Drinking Kosher: How Kosher Wine Became the Norm
Fortunately, mevushal wines no longer need to be frowned upon: thanks to major technological advances in winemaking, Buzzeo says, the quality of mevushal wine has improved. "In the past, mevushal practices truly did result in boiled wine — hardly conducive to high quality," Buzzeo says. But since the introduction of flash-pasteurization (exposing the wine to temperatures of 71 to 74 degrees Celsius for about 15 to 30 seconds while moving in a continuous flow), she says, kosher wine isn’t as damaged by high temperatures, and can maintain its original color and flavor.
Today’s lineup of kosher wines isn’t limited to Manischewitz; kosher wine today comes from a multitude of wine regions and a variety of grapes. Buzzeo says that some of the best kosher wines are now from Israel — though not every wine from Israel is kosher — California, Spain, Australia, and even Bordeaux. Sawyer says the majority of kosher wine produced is chardonnay, followed by cabernet sauvignons, but kosher wine spans all sorts of varietals and styles, including syrah, merlot, sauvignon blanc, and riesling, just to start.
What makes kosher wine so unique is its purity, Sawyer says — and that’s a good thing. "The way wine was made thousands of years ago — they didn’t have all of these operational things, all these finings," he says. "You’ll find that the best merlots on the marketplace are unfined and unfiltered. This way of winemaking is based in history."
"I think the understanding of what makes a wine kosher has improved, and the reality that there really isn't that great difference in production that people once perceived there to be is starting to set in, but there's still a long way to go," Buzzeo says. "We have to keep educating, and showing people that kosher wine is not just about the concord-based sweet wines we sampled as a child."
"We get these grapes right from God," says winemaker Jeff Morgan of Napa Valley’s Covenant Wines. Covenant is one of the most regarded kosher wineries in Napa, where Morgan and his wine partner Leslie Rudd (owner of Dean and DeLuca) collaborate to make a great-tasting kosher wine. "This is from God’s mouth, to our grapes," says Morgan. "[Israel] was the Napa Valley of the Middle East," he says. "I think we taught the Romans a thing or two about winemaking, and the Greeks, too."