//Best Kosher Wines + What’s the Difference with Regular Non-Kosher Wines? (Video)

Best Kosher Wines + What’s the Difference with Regular Non-Kosher Wines? (Video)

On CTV News, we discuss what makes a wine kosher, how these wines are different from non-kosher wines, and what modern kosher wines taste like.

Two of the most important Jewish holidays take place this month, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Both are celebrated with kosher wine, which traditionally was viewed as sweet and characterless. However, our wine expert says that’s no longer true. Here with her kosher tips and sips is Natalie MacLean who offers Canada’s most popular online wine pairing classes at nataliemaclean.com.

 

Let’s start with what is kosher wine and how is it different from non-kosher wine?

Kosher wine is made using the same techniques as other wine, except that no leavens, wheat or animal products are used, such as gelatin or egg whites are often used to filter non-kosher wines. Instead, they’d use bentonite clay or kosher fish gelatin.

For wine to be kosher, only Sabbath-observant Jewish individuals can handle the wine, from pressing to aging. After the wine is barreled and receives its rabbinical seal, a shomer or watchguard is hired to ensure that nothing is improperly touched.

 

 

Tell us about your first kosher wine.

This is Nava, a lovely floral white wine that’s a blend of Vidal and Riesling grapes from Niagara-on-the-Lake. It would be perfect with seafood or chicken.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tzafona Cellars Nava Blanc 2017
Ontario V.Q.A., Canada

 

 

 

It sounds like this wine departs from the sweet and characterless stereotype of kosher wines.

It does, and that’s why kosher wines are one of the fastest growing segments in liquor stores, more than 16% over last year. No one has tracked the demographics purchasers, but several producers claim that forty to fifty percent are not Jewish.

They’re attracted to the kosher preparation, which is strictly supervised and the fact that many kosher producers avoid pesticides and other chemicals. That’s why organic wines are also on the rise.

 

 

It says that it’s vegan-friendly because they haven’t used any animal-based filters or products in making it.

 

How can you tell it’s a kosher wine from the label?

You can tell it’s kosher from the symbol of COR in a circle plus a P which means it’s kosher for Passover. On other bottles you may see a circle with a U (Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations) or a K (Organized Kashrut Laboratories).

 

This one also says mevushal, meaning “boiled” or “cooked”, and therefore it can be handled by anyone and still maintain its integrity. Either the grape juice or the wine is flash-pasteurized; the temperature is turned up to 90° Celcius for ten seconds. This is believed to alter the wine’s spiritual essence to make it impervious to those who are neither Jewish nor observant of the Sabbath.

 

Doesn’t boiling the wine wreck it?

Done incorrectly, the heating process can damage or cook the wine. However, with modern technology and correct technique, some winemakers believe it enhances the aromatics of the wine while stabilizing the tannins, fruit and colour.

 

What’s your next kosher wine?

This one is a Cabernet Sauvignon from Tzafona winery, also from Niagara-on-the-Lake. It has attractive notes of dark cherries, mocha and smoke. It would be great with grilled meats or brisket.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Tzafona Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon 2016

Niagara Peninsula, Ontario V.Q.A., Canada

 

 

 

Does Quebec make any kosher wines?

Yes, there are a couple of them that I wasn’t able to get in time for our segment. Domaine des Cotes d’Ardoise produces two sacramental kosher wines and Domaine Pinnacle make a kosher cider.

 

 

Where else is kosher wine produced?

Kosher wines are produced in Israel, Hungary, Italy, Luxembourg, Chile, Australia, the United States and France. Top French labels like Château Lafite-Rothschild and Laurent-Perrier produce a kosher wine.

This next one I have here is a popular label from Baron Herzog in California, made from the Chenin Blanc grape. It’s a light-bodied wine with aromas of lilies. I’d pair with the field greens.

 

 

 

 

 

Baron Herzog Chenin Blanc 2018
California, United States

 

 

 

Tell us about the last two wines you have.

The last two I have here are both full-bodied red wines from Chile, a Cabernet and a Carmenere. Lots of fleshy ripe dark plums and berries – both would go well with grilled meats.

Whether or not you keep kosher, many kosher wines are worth drinking. Raise a glass of this wonderful wine this fall with the traditional Jewish toast “L’chaim” — to life.

You can find the wines we talked about as well as her online classes on Natalie’s website at nataliemaclean.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vina Luis Felipe Edwards Terra Vega Carmenere 2019
Central Valley, Chile

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Royal Wines Don Alfonso Cabernet Sauvignon 2017
Central Valley, Chile

 

 

 

Kosher Wines for Everyone
By Natalie MacLean

Kosher wines and spirits comprise one of the fastest growing segments in Canadian liquor stores. Volume sales were up 17 percent over the previous year, while dollar sales increased 26 percent, indicating consumers are buying finer, more expensive kosher wines. Much of the kosher wine is sold during the Jewish holidays. Liquor stores add to their already wide selection of kosher products in preparation for Jewish holidays, such as Rosh Hashanah, which begins September 18th this year.

While no one has tracked the demographics of those purchasing kosher wines, several producers claim that forty to fifty percent of their buyers are not Jewish. In addition to the quality of the wine, these buyers are attracted to the kosher preparation, which is strictly supervised to guarantee purity. Many kosher producers avoid pesticides and other chemicals. Kosher wines seem to be on the same fashionable trajectory as organic wines, also popular for their purity.

Traditionally, the kosher wines were notoriously sweet and characterless. In the past five years, however, there has been a quality revolution in kosher wines and many are now complex, balanced and full of character. The improved quality of wine in general, kosher and non-kosher, has helped, driven by savvy wine consumers, many of whom are baby boomers. Today, there is a range of premium kosher wines from which to choose.

Kosher wines are now produced in Israel, Hungary, Italy, France, Luxembourg, Chile, Australia, Canada and the United States. They are made from a variety of grapes — chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon, zinfandel, gewürtraminer, pinot noir, barbera, chenin blanc, shiraz, merlot and Riesling, and encompass a full range of styles, including red, white, rosé and sparkling.

There are the traditional labels, such as Manischewitz and Mogen David, and newer producers, such as Hagafen Cellars in California and Rodrigues Markland Cottage Winery in Newfoundland. From France, look for classified Bordeaux chateaux producing both kosher and non-kosher wines from Château Lafite-Rothschild, Château Giscours and Château La Gaffelière, as well as champagne from Laurent-Perrier and beaujolais from vintner Georges Duboeuf. Yarden, Israel’s premium kosher wine, has won medals at Vinexpo, the annual wine Olympics held in France.

Kosher, from the Hebrew meaning “good,” “fit” or proper,” is based on Jewish dietary laws, or kashruth, that define which foods are permitted. Food falls into one of three categories: 1) naturally kosher such as fruit and vegetables; 2) not kosher by nature but certifiable with processing under strict supervision, such as processed foods and wine; or 3) naturally not kosher and cannot be made so such as pork and shellfish. Food and drink that are certified kosher usually bear the package symbol of a circle with a U (Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations) or a K (Organized Kashrut Laboratories).

Jewish dietary laws have been followed for centuries. For wine to be kosher, only Sabbath-observant Jews can handle the wine, from the point the juice is extracted during crushing to when the wine is put into barrels for aging. The entire process is supervised by someone knowledgeable in kosher laws and none of the work can take place on the Sabbath or another holy day.

Kosher wine is made using the same techniques as other fine wine, except that no leavens, wheat or animal products can be used in the process. For example, gelatin or egg whites are often used to filter non-kosher wines of their suspended particles before bottling. For kosher wine, non-animal filters such as the agent bentonite or kosher fish gelatin are substituted.

Most wine yeasts are certified kosher; however, many kosher vintners use wild yeast, which is not risen from grain. After the wine is barreled and receives its rabbinical seal, a shomer, or watchman, is hired to ensure that nothing is improperly touched.

There are two categories of kosher wine: The first can be consumed at all religious ceremonies, but must only be handled and served by Sabbath-observant Jews. The second, mevushal, meaning “boiled” or “cooked”, can be handled by anyone and still maintain its integrity. Either the grape juice or the wine is flash-pasteurized; the temperature is turned up from 60°F (15°C) to 190°F (90°C) and back down again in about ten seconds. This is believed to alter the wine’s spiritual essence to make it impervious to non-Jews and non-Sabbath-observant Jews. Done incorrectly, the heating process can damage the wine, creating an unwanted cooked character. However, with modern technology and correct technique, some winemakers believe it enhances the aromatics of the wine while stabilizing the tannins, fruit and colour.

Many traditions of Jewish holidays include wine. During Passover, four cups of wine are consumed representing the four dimensions of freedom. On other holy days, including the Sabbath, meals start with the kiddush, a sanctification of the wine. The havdalah is the blessing of the wine at the last meal on the holy day to mark its end and the beginning of the week.

The High Holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, which this year falls on September 27th, are among the most important on the Jewish religious calendar. For Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, wine is part of every meal, but there is not a prescribed number of cups to be consumed other than the first one for the Kiddush, and the last for the Havdalah. The wine used must be kosher.

Whether or not you keep kosher, many kosher wines are worth drinking. Raise a glass of this wonderful wine this fall with the traditional Jewish toast “L’chaim” — to life.

 

Here’s a further clarification on how kosher wines are made from Rabbi Avraham Gislason, who helps make Tzafona Cellars and Nava wines:

Most people think that yeast must have something to do bread, leaven, or wheat or grain. In reality, wine yeast, as a bacteria, really has nothing to do with bread or leaven. Wine yeast consumes sugar, and creates two main bi-products: Alcohol and CO2.

It is not grown or propagated in wheat. The main concern with the kashrut of yeast, is that it is grown and stored in glycerol which is often sourced in animal fat that may come from pork or other non-kosher animal sources.

Kosher certified wine yeast that is grown in a lab/factory is produced in glycerol that is sourced from vegetable fats.

Regarding the difference between kosher and kosher certified, there would be a difference regarding most food products and wine. When it comes to food, there are some items that are naturally kosher without any supervision being required, such as a banana.

However, once processing is involved, many other ingredients may be used and the item would therefore require kosher supervision. A good example of a seemingly normal ingredient would be certain types of red colouring agents. They are ingredients that can be listed on a label as “natural colouring,” but the actual source for these colours is sometimes insect based (red cockroach!). So in today’s day and age, as soon as there is any processing involved, we require supervision.

With wine, the wine must be handled only by Sabbath-observant Jews. So it really makes kosher, non-certified wine a narrow category.

Perhaps if a Sabbath-observant Jew made homemade wine and gave it to his/her friends and family, it would be considered kosher, but not certified. But practically speaking, there is no such thing as kosher non-certified wine on the market.

 

 

 

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