Rosh Hashanah marks the beginning of the Jewish high holidays. Festive meals with wine and sweet delicacies are eaten during the 10 day period. Here we sample two outstanding Kosher wines from Israel suitable for a holiday meal – or for those of any faith who appreciate good wine.
Israel Knows A Thing Or Two About Wine
Wine has existed in Israel since ancient times. In the bible, the book of Deuteronomy lists the “fruit of the vine” as one of seven blessed species of fruit found in the land of Israel. Since wine is a central part of Jewish religious practice, Israel has worked hard to develop a wine industry despite the obstacles presented by arid desert, insufficient water and periodic warfare. Today there are more than 100 wineries producing more than 10 million bottles per year.
There are five major wine-producing regions and we recently had the opportunity to enjoy bottles from the Jerusalem Mountains and Samson regions. Our two wines were: 2014 Bravdo Coupage from Karmei Yosef Winery, Samson, and 2013 Psâgot Edom, Jerusalem Hills. Both are Kosher, available in the US and quite suitable for Jewish holidays or quaffing by non-Jewish wine lovers too.
For us, wine is usually just part of the equation. To bring out the best in the wine, we like to pair it with the proper meal or food. I try to help, but usually this is the domain of the Green Dragon, my wife who has great culinary skills. As we had out of town guests, the Green Dragon was capably assisted by her sister Janine, niece Chelsea and friend Maria.
I had located a recipe for a lamb dish recommended for Rosh Hashanah: Sliced Lamb with Apricot-Mushroom Sauce. We prepped the entrée and then put it in the oven for a long baking time. During that time we visited a farmer’s market, went to watch drone races and had lunch. At the farmer’s market I made my other contribution to the meal – purchasing local micro-greens.
So, I stepped out of the way and let the culinary team do their thing. The resulting meal was the aforementioned lamb entrée with Israeli couscous, garlic green beans, Greek salad and challah bread.
Historically Great Wines
North Carolina happened to experience spectacular weather during the Labor Day weekend, and so our festive meal took place outside. We first poured the Psâgot Edom.
The Edom bottle is very distinctive, bearing an attached golden coin. It is a replica of a coin from the period of the Great Revolt (66-73 CE) which was excavated from the cave that would become Psâgot’s barrel room. The winery is located in the northern Jerusalem Mountains which has produced outstanding wine for centuries.
Edom is a blend of 63% Merlot, 16% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Petite Verdot and 10% Cabernet Franc. That’s a classic Bordeaux-style blend, and it dashes any misconceptions that all Kosher wine is sweet and poorly made.
On the palate the wine starts a bit “hot.” It has 14.5% alcohol but it wasn’t long before the wine opened up and smoothed out. Lamb is a robust dish, and the Psâgot was a good pairing – matching strength with strength.
The wine has flavor notes of deep red cherry and earth. Oak notes are evident thanks to 14 months in oak barrels. Edom undergoes malolactic fermentation, which adds to the complexity and smooth character.
driven. The blend is 33% Cabernet Franc, 27% Shiraz and 27% Cabernet Sauvignon. The winery is led by Professor Ben Ami Bravdo and has a 130 year tradition of winemaking that incorporates technological knowledge. Professor Bravdo is a faculty member of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
On the palate, the Coupage offers a tart cranberry flavor. The unfiltered wine is aged in oak for 12 months and has an enjoyably long finish. This has dark, rich flavors of brambly berries and a bit of toast. Again, this scored high marks for pairing with the lamb.
Some consider today the “golden age” of Kosher wine. The consumption of Kosher wine is outpacing that of general wine in the US by 100% and consumers are very anxious to try high end wines from Israeli winemakers. These two wines are not only very good Kosher wines, but very good wines period.
They both wines retail for $35 and are highly recommended.