and a bouquet of fresh fruit. On the palate it reveals very fresh red fruit, with notes of gariguette, raspberry and cherry. With a nice tension, the acidity of this wine makes it energetic and dynamic.

The nose is fruity and powerful. It reveals notes of wild cassis, wild blackberry and small notes of violet associated with fine hints of wild red fruits as well as very fine hints of gray pepper and a subtle hint of nutmeg.

Tactile approach imbued with smoothness, with sustained freshness. Remarkable harmony and precision reinforced by citrus, zesty aromas and a long, juicy finish. Cru classé Provence.

A marked and very fruity character and a very fruity nose. Deep red colour, ample and well-structured. It has good volume and length on the palate as well as ripe and silky tannins.

It offers a splendid expression, on notes of black fruits, blackcurrant, plum, greedy notes of undergrowth with the scent of truffles. On the palate, this wine deploys a delicious round structure structured by ripe and coated tannins. Full of freshness, the finish lingers for a long time while retaining a beautiful aromatic expression.

Featuring a deep red color, the initial undertones of chocolate mint, florals, spice, incense and red fruits fill the nose. On the palate the wine is fleshy, elegant, seductive and rewarded with persistent black fruit nuances. Expansive, silky and long on the palate, this is a wine made for laying down.

Great dry white wine produced on the Sauternes terroir known for producing very high quality sweet wines.

Homogeneity of the grapes, very ripe pips, serenity, depth of color, balance, dazzling fruit, crystalline, precise, tranquility in the cellar, explosive as soon as the pomace leaves, bewitching, silky, elegant.

The 2020 vintage is a rich, ample and concentrated Saint-Estèphe that remains beautifully balanced and elegant. Lots of pure cassis, dark currants as well as notes of etabac, chocolate and wet herbs define the nose. A nice depth in the middle of the mouth, tannins in construction and a superb finish.

The 2020 vintage is deeply coloured. Nice notes of cigar box, truffle, cedar, blackcurrant, liquorice, and spice on the nose. Full-bodied, rich, lush, intense, long and energetic, the round finish lingers with layers of punchy, fresh blackberry and chocolate notes.

Both on the nose and on the palate, notes of white flowers, citrus fruits and elderflower dominate. The attack is supple and deliciously fruity thanks to a slight residual sugar. One can find tropical fruits and a good balance on the palate. This wine goes perfectly with spring salads, white meats and fish.


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