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The latest trends in kosher wines

An uptick in kosher brands and varietals (Royal Wine Corp.)
An uptick in kosher brands and varietals (Royal Wine Corp.)

Passover begins April 15, and with the rise in quality of kosher brands, many are exploring the possibilities of how to fill their four cups of wine during the holiday’s ceremonial dinner. A service and feast wrapped into one, the Seder commemorates the Israelites’ escape from slavery in ancient Egypt.

To be kosher, a wine has to be handled by Jews who observe the Sabbath and who abide by kosher dietary laws.

“Passover has been traditionally the most religiously observed Jewish holiday, especially in America,” said Gabriel Geller, sommelier and kosher wine expert. “For that reason, many secular and reform Jews who do not usually keep kosher do make a point of consuming kosher wine at least for the Passover Seder.”

Geller is the manager of wine education for the Royal Wine Corp. in Bayonne, New Jersey. The company represents more than 100 kosher brands, and Geller said the latest trend with kosher wine is the growing diversity of grape varietals.

“For a long time, kosher consumers primarily focused on the more classic grape varieties such as cabernet sauvignon, merlot, chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, etc.,” he said. “But in recent years, white, sparkling and rosé wines have taken significant market shares, and so have many wines made from varieties such as pinot noir, carignane, grenache, syrah, petit verdot, malbec and many more.”

In addition to the expanding range of varietals, there are also more kosher brands to choose from, Geller said.

“There are now at least three times as many different kosher wines as 20 years ago, and the offerings constantly grow in quantity and quality,” he said.

In the 1960s, Geller explained, a couple of Champagne producers and a winery in Alsace decided to produce small amounts of their wines under kosher supervision. And in the 1970s, Geller added, Carmel Winery, the largest and one of the oldest kosher wineries in Israel, launched a revolution in producing quality cabernet sauvignon.

Meanwhile in the 1980s, several modern, quality-driven kosher wineries established themselves in Israel and California. And in the late 1980s and early 1990s, several prestigious Bordeaux wineries started producing small kosher batches of their world-acclaimed wines, he added.

“Since then, a multitude of high-quality boutique and large commercial wineries were established throughout the world,” Geller said. “These include Israel, California, France, Canada, Spain, Italy, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa and more.”

For those preparing for Passover, here are some tasty kosher wines to explore at a range of prices. Some can be purchased locally at retailers like Bottle Barn and Beverages & More in Santa Rosa, with others available online at www.herzogwine.com.

$20 and under: Rimapere, Baron Edmond de Rothschild, 2021 Single Vineyard Marlborough, New Zealand sauvignon blanc, $21; White Pacifica Riesling 2019, $19; Red Herzog Lineage Malbec 2019, $20; Freixenet Cava Excelencia Brut, $16; and Tabor Adama Rosé from Israel, $18.

$50 and under: Netofa Latour Red 2018 from Israel at $30; Vitkin Winery 2019 White Dry Gewurztraminer, $30; and Chateau Roubine Premium Cru Classe Rosé from France, $28.

$50 and up: Caramel Signature, 2016, 40th Anniversary Cabernet Sauvignon, $70; Drappier Brut Nature kosher Champagne, $60; Herzog Special Reserve Methode Champenoise, $60; Herzog Generation IX Stags Leap Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2018 for $250; and Covenant, 2018 Solomon Lot, Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, $200.

Wine writer Peg Melnik can be reached at peg.melnik@pressdemocrat.com or 707-521-5310.

Peg Melnik

Wine, The Press Democrat

Northern California is cradled in vines; it’s Wine County at its best in America. My job is to help you make the most of this intriguing, agrarian patch of civilization by inviting you to partake in the wine culture – the events, the bottlings and the fun. This is a space to explore wine, what you care about or don’t know about yet.

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