The kosher concept as applied to wine is much more complex than an association with "sweet and syrupy," and it results in some great-tasting wines you would never know were kosher. Tasty — and kosher — wines can come from Israel as easily as they can from California, Italy, or even New Zealand.
For a wine to be kosher, the vines on which the grapes are grown must be at least 4 years old and left unharvested every seventh year. The winemaking process must accord with the kosher regulations, and the tools may not be used for purposes outside of winemaking. In addition, these tools may only be used by practicing male Jews. Kosher winemaking in no way negatively affects the quality of wine produced.
In other words, it's perfectly normal to find a kosher wine from a classic region that tastes just as good as all the other non-kosher wines made around it.
Keep reading for eight great kosher wine recommendations from around the world to enjoy during this year’s Festival of Lights.
Even in the heart of wine-tradition-loving countries like Italy you can find kosher wines. Bartenura Winery (Piedemont, Italy, $12.99) makes a delicious, sparkling kosher moscato. With ultra-fine bubbles, this wine dances with effervescence. Without being cloyingly sweet, it is a really tasty way to begin any Hanukkah celebration.
For a quintessentially "Kiwi" Kosher wine is Goose Bay 2011 Sauvignon Blanc ($19.95) from Marlborough, New Zealand. This wine demonstrates the classic attributes of a Marlborough sauvignon blanc: It's mouth-puckeringly tangy and zesty, with a lemon-lime character throughout. If you like New Zealand sauvignon blancs, whether you plan to attend a Hanukkah party or not, this wine's for you.
California's major producer of kosher wine is Herzog Family Vineyards in the Central Coast. Herzog produces several varietals, from chardonnay ($13) to syrah ($13) to cabernet ($13), all of them kosher. The fruit for the Herzog 2009 special Reserve Cabernet ($34.95) comes from the Anderson Valley, and the wine demonstrates notes of black cherry, anise, herb, and chocolate. A perfect pairing for Hanukkah party staples like brisket.
If tradition is of paramount importance at your Hanukkah party, no problem — there are some phenomenal kosher wines made in Israel available in America.
One great Israeli producer is Dalton, located in the lush Upper Galilee. An ultra-modern winery (in what looks like an office complex akin to rows of garagiste wineries in the central coast of California, where multiple wineries share single, vast warehouses), Dalton makes a great-value Bordeaux-style blend for $15.95 called Canaan Red.
If you still have a hankering for the sweet stuff but are a bit tired of Manischewitz, another Israeli winery offers a truly innovative option. Down the road from Dalton is Rimon Winery, which makes the region's truly unique Pomegranate Dessert Wine ($19.99/500ml). The wine is dark, black cherry in color and overt notes of pomegranate. Rimon has been a crowd-pleaser many a dinner party, for Hanukkah or otherwise.
Ask at your local wine shop for a good kosher bottle, and you'll likely find that the wine tastes just as good as any other wine you normally drink.