Wine is an essential element of the Jewish faith, and has played a pivotal role in rituals and celebrations for centuries. For those that adhere to a kosher diet, choosing the right wine goes far beyond enology, and is more about the elements that must be present while making and consuming the wine for it to be considered holy. It’s not as scary as it sounds, it’s just a matter of reading the labels in the supermarket and knowing the right type of wine for the occasion.
What does kosher mean?
Foods and beverages are considered kosher when they conform to the regulations of Kashrut, the Jewish dietary law. Servers follow strict rules of handling, processing, and serving kosher food to maintain its status. Companies that produce kosher foods must have the hekhsher, or seal of approval, from a supervising agency. In the United States, there are five main organizations that supervise the quality of kosher food.
In the case of wine, kosher standards are achieved only when Sabbath-observant Jews are involved in every step of the winemaking process, from harvesting the grape to bottling the finished product.
Types of Kosher Wine
There are two types of kosher wine:
- Kosher Wine
For a wine to be considered kosher, it must be handled only by observant Jews from grape to glass. The reason for this unusual restriction is because in the past, non-Jews often used wine as an offering to idol gods. The rabbis enacted this strict requirement to ensure that Jews never received a glass of wine associated with an idolatrous offering.
- Mevushal Kosher Wine
Mevushal wine is cooked or boiled, and thus becomes unfit for idolatrous use and can be handled by a non-Jewish person. If you go to a kosher restaurant or an event with kosher caterers, you’re most likely to find mevushal wines, as non-Jewish waiters can serve them.
Boiling the Mevushal Wine
Previously, making mevushal wine was a complex process that involved cooking the wine at high temperatures, thus affecting the process of fermentation by removing the mold or impurities of the grapes. To remedy this, the wine must receive kosher wine enzymes after being boiled so that fermentation can occur.
Recently, a process called flash pasteurization has made the mevushal process much easier, and has less impact on the flavor of the wine. Wines are cooked at a specific temperature (for red wine, the highest temperature is 180°F) for less than a minute, and then cooled down as quickly as possible to limit the impact on flavor.
Now that you know a little bit more about kosher wines and the process of making them, check out these 5 kosher wines to enjoy this Hanukkah:
- Yarden Chardonnay: This rich, full-bodied Chardonnay has notes of ripe pears and tropical fruit.
- Tishbi Brut: This sparkling wine from Israel is made using the same method as Champagne in France.
- Gonzalez Byass “Tio Pepe” Palomino Fino: This dry wine has almond notes and a lovely saltiness that pairs beautifully with all the noshes before the main meal.
- Flechas de Los Andes 2008 Gran Malbec: This Malbec has ripe notes of black fruit and pairs beautifully with brisket.
- Peraj Petita: This Spanish blend has notes of cherries and spice, and is a great pairing for brisket or lamb.
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