If your perception of Kosher wine is fixated on that sweet bottle of Manischewitz from years ago, you should know that times have changed. It is now produced in every conceivable style and not only in Israel but throughout the world, including premium wine areas like Napa Valley and St-Emilion.
Kosher Wine Quality: Onward And Upward
In decades past, Kosher wine was associated with sweet Concord wine from wineries founded by Jewish immigrants to New York. Starting in the 1980s, the upgrading of the Israeli wine industry and a focus on producing dry, premium wines changed the picture entirely. Starting in 2000, the number of wineries in Israel doubled in just five years. Today, Israel produces nearly 36 million bottles of wine annually.
We recently had the chance to taste three bottles that show the quality and breadth of available Kosher wines. Each has a price tag of under $20.
Three Continents, Three Wines
Our trio of wines from Royal Wine Corp. included Carmel 2016 Selected Mediterranean Blend, Shomron, Israel; Herzog 2016 Late Harvest Chenin Blanc, Clarksburg, CA; and Terra di Seta 2013, Chianti Classico. We have North America, Europe and Asia represented. A good thing too, because I took the bottles to a family event with a wide range of palates.
The Selected Mediterranean Blend is a mix of 45% Shiraz, 30% Carignan, 20% Petite Sirah and 5% Viognier. That’s an awesome assortment of grapes. Noteworthy is the inclusion of Viognier, a white grape, in this red blend. Adding Viognier to Shiraz (aka Syrah) is a time-honored practice in France’s Rhone region.
“Evaporating” almost immediately in a swarm of family and friends, the Selected blend proved very popular. It is light with a bit of fruitiness. We enjoyed it with some vegetarian spinach puffs and assorted cheeses. Shomron is is the largest wine-growing region in Israel, running along the coast from south of Haifa down to Tel Aviv. Carmel is one of Israel’s top wineries.
Chianti Classico is one of our favorite wines. Chianti is primarily Sangiovese, a luscious grape. Just thinking about it gives me the itch to find a corkscrew. Chianti Classico must contain at least 80% Sangiovese and come from the historic heart of the Chianti region.The Terra di Seta was my first Kosher Chianti, and it didn’t disappoint, with a medium body and tart cherry flavors.
Our last wine was reserved for dessert. The Herzog Late Harvest Chenin Blanc was a delightful pairing with a chocolate layer cake with white frosting, prepared by talented niece Carey Nershi – who also provided the feature photo at the top of this article. The residual sugar is 11.5%. Paired with the cake, the sweetness was tempered and made for a perfect match. The Herzog was light and balanced, not weighty and syrupy. The taste is of crisp apples and pear with a round and pleasant finish.
These wines are perfect for holiday entertaining. Jewish or not, you’ll enjoy the quality and food-friendliness at a great QPR (quality price ratio).
Full disclosure: We received these wines as a marketing sample.