A review of some recently released kosher red wines.
By Louis Marmon
Washington Jewish Week September 13, 2007
Kosher wines can satisfy a discriminating wine drinker and accompany any dish from brisket to blintzes. They continue to gain the approval of wine critics and their growing sales indicate increasing consumer acceptance.
Kosher wines are produced all over world, including California, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, Italy, Portugal, Spain and Israel. In France some of the most prestigious wine producers are making kosher wines. “If the French masters of the art of winemaking have accepted kosher wine into their ranks then Kosher wine has truly arrived,” declares Martin Davidson, spokesman for Royal Wine, a leading importer of kosher wines and owner of California’s Herzog winery. Davidson believes that, “the Jewish community has fortunately graduated up to complex and sophisticated wines…Consequently, a better-educated buyer can now refine their appreciation in viniculture, knowing there is enough fine wine out there to accommodate a demanding and discerning palate.”
A wine can be certified kosher only if the equipment used is exclusively for kosher wines. While anyone can pick the grapes, the entire winemaking procedure must be supervised by Shabbat-observant Jews and only kosher materials can be utilized. No artificial colorings or preservatives are permitted and if the wine is to be served by non-Jews the wine must be briefly heated to make it “Mevushal.” This heating process is often performed at non-kosher wineries as well and apparently does not adversely affect the flavor profile. In fact, one prominent wine critic prefers the mevushal version of a famous Bordeaux over their regular releases.
A word of caution: Not all wines produced in Israel are kosher. The increased expense of kosher supervision and the need to adhere to specific agricultural rules means that nearly all small Israeli wineries start out nonkosher. Most eventually opt to become kosher, once sales have increased sufficiently or because they wish to be stocked in the larger Israeli markets. Most Israeli wines released in the US are kosher, but it is always best to check the label.
Here are some kosher red wine suggestions for this year’s holiday season:
A gold medal winner at the Mediterranean International Wine Challenge is the Psagot Edom 2004 ($ 26), a blend of 75 % Cabernet Sauvignon and 25 % Merlot from the Psagot Winery located in Israel’s Judean Hills. Proprietors Na’ama and Ya’akov Berg aged this gem in oak for 14 months in a cave containing ancient winemaking equipment and 90 % humidity. It is medium bodied with blackberry and currant flavors and a mild spicy oakiness along with red fruit on the finish.
Barkan Altitude 624 Cabernet Sauvignon 2003 ($ 33) is another terrific wine from the second largest winery in Israel. Produced from their Alma vineyard located 624 meters (hence the name) high in the northern Galil, it is full-bodied with vanilla and red fruit aromas along with well balanced raspberry and spicy black plum flavors.
Founded in 1870 to make sacramental wines, Efrat only began producing table wines in the 1990s. They recently changed their name to Teperberg Family Estate and moved into new facilities in the Samson Valley of the Judean Hills. The lovely and value-priced Teperberg Family Estate Meritage 2005 ($ 12) is a Bordeaux-like blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc with soft blueberry, currant and chocolate flavors with a touch of leather and anise.
Located in the heart of France’s Bordeaux region and owned by the banking side of the Rothschild dynasty is Chateau Clarke producer of the Barons de Rothschild Haut-Medoc 2003 ($ 29). It is medium bodied with noticeable spicy oak along with cherry and blackberry notes. A more extravagant purchase for the holidays is also from Bordeaux. The exceptional Chateau Pontet-Canet 2003 ($ 99) is a full bodied effort with smoky currant, chocolate, anise and black fruit flavors with enough structure to last for years. A perennial favorite is the very good Hagafen Cellars Syrah 2003 ($ 29) that has deep red and black cherry flavors and hints of pepper, chocolate and toasty oak.
Worth searching out are the wines produced by the Hafner Family Estate located in Austria’s oldest winemaking area. Formerly a part of Hungary, the Sheva Kehillos, (seven communities) was well known for kosher wine production. Starting in 1980 with only two wines, Hafner now offers a wide range of styles and varietals including noteworthy dessert wines and grappa. The Hafner Selection Kashmir Neusiedlersee 2003 ($ 20) is an outstanding value with coffee and caramel aromas, dark berry and spice flavors and a long fruity finish.
Look to South Australia’s Altoona Hills Winery for some value-priced wines including the Altoona Hills Cabernet Merlot 2006 ($8) with plum and raspberry notes as well as the Altoona Hills Shiraz 2005 ($8) that has peppery blackberry flavors.