The Kosher Wine Rub

Kosher Wines for Passover 2010 

AKA “What’s happening in the Hebrew Hood”

What is it exactly that makes a wine kosher? A kosher wine is one handled only by Sabbath-observant Jews-those individuals who observe kosher dietary laws. In addition, kosher winemakers are forbidden to use any products, such as unauthorized yeasts or animal-based fining agents, that might fall outside the parameters of kosher convention and thus compromise the ritual essence of the wine.

Yet aside from the individuals who are permitted to come in contact with the wine or grape juice, there is no difference between the techniques used to make a kosher wine and a non-kosher wine. That is unless the kosher wine is designated mevushal, perhaps the most misunderstood term in the kosher wine tradition.

Literally speaking, “mevushal” means “boiled.” However, mevushal wines are not boiled in the literal sense of the word. They are heated to a temperature that meets the requirements of an overseeing rabbi, which admittedly is pretty high. The modern technique of making wine Mevushal is to run the “must” quickly through a heat flash pasteurizing unit where the wine is quickly heated to at least 185 degrees Fahrenheit.                                              

For Sabbath-observant Jews, kosher wine is holy in nature. But after a kosher wine has been ritually heated to become mevushal, it is less sensitive to ritual exclusions. A mevushal wine can be handled (or poured) by a non-kosher Jew or even a non-Jew and still retain its kosher integrity. As a result, mevushal wines are far more practical to serve in kosher dining establishments where non-kosher staff may attend to kosher dinner guests.

By contrast, a non-mevushal-or non-heated-kosher wine remains highly sensitive to religious custom in both the production stage and after bottling. A bottle of non-mevushal wine may not be opened or served to Sabbath-observant Jews by anyone other than equally observant Jewish individuals.

The rub for me with mevushal wines, it’s that heating a wine to a high temperature does not usually improve its sensory qualities. Under such conditions, heated wines can take on a sweet, maderized taste or even a burned, rubbery edge.

Here’s what’s up for Passover 2010

Barkan Reserve Sauvignon Blanc, Galille 2007                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       Hand picked fruit from mountainous vineyard in the Galilee and the Central Planes is crushed gently. At the onset of fermentation about a third is separated to complete fermentation in new oak barrels. This portion remains in the barrel for about six months with stirring (batonage) before being blended with the remainder of the wine which was fermented without oak at low temperatures. The resulting wine is an elegant, complex blend of the buttery character of barrel fermentation and the clean, crisp fresh fruit.

Yatir Sauvignon Blanc, Judean Hills 2007                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         Crisp and lively but with elegance and subtlety. Light golden straw in color with orange and green reflections, showing citrus, passion fruit, green apple and grapefruit aromas and flavors on a grassy and stony-mineral background. Well-crafted

Dalton Sauvignon Blanc Reserve, Galilee 2006                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              This is a crisp and fruity wine with a long palate. It is a wine that has succeeded to combine the characteristic grassy nature of the Sauvignon Blanc grape together with some tropical fruit character of warm climate wine making.

Domaine du Castel “C”, Judean Hills 2007                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         The ‘C’ is a 100% Chardonnay and comes from a hill top vineyard with very poor soil that produces grapes with very particular aromas and minerality. The must is barrel fermented and the wine is aged sur lie with frequent bâtonnage for 12 months in French oak barrels, one third new.  Domaine du Castel is one of Israel’s most prestigious wineries, invariably on most short lists in the “best winery of Israel” debate. Founded in 1988, it produced its first wine only in 1992. It is a little bigger than some of the micro boutiques, but still produces only around 8,300 cases a year. There is a French sensibility on the labels, from the winery’s name, to the identification of the appellation (Judean Hills, near Jerusalem) as Haute Judee. This is not surprising, perhaps, given that Castel is a family run business, and son Ariel trained in Burgundy. and then worked at Domaine Emile Voa.

Covenant Cabernet Sauvignon Red C, Napa Valley 2007                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       Predominantly from grapes grown at the Young Family Vineyard in Napa Valley, just south of St. Helena. Like Covenant, RED C is made from 100 percent Cabernet Sauvignon. The blend includes some of the barrels from Covenant that don’t make it into the premier bottling, but that still show excellent character and finesse. Because RED C includes a bit of press wine, it remains in barrels for an extended period and is released some 6 months later than Covenant.

Barkan Altitude Cabernet +412, Kadesh Valley 2005                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              The wine is from the vineyard at Avne-Eitan in the Golan with an addition of 15% from the Dishon Vineyard in the Kadesh Valley. The wine has a deep concentrated almost black color. Its aroma is also concentrated: cassis, wild berries, cloves and chocolate

Capcanes Peraj petita, Montsant 2007                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Medium ruby with flicks of violet; fresh, seductive aromas of red berries and cherry; loads of red fruits in taste; crispy and ripe, concentrated and well-balenced but not over-powered; very Garnacha in caracter and mineral in taste; fruit + minerality plus some elegant Glycerin-sweetness; medium finish with crispy but soft tannins, and nicely fresh. 60% Garnacha 20% Tempranillo 20% Cariñena: old bush vines Garnacha and Cariñena (25-50 years old) Tempranillo: 10-25 years old terroir: clay, granit; very mineral; two plots of slate, slopes and terrases; altitude: 180-450 m.

Capcanes Peraj Ha’abib “Flor de Primavera, Montsant 2005                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Dark, full saturated red; Black cherry; vibrant, bright aromas of cherry, plums, currant; toasty; coffee, mocca; rich copious cherry fruit; exhuberant small black berry flavors, very intensive dark fruit character; complex but elegant, full-bodied; ripe but soft tannins; ripe sweetness in  After tast; well balanced acidity; mineral character; with an serious ageing potential. Capcanes is famed for their Kosher wine Peraj Ha abib, also known as the Flor de Primavera. It received 91 points from Spain’s most respected wine reviewer Penin.  He states that an expressive nose of ripe fruit, wood and kirsch liqueur.  Full-bodied and flavorful with a complex, dense, spicy and complete wine with firm tannins.  This is a serious wine for any wine drinker and without a doubt the best Kosher wine I have ever tried.

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One response to “The Kosher Wine Rub

  • jeff morgan

    That’s the best explanation of what makes a wine kosher that I’ve read in a long while. Kudos to you! Thank you also for mentioning our Covenant RED C Cabernet too! Readers might also be interested in our newest Chardonnay (Covennant Lavan)–it’s not mevushal–and our flagship wine: Covenant Cabernet.
    No cooked wines here!
    L’Chaim! Jeff Morgan

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