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The New Era of Sweet Kosher Wine

Every Passover articles aplenty are published extolling the virtues of the kosher wines available for the holiday.  Each of these pieces is composed by a different author and appears in a different journal and yet their content is all virtually identical.  As evidenced by titles like Kosher Wine Does Not Have to Suck, Not Your Grandmother’s Manischewitz, and Sticky Sweet Kosher Wines are a Thing of the Past, these articles aim to convince both kosher and non-kosher men and women that there is in fact a wonderful array of serious kosher wines for Passover quaffing.

And they are not wrong.  Kosher wines have come a long way over the past two decades, and with the development of the Israeli wine industry are only expected to continue to improve in the coming years.  However, what these authors do fail to point out is that many Jews could care less about quality wine.  A good portion of the kosher wine drinking community still views wine purely as a sacramental drink and as such their only requirements are that it be sweet and cheap.  They are not interested in making Kiddush on a $45 bottle of 90 point wine, but rather on a $5 bottle of Yayin Noshan.  When it comes to alcoholic beverages, many religious Jews will open their wallets for a single-malt scotch, but not for the grape based substance that is an intrinsic element of every Jewish holy ritual.  If most Jews continue to prefer to drink a glass of Cream Malaga (that is the pink jug wine, not to be confused with the red jug) with their Matzo Ball soup, all the numerous achievements in kosher wine production are rendered almost meaningless.

Of course, this is an overly pessimistic viewpoint.  All is not yet lost.  There is a slow but steady move toward change.  Just like in any other close-knit community, alterations in diet are some of the slowest to gain acceptance.  It is no surprise therefore, that the Jewish taste for wine is developing at a snaillike pace.  The good news is that there are some Jews that have developed a palate for more serious beverages over the past decade.  They now purchase Bordeaux, unfiltered Cabernets, and dry Gewurztraminers to adorn their Passover and Shabbat tables.  Others, cognizant of the changing tides, long to sophisticate their stubborn taste buds and are in pursuit of more refined wine but are not yet ready to relinquish the sweet intoxicants of their childhood.

Wine producers are aware of this later trend and as such have developed a number of wines designed to satisfy the sweet tooth of those accustomed to concord wines while not offending overmuch the sensibilities of more serious wine lovers.  With the success of such mainstream labels as Baron Herzog’s Jeunesse it is evident that there is a lot of demand for wines crafted in this in between style.  For this reason, this Passover there is an unprecedented number of wines in this semi-sweet, semi-dry category for you to sample.

Start the process of educating your taste buds this Passover with some of the wines listed below.        

 

Bartenura Freisa d’Asti ($10) – Light and fruity.  This wine is perfect as an aperitif or served with light desert fare.  

Baron Herzog Jeunesse ($10) – Sweet strawberries and raspberries explode across the palate.  This happy go lucky wine should be served with dessert.

Carmel Young Carignano ($10) – Pink and bubbly this wine is pretty in a glass and fun on the palate.  Nice acidity balances out the sugars and keeps the wine tasting fresh.

Herzog Selection Vouvray ($11) – Wonderfully crisp wine with acidity levels to counteract the residual sugars.  Traditional Chenin Blanc on the nose and creamy and minerally on the palate.

Byblos Semi-Sweet Bonarda ($11) – Full-bodied, soft and pleasing this wine takes semi-sweet reds to the next level.  This wine will pair nicely with your Passover red meat course.

JSC Alazanis Valley ($11.50) – Smooth and balanced wine with just the right amount of sweetness.

Byblos Semi-Dry Unoaked Cabernet Sauvignon ($12) – Rich with a bold structure and a well integrated sweetness this wine will please almost all palates.

Abarbanel Gewurztraminer ($17) – Traditional Alsatian Gewurztraminer nose with lychees, exotic spices and peaches.  On the palate shows more residual sugar than most Alsatian Gewurztraminers.  A more serious wine for the more serious wine lover.