Bottles for Yom Kippur, Rosh Hashana

For many Jews, the High Holidays – a period of days from Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, to Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement – ​​is a particularly significant time in the Jewish calendar when festive meals and drinks, especially wine, are embraced. .

“Wine is an extremely important part of holidays and every ritual,” said Marianne Novak, an Orthodox rabbi and faculty member at the Akiba-Schechter Jewish School in Hyde Park.

For many American Jews, the holidays wouldn’t taste the same without a bottle of Manischewitz or Kedem, the sweet, sacramental kosher wines they grew up on. “But at home we also like wine with a special taste,” Novak said. “Just like the food we make, the special plates we use, or the ritual objects we have, choosing a wonderful wine is uplifting. It takes something beyond simple ritual and gives it a bit of sanctity.

For Jews who adhere to kashrut, or Jewish dietary laws, the landscape of fine kosher wines from around the world – whether it’s New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Cabernet, Israeli Champagne or Grenache — has never been more exciting, said Gabriel Geller, spokesman for Royal Wine Corp.

Although iconic in American Jewish life, “sacramental wines like Kedem and Manischewitz are increasingly small among kosher wines,” Geller said. Royal Wine Corp. owns and operates Kedem, but is also the largest producer, exporter and importer of fine kosher wines and spirits in the world.

For less observant Jews as well as non-Jewish friends and family who attend Jewish holidays, the complexity of Jewish wine traditions can be bewildering.

Basically, kosher wines are produced the same way as non-kosher wines. However, for a wine to be considered kosher or safe for consumption by observant Jews, the entire winemaking process, from grape crushing to bottling, must be handled by Sabbath-observant Jews. All additives must be kosher and all tools and equipment used exclusively for kosher winemaking.

For wines to retain their kosher status after bottling, they must be opened and handled only by Sabbath-keeping Jews to ensure they are not associated with idolatry. Wine that is mevushal, or heated, is considered unsuitable for idol worship, providing a workaround for observant Jews who may drink wine in the presence of non-Jews or non-observant Jews, perhaps during dinner with mixed company or restaurants and catered events with non-observant staff.

At home with my family, “I wouldn’t necessarily be looking for a mevushal wine,” Novak said. “If I’m in the company of different religions and practices, choosing a mevushal wine just makes it easier so we can all enjoy being together.”

A common misconception is that all kosher wines are heated, or even worse, boiled, and therefore inferior to non-kosher wines. But only a subset of kosher wines are mevushal, Geller said, and thanks to modern technology, the heating of modern mevushal wines is remarkably refined. Using technologies such as flash pasteurization or flash expansion, modern winemakers can instantly heat and then cool wine or grapes with little negative effect on flavor or freshness.

“Most consumers probably won’t notice the difference between mevushal and non-mevushal versions of an identical wine,” Gellar said.

For many progressive or secular Jews, drinking kosher wines is a special celebration reserved for holidays like Rosh Hashanah that helps them connect with their faith or family. For others, kosher wines are avoided altogether.

“Whether wine, or more specifically, kosher wine, is meaningful or important to a Reform Jew is a very individual decision,” said Allison Tick Brill, assistant rabbi at Sukkat Shalom, a progressive congregation in Wilmette.

“If raising wine is a way to deepen your observance, it can be very meaningful,” she said. “If you usually drink non-kosher wine, maybe Rosh Hashanah is a great opportunity to dive into kosher wine or select an Israeli wine.”

But for many progressive Jews, it feels like kosher wine laws don’t reflect their progressive values, Tick Brill said.

For them, an “eco-kashrut approach that takes their own ethical values ​​to create a system of intentional eating and drinking” might be more meaningful, she said. “Maybe that means choosing sustainably grown wine or wines where workers have been paid fairly.”

Kosher or not, “there are so many ways to make the wine you choose for the holiday special,” says Tick Brill. “In my family, it’s my dad who will pull a special bottle of wine from his collection for the holidays. His sanctity comes from the care he puts into considering which bottle to choose and the thought he puts into making our meal delicious and festive.

Psagot Sinai 2020 Judean Hills White: A fruity yet luscious blend of Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Gewürztraminer and Viognier with a subtly pebbly finish likely to appeal to any dry white wine lover. Kosher. Mevushal. $25 to

Covenant 2021 Lake County Sauvignon Blanc: A juicy California Sauvignon Blanc that is plump with flavors of grapefruit and gooseberry. Kosher. Not mevushal. $30 to

Recanati 2019 Judean Hills Reserve Marawi: Produced through a partnership between Recanati, the Israeli winery, and a Palestinian vineyard, this is a tangerine aromatic white made from Marawi, a unique indigenous grape variety. Kosher. Not mevushal. $35 at

Segal 2018 Judean Hills Whole Cluster Fermentation Syrah: Syrah fermented in whole clusters is a classic from the French northern Rhône, but this Israeli expression offers quite a fading vitality and fragrance. It is produced by Ido Lewinsohn, Israel’s second wine master. Kosher. Not mevushal. $46 to

Terra di Seta 2016 Chianti Classico Riserva: A red cherry flavored Sangiovese marked by spicy and earthy complexities obtained from 18 months of maturation in French oak barrels. Terra di Seta, according to Geller, is Europe’s first exclusively kosher winery and is owned by a Jewish family whose roots date back to ancient Rome. Kosher. Not mevushal. $38 to

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Château Lascombes 2018 Margaux: Pure in black fruit and nuanced with streaks of violet and graphite, this is a great wine truly worthy of occasion from a second growth Bordeaux estate. Kosher. Not mevushal. $165 to

Petit Guiraud 2017 Sauternes: During Rosh Hashana, “we dip the apple in honey and enjoy sweet desserts in hopes of a sweet year ahead,” Geller said. The honeyed and spicy flavors of mango and peach in this dessert wine from Château Guiraud, one of Bordeaux’s premier crus classés, is a luxurious nod to tradition. Kosher. Not mevushal. $80 to; Half bottle for $14 at Binny’s. Locations vary,

Laurent-Perrier Cuvée Rosé Brut Kosher Champagne: There are plenty of good options for kosher Champagne these days, but this Pinot-based sparkling wine sourced exclusively from Grand-Cru vineyards offers richness and complexity combined with a tension to cut. breath worthy of madness. Kosher. Not mevushal. $150 at Binny. Locations vary,

For non-practicing or secular Jews, buying wines for the new year and approaching Yom Kippur could incorporate eco-kashrut thoughts:

Matthiasson 2021 California Rosé: Steve Matthiasson is a Napa-based organic winemaker who continuously leads the conversation on the challenges of climate change, sustainability, fair labor practices and more within the wine industry. It also produces fantastically good white, red and rosé wines all over California, including this thirst-quenching blood orange rosé kiss made with Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre and Counoise grapes. Not kosher. $31 to

Tablas Creek Vineyard 2020 Paso Robles Patelin de Tablas: Although a longtime leader in organic and biodynamic viticulture, Tablas Creek recently became the first winery in the United States to be certified regenerative organic. A California version of the classic Rhône red blend, Patelin de Tablas is a subtly smoky and floral red with crisp flavors of cherry and raspberry. Not kosher. $23 to

Anna Lee Iijima is a freelance writer.

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