Kosher Wine: Why is This Wine Different From All Other Wines?
The Jewish holiday of Passover begins this Friday night. Most families will celebrate with a seder, where they’ll break matazh and drink four cups of ideally kosher wine. So, just how different is kosher wine from the non-kosher stuff?
What Makes a Kosher Wine Kosher?
Thank you to Royal Wine Corp for answering the question of what actually makes a kosher wine, kosher, and for sending me these two bottles of Kosher Wine. L”Chaim
Baron Herzog Rosé ($12) Fruit-forward, light, flavorful and crisp, the historic entry-level quality kosher wines from Herzog Wine Cellars.
Carmel Special Reserve 40th Anniversary Edition 2016 ($80) This wine is a tribute to the legendary 1976 Carmel Special Reserve, Israel’s first modern high-quality red wine. Carmel Winery, the pioneer of the modern Israeli wine industry, was founded by Château Lafite’s Baron Edmond de Rothschild in 1882.
“Grapes on the vine are inherently kosher – kosher wine production ensures they remain kosher throughout the winemaking process. The fundamental difference in the kosher winemaking process is who does the physical work: anyone who handles the juice or wine must be a Sabbath-observant Jew. Some further considerations with winemaking ingredients (such as yeast) must be certified kosher. And lastly, our calendar follows the Jewish calendar, which prohibits work on the Sabbath and holidays. In general, one can say that Kosher is a high level of scrutiny or attention to detail. There is no affect of kosher supervision on quality or taste.
Additionally, 99.9% of kosher wines are also kosher for Passover, which means that the yeast used for the fermentation has special kosher for Passover certification, which guarantees that it is not based on nor does it contain ingredients such as wheat/barley-based yeast. As well, the barrels in which wine is sometimes aged are sealed with glue that is often flour-based. Kosher for Passover wine is aged in barrels sealed with synthetic glue.” – Gabriel Geller, Royal Wine Corp
Some Kosher wines are processed as Mevushal, which means ‘cooked’ in Hebrew. Some wineries produce their Mevushal wines by heating the must (grape juice) prior to fermentation, while others apply that procedure on the final product, prior to bottling.
When kosher wine is produced, marketed and sold commercially, it will bear kosher certification granted by a specially-trained rabbi who is responsible for supervision from start to finish.
Recent years have seen increased demand for kosher wines, prompting a number of vintners in countries not previously represented to produce sophisticated kosher wines under strict rabbinical supervision in countries such as South Africa, Chile and Canada, in addition to traditional sources such as Israel, France, California Spain and Italy.
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Ten More Things to Know About Kosher Wine
1) Kosher wine is made in precisely the same way as ‘regular’ wine. The only difference is that there is rabbinical oversight during the process and that the wine is handled by Sabbath-observant Jews.
2) Not all Israeli wines are kosher. Only about 30% of Israeli wine brands are certified kosher, but these kosher wineries produce over 90% of the Israel wine industry’s output.
3) In the 1980s, there were very few kosher wines. Royal Wine only imported three kosher wines from Bordeaux back then.
4) The number of producers of kosher wines has dramatically increased in the past 10 to 20 years. To-date, Royal Wine Corp. represents more than 60 kosher wine producers. This is due to an increase in interest from consumers who are adding to their kosher wine portfolios, and in some cases building actual kosher wine cellars in their homes, a rare sight just two decades ago.
5) While several well-known wineries in countries from all over the world including France, Spain, Italy, and Argentina are crafting special runs of kosher wine, California is not. Except for Marciano Estate, which produces a kosher run of their Terra Gratia, a high-end Napa Valley Blend, all kosher California wine is made by fully kosher wineries such as Herzog Wine Cellars, Covenant and Hagafen.
6) The reason many Passover dinners feature red wine is because there’s a rabbinic opinion that red wine is preferable since it’s the same variety that Jews used during their Seders after they escaped Egypt.
7) Kosher wines can range in price from $5.00 a bottle to $500. The average price for a bottle of good kosher wine is $25.
8) The most popular Moscato in the U.S. happens to be kosher. Bartenura produces the largest selling imported Italian Moscato in the U.S. The Moscato in the famous blue bottle sells over 5,000,000 bottles annually, only a fraction of which to the kosher market.
9) Currently there is a steady increase in total wine consumption and a great interest specifically in high-end Israeli wines, as well as the better French wines.
10) Drinking wine can be a Mitzvah (good deed). Kosher wine is prescribed for use in many Jewish rituals: Bris Milah (circumcision), the wedding chuppa (canopy), and the Kiddush that starts all Sabbath and holiday meals. While most occasions call for just one cup, on the holiday of Purim, wine (in abundance) is the beverage of choice for the festive meal, recalling wine’s significant role in the “banquets” described in the Megillah story. On Passover, Jews are required to drink four cups of wine at the Seder.
About Royal Wine/Kedem
Founded in 1848, Royal Wine Corp. has been owned and operated in the United States by the Herzog family, whose winemaking roots go back eight generations to its origin in Czechoslovakia.