Lifestyle July, 22nd 2012 by

Kosher Wine

(Originally published in Spanish in the Diario Sur, 26 May 12)

AJ Linn
When I told a friend that I was planning to write about kosher wine, the reaction was predictable. “Not that sweet, syrupy stuff!” she said.

This is a typical view of kosher wine, and although it was once justified, modern kosher wine is now as good as any other.

The oldest kosher winery in America, Schapiro’s, had the motto ‘Wine so thick you can cut it with a knife’. Hardly a selling line, but in those days the only grape available was so acid that huge amounts of sugar had to be added just to make the wine drinkable.

Kosher is a Yiddish term derived from the Hebrew for fit or proper. All wine produced to conform must be made in equipment which is rigorously cleaned and used solely for kosher wine; yeast and fining agents must be certified kosher, and the grapes and the wine must be handled by Sabbath-observing Jews throughout.

During the Passover meal, the Seder, each guest is served four glasses of wine, representing respectively sanctification, deliverance, redemption and release. At Purim, another religious festival, unlimited wine is drunk and enjoyed. Clearly all wine must be kosher, although some kosher wines are also mevushal, signifying that they have been flash-heated, and these can be handled and served by non-Jews while still retaining their kosher status.

Although a wide variety of kosher wines are now made in the USA, such as Russian River Chardonnay and Monterey Chenin Blanc (Baron Herzog is the leading brand), the rest of the world outside Israel is slowly catching on. There is a Merlot from Chile and a Chianti from Italy, but that’s about it. So it was particularly interesting to hear about one of Spain’s very few kosher wines, Alate 2011, a young wine from Navarra produced under the strict supervision of the Orthodox Union. Costing €14, it is made by Bodegas Fernández Arcaya, of Los Arcos, and regardless of whether it is kosher or not, it can be happily judged on its own merits, and I would certainly be happy to drink it regularly.

AJ Linn

Andrew Linn left England 40 years ago to relocate to Spain, having been involved in businesses such as wine shipping and publishing. He currently writes regularly and professionally on wine, food, flamenco, and the Spanish way of life for various publications, and has a regular column in a Spanish newspaper. Andrew is involved in charity work relating to abandoned and mistreated animals.

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