Photo: After establishing a line of kosher wines produced in the Upper Galilee, NBA All-Star Amaré Stoudemire expands his offerings to California in collaboration with Herzog Wine Cellars.
With Passover just around the corner (starting sundown on March 27), many people choose to serve wines that are kosher-certified. So, just how different is kosher wine from the non-kosher stuff?
“When it comes to taste, there’s no difference between kosher and non-kosher wine,” says Jay Buchsbaum, executive VP marketing and director of Wine Education at Royal Wine Corp. “In fact, many kosher wines are award-winning – beating out their non-kosher competitors for top varietal prizes, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and rosés as well.”
Founded in 1848, Royal Wine Corp., the world’s largest purveyor of kosher wines and spirits, has been owned and operated in the United States by the Herzog family, whose winemaking roots go back eight generations to its origin in Czechoslovakia.
There’s a common ‘urban legend’ that wine is rendered kosher after being blessed by a rabbi –that is incorrect. “For a wine to be made kosher there are strictly supervised purity guidelines that need to be followed from the moment the grapes enter the winery to when the wine is bottled,” adds Buchsbaum.
To be considered kosher, Sabbath-observant Jews must supervise and sometimes handle the entire winemaking process, from the time the grapes are crushed until the wine is bottled. Any ingredients used, including yeasts and fining agents, must be kosher. Fining agents are substances that are usually added at or near the completion of the processing of brewing wine, beer and various nonalcoholic juice beverages. Their purpose is for removal of organic compounds; either to improve clarity or adjust flavor and aroma.
Some Kosher wines are processed as mevushal, which means ‘cooked’ in Hebrew. Some wineries produce their mevushal wines by heating the must (grape juice) prior to fermentation, while others apply that procedure on the final product, prior to bottling.
When kosher wine is produced, marketed and sold commercially, it will bear kosher certification granted by a specially trained rabbi who is responsible for supervision from start to finish.
Recent years have seen increased demand for kosher wines, prompting a number of vintners in countries not previously represented to produce sophisticated kosher wines under strict rabbinical supervision in countries such as South Africa, Chile and Canada, in addition to traditional sources such as Israel, France, California Spain and Italy.
Ten More Things to Know About Kosher Wine
- Kosher wine is made in precisely the same way as ‘regular’ wine. The only difference is that there is rabbinical oversight during the process and that the wine is handled by Sabbath-observant Jews.
- Not all Israeli wines are kosher. Only about 30% of Israeli wine brands are certified kosher, but these kosher wineries produce over 90% of the Israel wine industry’s output.
- In the 1980s, there were very few kosher wines. Buchsbaum says that Royal Wine only imported three kosher wines from Bordeaux back then.
- The number of producers of kosher wines has dramatically increased in the past 10 to 20 years. To date, Royal Wine Corp. represents more than 60 kosher wine producers. This is due to an increase in interest from consumers who are adding to their kosher wine portfolios, and in some cases building actual kosher wine cellars in their homes, a rare sight just two decades ago.
- While several well-known wineries in countries from all over the world including France, Spain, Italy, and Argentina are crafting special runs of kosher wine, California is not. Except for Marciano Estate, which produces a kosher run of their Terra Gratia, a high-end Napa Valley Blend, all kosher California wine is made by fully kosher wineries such as Herzog Wine Cellars, Covenant and Hagafen.
- The reason many Passover dinners feature red wine is because there’s a rabbinic opinion that red wine is preferable since it’s the same variety that Jews used during their seders after they escaped Egypt.
- Kosher wines can range in price from $5 a bottle to $500. The average price for a bottle of good kosher wine is $25.
- The most popular Moscato in the United States happens to be kosher. Bartenura produces the largest selling imported Italian Moscato in the U.S. The Moscato in the famous blue bottle sells over 5,000,000 bottles annually, only a fraction of which to the kosher market.
- Currently there is a steady increase in total wine consumption and a great interest specifically in high-end Israeli wines, as well as the better French wines.
- Drinking wine can be a mitzvah (good deed). Kosher wine is prescribed for use in many Jewish rituals: brit milah (circumcision), the wedding chuppah (canopy), and the Kiddush that starts all Sabbath and holiday meals. While most occasions call for just one cup, on Passover, Jews are required to drink four cups of wine at the seder.
Whether for the Passover seder or at a simple dinner with friends, these top-quality wines are sure to satisfy on all occasions.
Stoudemire Origins 2018 and Stoudemire Clarity Rosé 2020 – After establishing a line of kosher wines produced in the Upper Galilee, NBA All-Star Amaré Stoudemire expands his offerings to California in collaboration with Herzog Wine Cellars (USA). SRP: $24.99.
Herzog Lineage Rosé 2020 – This casual rosé’s flavors include pomegranate, raspberry and tart cherry (USA). SRP $19.99
Château Roubine Rosé 2020 – The rosé wines of this top-ranking classed growth Provence Château are now imported exclusively by Royal Wine Corp. and are kosher for Passover, as well (France). SRP: $19.99-59.99
Herzog Generation IX Cabernet Sauvignon Stags Leap District Napa Valley 2018 – Herzog’s new flagship wine from the prized Stags Leap district, famous for putting California on the world wine map in 1976 (USA). SRP: $249.99
Bartenura Prosecco Rosé – Top quality pink sparkling wine from Italy, great for the Passover seder and all year round for small family gatherings and celebrations (Italy). SRP: $19.99
Château Meyney Saint-Estèphe 2018 – This famed Bordeaux Estate joins Royal’s family of high-end Bordeaux Châteaux producing kosher varieties (France). SRP: $79.99
Sforno – A new line of high value, affordable quality kosher wines produced by the celebrated Riglos winery (Argentina). SRP: $10-15