Why is this wine different from all other wines?
PassoverGuest Columnist

Why is this wine different from all other wines?

These wines not only satisfy religious requirements but also appeal to discerning palates worldwide.

(Photo via Pixabay)
(Photo via Pixabay)

Passover, the holiest of holidays for wine enthusiasts, holds a unique place on the calendar. How many other occasions command the consumption of not one, not two, but four (or sometimes even five) cups of wine during the celebratory dinner?

While some holidays may suggest indulging in wine, Passover mandates it. The Mishnah decrees that even the most financially challenged must partake in wine at a Passover seder, underscoring its significance and blessing.

Kosher wines are an essential aspect of this cherished tradition. The caveat, however, is that the wines must be designated “kosher for Passover.” (As a side note, I don’t really know of many kosher wines that are not also kosher for Pesach.)

So what is “kosher for Passover”?

Kosher for Passover certification entails adherence to strict guidelines: All ingredients must be kosher and the winemaking process must be overseen by a Sabbath-observant Jew. Moreover, in accordance with Passover regulations banning the presence of chametz, the wine must undergo fermentation using yeast that did not originate from grains — although, I am unaware of any wine yeast that does not come from grapes.

Thankfully, today’s kosher wines stand at their pinnacle, transcending the stereotype of sweet, syrupy offerings. Gone are the days when Manischewitz monopolized the market, as renowned wine producers from across the globe craft exceptional kosher varieties. These wines not only satisfy religious requirements but also appeal to discerning palates worldwide.

While observing the patience-demanding rituals of Pesach, consider the four cups of kosher wine that warrant attention at your seder. Whether you’re Jewish or not, the obligation to drink four cups of wine during the first night of Passover serves as a testament to its significance. Symbolizing the four expressions of deliverance promised to the Jewish people in the Torah, “The Four Cups” are an integral part of the seder tradition.

Yet, one shouldn’t resign to monotony. I feel we should add to the Ma Nishtana: “Why do we drink the same wine in every cup?”

The market’s response to diverse preferences among Jewish communities is evident, with an extensive range of varietals now available. From robust reds like Bordeaux blends and merlot to crisp whites such as sauvignon blanc and chardonnay, kosher wines from esteemed vineyards in northern Israel, as well as Italy, Spain, Portugal and New Zealand, offer a global tapestry of flavors.

Prices span the spectrum, from budget-friendly options priced around $10 per bottle to premium selections going as high as $150 per bottle.

Here are some wines for your Passover table:

Tishbi Merlot (Israel), Mevushal, $23.99: Dark ruby in color with a brick rim. Nice on the nose with cherries, strawberries, red currants and vanilla. Very easy drinking wine.

Twin Suns Pinot Noir (Lodi, California), Mevushal, $17.99: Not the usual area for pinot noir but purple in color with medium intensity. Fruity nose of raspberries, sweet cherries, spices, red candy and light black pepper. Fruit forward with a soft mouthfeel.

Jerusalem Vineyards Malbec
(Judean Hills, Israel), Mevushal, $21: Another wine that is not from the traditional area where malbec can thrive, but let’s try something different. The wine displays a rich purple color and exudes fragrances of black plum, mint and violets. It has a medium to full body with a well-balanced finish.

Contessa Gavi di Gavi (Italy), Non-Mevushal, $17—The first kosher Gavi. Floral and fruity notes, including hints of white flowers along with flavors such as green apple, citrus and minerality. This wine is funky!

The landscape of kosher wines has undergone a remarkable transformation, offering a diverse array of options to enhance the Passover experience. Whether you’re honoring tradition or simply savoring a well-crafted wine, many kosher-for-Passover wines promise to elevate your seder table with richness, complexity and, above all, the spirit of celebration. PJC

Uriel Marcovitz is a former restaurateur in Pittsburgh. He studies wine with the Court of Master Sommelier and holds advanced-level sommelier status.

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