Thursday, April 14, 2016

Kosher Wines for Passover

By Liza B. Zimmerman

Long gone are the days of most kosher wines being sickly sweet and served at room temperature. Many wineries all over the world have taken to making part of their production kosher, both for the big holidays and everyday consumption for those who keep kosher.

Israel is obviously a great place to start as producers here offer so many selections. While wine has been made in this country since Biblical times, modern wine production seriously got underway in the 1880s with the help of Baron Edmond de Rothschild. A true move to producing quality wines and an investment in planting international varietals occurred a full century later in the 1980s and 1990s.

Mainstream international varietals take the lead in this country with Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc being among the top varietals produced. Production of Syrah is also on the rise. The country is home to five wine growing regions Galilee-Golan, Shomron, Samson, Judean Hills and Negev. The majority of wines are produced in the first three.

Wines to Try
The Gush Etzion "Spring River" Syrah-Mourvedre blend 2012 is made in the Judean region, south of Jerusalem. It is one of the highest altitude areas in Israel. Its lush berry flavors and early notes will make it a good match with lighter meats. It is also a balanced 13.8 percent alcohol by volume, unlike many other big reds, so it won’t get you tipsy on just one glass.

California winemakers have been a big part of the winemaking scene in Israel for decades. So it is not then surprising that they were inspired and took some of their experience back home to make some lovely kosher wines in the similarly Mediterranean climates of California.

The Shirah Syrah 2013 is made in Santa Barbara County. Its herb-driven and jammy flavors will pair well with bigger, hearty meats as steak and stews. It is a little bit of a spurge, but worth it.

Other European Choices
Many of the great wine producers in Europe make kosher lines of wine for their local communities. I have been to wineries in remote areas of Spain where the local rabbi even frequently comes in to oversee the production and insure that the entire wine production process follows kosher rules and regulations.

The Gran Sarao Cava Brut is made from a traditional blend of Macabeo, Xarel.lo and Parellada grapes, with a touch of Chardonnay. It is quite dry and loaded with fruit aromas and flavors. It is a great way to start off a meal or just enjoy on a warm day on the porch (if you have one).

Italy also makes a wide range of kosher wines in various regions. The Borgo Reale Montepulciano d'Abruzzo is produced from 100 percent Montepulciano grapes in the Central region of Abruzzo. It is great with simple pastas and would even work with a corned beef sandwich, although you might have to BYOB it to your local deli.

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

Liza B. Zimmerman has been writing and consulting about wine and food for two decades. She is principal of the San Francisco-based Liza the Wine Chick wine writing, education and consulting firm. She has worked on staff and freelance at national magazines such as Wine Enthusiast, The Magazine of La Cucina Italiana, Wine Spectator, Where SF and the Examiner. She currently contributes to Cheers, Wine Business Monthly and the Examiner, among others.

Zimmerman focuses on demystifying wine and transforming it into a tool for business and networking for companies all over the country. Past clients include Genentech, Roche and IBM.

She has visited all the world’s major wine regions and is one of select few in the U.S. to hold the Diploma of Wine & Spirits (D.W.S.), the three-year precursor to the Master of Wine.