With Passover around the corner, it seems fitting to explore the topic of kosher wine. After all, if Seder requires that each guest drink an obligatory four glasses of wine, it is certainly preferred that the selection be enjoyable. Thus, we enlisted the help of Rick Bruner, general manager of the recently-opened kosher steakhouse Reserve Cut in New York City, to find kosher wines that we’d like to drink not just during Passover, but every other day as well.
Thick, sweet, and unpleasant — this was once the reputation of kosher wine, brought on by the widespread availability of big brands like Manischewitz. That stigma lingers today, though Bruner believes that opinions are changing, noting, “In the late ‘70s and early ‘80s winemakers started getting more serious about making something that was not just liquid sugar…the movement of making great wines that just happened to be kosher.”
Kosher wines must be made only by observant Jews, using equipment approved by rabbis, and the wine can only be opened and poured by an observant Jew as well. For this reason, some wineries produce mevushal wine — a kosher wine that is flash-pasteurized, which then can be served by non-Jews and remain kosher.
“It is only pasteurized for a second,” says Bruner, “but it does affect the wine.”
Therefore, winemakers must decide whether they can create a mevushal wine without affecting the quality of the finished product. Hardier, more robust grapes such as zinfandel and cabernet hold up better during the pasteurization process, whereas more delicate grapes such as pinot noir and riesling are not usually made in the mevushal method.
Check out some of the wines that Bruner shared with us below, as well as a few of our own recommendations. We guarantee that if you bring one of these bottles to Seder, nobody will be stopping after glass number four.
2012 Gilgal Riesling, Galilee ($13.99): The only non-mevushal wine on our list, this riesling from Golan Heights Winery is slightly off-dry and quite the spring refresher. Ripe peaches, Meyer lemon, and white flowers complement bright acidity.
2012 O’Dwyers Creek Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough ($17.99): Kosher wine from New Zealand? Believe it! The O’Dwyers Creek is a classic example of New Zealand sauvignon blanc, all tangerine, mango, and that distinct tomato leaf quality.
2013 The Tribes Chardonnay, Lodi ($31.99): From Covenant Winery, this is not at all your typical, overly oaked California chardonnay. Medium-bodied and deliciously creamy, the acid shines through and brings forth flavors of bright red apple and citrus.
2010 Teperberg Silver Cabernet Sauvignon, Judean Hills ($14.99): For fifteen bucks, this cabernet is surprisingly complex, with earthy, meaty aromas. Medium-bodied with gripping tannins, flavors of red cherry and forest floor come through on the palate, with a smoky finish.
2009 Auteur Phillipe Lichenstein Cabernet Sauvignon, Judean Hills ($34.99): Established in 1847, Arza Winery was traditionally known for producing grape juice but this bottle shows that they know how to make great wine as well. Ripe red cherries and vanilla integrate supremely well with soft tannins and mouth-watering acidity. Elegant and delicious, the flavors linger long after the last sip, and we certainly aren’t complaining.