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Weekly Wine Review

As the sun goes down on Sept. 29, the Jewish faith enters its most sacred time beginning with the celebration of Rosh Hashanah. The Book of Life is opened and the Jewish people contemplate the new year.

It is of course my job to offer some fine wine advice for any occasion and as a Jewish person I know all to well how hard it is to get a descent glass of wine when the family gets together.

Inevitably that big jug of Manishevitz comes out and its cloyingly sweet flavor sends shivers down my spine. For those of you that are unfamiliar with this illustrious wine brand, Manishevitz is produced with Concord grapes, native to North America and known worldwide for making mediocre wine. It is then sweetened with fructose (except in the case of the kosher for Passover version) to produce something that hardly resembles the delicate and dry wines that I am accustomed to made from vinefera vines such as Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and just about every other grape that you can name.

There has however been something of a kosher wine revolution in the last few years in which very serious wines of stunning quality are made carrying kosher labels. In fact, with the advent of drip irrigation very fine wines are also being produced in Israel.

I suspect that there are many misconceptions about kosher wines. There is the thought that a Rabbi sits at an assembly line blessing every bottle of wine as it exits the winery and ends up on the shelves. The reality actually has more to do with cleanliness in the winery and the preservation of wine in its purest state.

The thought is based in the idea that wine, maybe because it can be made naturally without man’s interference, should produced in such a way that it expresses the purest nature of the grape. There are therefore strict guidelines on barrel cleanliness, bottle cleanliness, and overall winery sanitation. It is also forbidden to use any animal products in the production of kosher wine such as the common use of egg whites for clarifying.

The final qualification for kosher production is that from the time the grapes are crushed, only Sabbath-observing Jews can handle the wine.

The majority of the world’s fine kosher wines are produced in France and Israel.

A shocking number of the finest houses in Bordeaux are produced under kosher guidelines and are certified by the Orthodox Union, an organization that oversees and certifies organic production. Revered chateaux such as Chateau Giscours in Margaux and 2nd growth Chateau Leoville-Poyferré of St. Julien are kosher.

I suppose that what I am trying to say is that there is still hope for all of us Jewish wine lovers when we break the fast after Yom Kippur in a few weeks. If only I could have convinced my Bubby to drink more Bordeaux gefilta fish would have sounded so much more appealing.


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