Forget Manischewitz: The 8 Best Wine Pairings for Hanukkah
Though many of us are familiar with the Hanukkah customs of lighting the menorah, playing dreidel, praying, and gift giving, Hanukkah is a holiday with deep culinary traditions, as well. There is no set menu for the occasion, but there are classic dishes that have been enjoyed for generations. The most traditional foods are usually fried in oil, to remind participants of the Biblical miracle in which one day’s worth of ritual olive oil lasted the Maccabees eight days and nights, long enough for more oil to be pressed. Modern times have seen the menu broaden to include non-fried foods, but the focus is still on kosher, traditionally Jewish dishes. And to go with this food? When it comes to wine, of the kosher kind that is, there has been a surge in options.
That leaves us wondering: which kosher wines should we pair with traditional Hanukkah dishes? From potato latkes to the round jelly doughnuts called sufganiyot, there’s a kosher wine for everything.
No matter what you’ve heard — that all kosher wines are sweet and syrupy, for example — we think you’ll be pleasantly surprised when you taste our suggestions below. Sure, there are great wines coming out of Israel (especially the Judean Hills region), but there are also excellent koshewr bottles coming from Italy, Spain, California, and New Zealand — and not just of the dessert variety. What makes a wine kosher, you ask? The grape vines bearing the wine’s fruit needs to be at least four years old and left un-harvested every seventh year. As far as the winemaking process goes, it has to adhere to kosher regulations: the tools have to be strictly for winemaking, and they should only be used by practicing Jewish men.
Don’t just open any old bottle when celebrating! You pair your wine for every other meal, so why exclude the Festival of Lights? Pop, pour, l’chaim!
Latkes: Notte Italiana Prosecco 2013 ($18)
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Whether you decide to start out your meal with latkes going the traditional route or the unorthodox, the flavor profile of most latkes calls for a light sparkling wine. Made to be an apéritif, this kosher Prosecco from Italy is a festive way to kick off dinner.
Cholent: Tzora Vineyards Judean Hills Regional Blends 2012 ($29)
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Though there are many versions of this specialty, the hearty stew made with potatoes, beans, and onions is traditionally eaten for lunch on Shabbat; NPR called it “the original slow-cooked dish.” It calls for a medium-bodied red blend, like this one, spearheaded by cabernet sauvignon, hailing from the Judean Hills of Israel.