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Kosher wines made using specific rules

Kosher wines made using specific rules

There are many misconceptions about kosher wines.

The most common is that they are sweet and of poor quality.

In the early 1980s only a few wineries were producing kosher wines and most were sweet. Today, the kosher wine market is vibrant and growing.

Consuming kosher food, including wine, is essential to those who observe kashrut, the body of Jewish religious laws concerning the suitability of food, the fitness for use of ritual objects, etc.

The term kosher was derived from the Hebrew word for “fit,” meaning fit for consumption. Kosher wines start as with any wine — with a grape.

Kosher does not mean the wine was blessed by a rabbi. Rather, it means the wine was produced following specific rules according to kashrut.

Only religious Jews can handle the wine and touch equipment from the time the grapes arrive at the winery. Even a Jewish winemaker who is not orthodox cannot draw samples from the barrels. The additives used in the wine-making process are restricted too. Fining, cleaning materials and the yeast must be certified as kosher and not derived from animal by-products. Isinglass (coming from a nonkosher fish), gelatin (an animal derivative) and casein (a dairy derivative) are prohibited.

There are three basic categories of kosher wine.

“Kosher” is produced in a matter approved in accordance with Jewish Dietary Laws.

“Kosher for Passover” are wines not coming in contact with bread, grain or products made with leavened dough.

“Kosher le Mehadrin” are wines following the rules of kashrut but must be strictly approved.

Manischewitz and other sweet red wines are kosher but these are generally considered sacramental wine or “Kiddush wine.” These wines tend to taste like sugary, syrupy water. As more and more Jewish families search out dry table wines for festivals and blessings these wines and this style are also changing.

Mevushal wines differ in that they have been flash pasteurized so they remain kosher even if a nonobservant or non-Jewish person serves the wines. This wine must be heated to 185 degrees. Just in the last five years, “flash pasteurization” for wines was in its infancy, today this technique is becoming much more precise, satisfying the rabbinical requirement and not harming the overall quality of a wine as it had in the past.

THE VALUE

  • 2016 Baron Herzog Chardonnay, California (about $19 retail)

THE SPLURGE

  • NV Laurent Perrier Brut, France (about $75 retail)

Kosher wines also have other appeals

kosher-wineSeveral readers have inquired about kosher wines recently. And while Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur have passed, kosher wines aren’t just for holidays.

Many outside the Jewish community seek kosher wines because of the “bio” friendly production and the strict winemaking practices which include the prohibition of any animal products such as egg whites or gelatin which are sometimes used as fining agents to clarify wine.

The grapes must be from vines that are at least 4 years old and every seventh year the fields must be left uncultivated. There are also strict prohibitions on other crops being grown in the same vineyards.

During the harvest only Sabbath-observing male Jews are allowed to work the vineyards and winery and a rabbi or kashrut-trained supervisor — one versed in the Jewish dietary laws — must observe all steps in the winemaking process.

Following production, 1 percent must be thrown away, a symbolic remnant of the 10 percent tithe, paid to the Temple in Jerusalem.

There are two different types of kosher wines, meshuval and nonmeshuval. Meshuval wine has been heated to near the boiling point, then cooled. This ensures the wine is kosher regardless of how and by whom it is served.

Nonmeshuval wine has not been boiled. If the person who opens or serves the wine is not Jewish, the wine is no longer kosher.

With increased quality and producers including vineyards in France, Spain, California, Italy, New Zealand and Israel, there are many excellent kosher wines to be found. The following are available in Arkansas.

THE VALUES

  • 2007 Kesser Concord, New York (about $7 retail)
  • 2007 Recanati Cabernet Sauvignon, Israel (about $16 retail)
  • 2007 Baron Herzog Chardonnay, California (about $19 retail)

THE SPLURGE

  • NV Laurent Perrier Brut, France (about $75 retail)