Wine primer: The difference between mevushal and non-mevushal
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Wine primer: The difference between mevushal and non-mevushal

Here are the characteristics of mevushal and non-mevushal wines, as well as the religious traditions and the consequences for flavor and aging.

(Photo courtesy of Pixabay)
(Photo courtesy of Pixabay)

Wine has a rich history deeply intertwined with cultural and religious practices. In the realm of kosher wines, two distinct categories emerge: mevushal and non-mevushal wines. The differentiation lies in the way the wines are treated for religious purposes, impacting not only their production but also their taste and aging potential.

Here are the characteristics of mevushal and non-mevushal wines, as well as the religious traditions and the consequences for flavor and aging.

Mevushal wines

Mevushal, which means “cooked” in Hebrew, refers to a process where the wine is heated to a specific temperature to render it kosher while maintaining its religious purity. This process allows mevushal wines to be handled and poured by non-Jews without compromising their kosher status.

Why? Does it really make sense?

Here is the religious significance: Mevushal wines are often preferred in settings where the wine needs to be handled by individuals who may not be observant Jews.

So, how does this affect the production of mevushal wines? The heat treatment during the mevushal process can influence the wine’s flavor profile and may result in alterations to its aroma and structure. Many years ago, mevushal wines were typically pretty atrocious. Thankfully, technology has helped improve the process through speed, control and temperature.

How long can you age a mevushal wine? Mevushal wines typically have a shorter aging potential compared to non-mevushal wines due to the heat exposure. Then again, most wine collectors never really thought to age those types of wines.

Non-mevushal wines
Non-mevushal wines are produced without the heat treatment, maintaining the natural fermentation process. These wines are considered more delicate in terms of religious observance, as they must be handled exclusively by observant Jews to preserve their kosher status.

What does that mean in religious context?

Non-mevushal wines are often preferred for religious ceremonies and events where strict adherence to kosher laws should be maintained.

As for production, the non-mevushal wines tend to retain more of their original flavors, aromas and structural components, as they are not subjected to the heat treatment.

This leads to non-mevushal wines generally having a longer aging potential, allowing them to evolve and mature over time.

Smell and taste characteristics for mevushal and non-mevushal wines

What do they smell like?
For mevushal wines, the aroma may be influenced by the heat process, resulting in differences compared to their non-mevushal counterparts.

For non-mevushal wines, the natural fermentation process tends to preserve the original and nuanced aromas of the wine.

What do they taste like?
With mevushal wines, the heat treatment may alter the wine’s flavors, leading to a perception of slightly cooked or stewed fruit notes. Some argue that this process diminishes the complexity of the wine.

Non-mevushal wines often showcase more vibrant and complex flavor profiles, as they are not subjected to the same level of heat treatment.

I would never state that non-mevushal is better than mevushal. I may know a lot about wine, but who am I to determine your palate preference? Is one style truly better than the other? For many wine drinkers, it’s similar to expressing a preference for red wines over white wines.

Ultimately, choosing between mevushal and non-mevushal wines depends on individual preferences, religious observances and the intended use of the wine. While mevushal wines cater to broader handling requirements, non-mevushal wines often appeal to those seeking a more authentic and nuanced tasting experience. Whether you prioritize the convenience of handling or the preservation of the wine’s original characteristics, both options offer unique qualities within the world of kosher wines.

Here are easy drinking options for both types of wines, available locally.

Mevushal:

Herzog Lineage Sauvignon Blanc (California), $20.99 — A dry, crisp wine with predominant citrus notes.

Carmel Private Collection Cabernet (Israel), $16.99 — A relatively full-bodied red wine with subtle notes of blackberry and oak.

Non-mevushal:
Essa Altira White Blend (South Africa), $18.99 — Medium-bodied white with apple/pear nuances, with some acidity. Balanced wine.

Yogev Cabernet (Israel), $19.99 — Reasonably full-bodied wine with blackberry and oak nuances. 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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