Passover wine suggestions.
By Louis Marmon
Washington Jewish Week April 1, 2004
Wine is a blend of God’s gifts and man’s efforts. On Passover, wine represents the richness of freedom and is a symbol of our joy and thanksgiving. During the seder we are required to drink four cups of wine, and the four cups correspond to the four expressions of redemption stated in the Torah. They also serve to remind us of the four matriarchs, Sarah, Rachel, Rebecca and Leah who each played an important role in the development of the Jewish people.
Passover wine no longer is a sweet red wine in a square bottle. Around the world there are kosher winemakers that are exploring different varietals and styles. Kosher for Passover wines are being produced in Chile, California, Italy, Australia and, of course, Israel. “Every year I am able to stock new and different Passover wines,” said Mordechai Yitzchaki, the owner of KosherMart and Katz’s. “Some still want the traditional sweet wine, but others are willing to try different types of wines for their seder.”
Kosher wine is produced by adhering to specific rabbinic laws during the entire production, from the vine to the bottle. A kosher wine is designated “meshuval” if it has been briefly heated. This is the method used by the early rabbis to keep kosher wine from being used by pagans who considered boiled wine unfit for use. Both Jews and non-Jews can handle unopened bottles, but only a meshuval wine will remain kosher if handled by a non-Jew. To be certified “Kosher for Passover” the wine must be made under even stricter requirements, assuring that no chametz or leaven products come in contact with the wine at anytime during production.
Four cups of wine at one meal is more wine than many of us drink in a week. By the end of the meal, we can be too tired to eat the Afikommen let alone drink the last cup of wine. While the rich foods that are usually served during the seder play a role, the alcohol content of the wine certainly contributes to this feeling. So, consider filling the first cup with a wine with less than half the usual amount of alcohol such as the Italian Moscato d’Asti (produced by either Bartenura, Rashi or Borgo Reale). This light, sweet, slightly sparkling wine is a great way to start a celebration.
Traditionally, red wine is preferred for the seder and it works best with hearty foods like my Nana’s brisket. Barkan “Galil” Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve (1998) is excellent and surprisingly soft with flavors of cherries, plums and vanilla. Herzog “Chalk Hill” Special Selection Cabernet Sauvignon is also very good with cassis and plum notes. From Chile, Alfasi Malbec-Syrah (2002) and the fruitier Valle del Maule Merlot (2001) are flavorful and excellent values. Another value-oriented producer, Teal Lake, is from Australia and both the Cabernet/Merlot (2002) blend and the Shiraz (2002) are rich and full bodied wines that are good choices if you have a large group coming for the seder. Hagafen Napa Valley Syrah (1999) has licorice and raspberry flavors with a touch of spice while the Roberto Cohen Pinot Noir (2000) has softer fruit and less spice.
For the non-traditionalists, or those serving lighter fare for their seder, there are a number of kosher for Passover white wines. From France, Fortant Vin de Pay’s D’Oc Chardonnay (2001) has vanilla, apple and honey flavors. Made from a blend of Chenin Blanc and Chardonnay, Weinstock “Contour” (1999) has citrus, peach and vanilla flavors. The Israeli Gamla Sauvignon Blanc (2003) is another well-balanced white wine that has tastes of apricots and figs.
The fourth cup is drunk after we say the thanksgiving prayer Hallel and to celebrate our blessings try serving something different such as the meshuval Nicolas Feullatte Brut Champagne (NV) that has ginger and citrus flavors or Yarden Blanc de Blanc (1997) sparkling wine with classic champagne flavors of toast and hazelnuts. A dessert wine is another good choice. Perhaps the low-alcohol Herzog Late Harvest Reisling or Gan Eden Late Harvest Gewurtztraminer (2000).