Rosh Hashanah, which this year begins on Friday, Sept. 6, marks the start of the Jewish New Year and is the first in a series of Jewish holidays this month. Sweet food is traditionally served in hopes of a sweet year. In the past, these holiday meals were often accompanied by a sweet and heavy kosher wine, but this is no longer always the case. Today, kosher wines are available in a wide range of varietals and styles that can accompany any type of food or occasion.
In fact, many of these wines are indistinguishable in taste from nonkosher wines, even with the special measures that are taken to ensure that the wines are made in accordance with Jewish dietary laws. For a wine to be kosher, only Sabbath-observant Jews can handle the grape must and wine, from the time the grapes are crushed until the wine is bottled. Additionally, all winemaking equipment must be ritually cleansed and used solely for kosher wines, and during winemaking, only certified kosher products -- the yeast and fining agents, for example -- can be used.
Nonobservant Jews and non-Jews can handle a kosher wine without affecting its religious integrity if it is mevushal, which means that the wine has been pasteurized by heat. At one time, pasteurization drastically altered the flavor of a wine due to lengthy periods of heating, which produce cooked and stewed fruit flavors. Today, most winemakers use flash pasteurization, which rapidly raises a wine's temperature to 185 degrees Fahrenheit, then cools it -- all in just a few seconds. Exposing the wine to extreme conditions for such a short amount of time generally has negligible effects on the wine and allows it to retain its original flavor and character.
The list below highlights 23 kosher wines that have been reviewed this year by Wine Spectator. Wines that have undergone pasteurization are indicated by "Mevushal" in the wine name.
When looking for a kosher wine in your local shop, the front or back label of the bottle should clearly state that the wine is kosher and whether it is mevushal. Check out the many choices from around the world -- from Israel and California, from Southern France to South Africa, from Australia to Austria.
|YARDEN Chardonnay Galilee Katzrin 1999||87||$30||Israel|
|YARDEN Gewürztraminer Galilee Heights Wine 2000||87||$22||Israel|
|HAGAFEN Sauvignon Blanc Napa Valley 2000||86||$13||California|
|DALTÔN Chardonnay Galilee Reserve 2000||85||$15||Israel|
|LAYLA Cabernet-Merlot Vin de Pays de l'Aude Mevushal 2000||85||$14||France|
|ABARBANEL White Shiraz Vin de Pays de l'Aude Mevushal 2001||84||$8||France|
|BACKSBERG Chardonnay Paarl 2001||84||$13||South Africa|
|DALTÔN Muscat Zichron Ya'akov 2000||84||$11||Israel|
|CHÂTEAU MAINE GAZIN Premières Côtes de Blaye Livenne Vieilles Vignes 1999||84||$17||France|
|YARDEN Chardonnay Galilee 2000||84||$17||Israel|
|YARDEN Galilee Mount Hermon Red 2001||84||$12||Israel|
|BECKETT'S FLAT Sauvignon Blanc-Sémillon Margaret River 2000||83||$15||Australia|
|CARMEL Chardonnay Galil Private Collection Mevushal 2000||83||$14||Israel|
|DALTÔN Cabernet Sauvignon Galilee Reserve 1998||83||$33||Israel|
|YARDEN Merlot Galilee 1999||83||$23||Israel|
|ABARBANEL Cabernet Sauvignon Vin de Pays de l'Aude 2001||82||$14||France|
|ABARBANEL Chardonnay Vin de Pays d'Oc 2000||82||$14||France|
|ABARBANEL Merlot Vin de Pays de l'Aude Mevushal 2001||82||$10||France|
|ABARBANEL Syrah Vin de Pays de l'Aude Mevushal 2001||82||$11||France|
|DALTÔN Cabernet Sauvignon-Merlot Galil Canaan Mevushal 2000||82||$13||Israel|
|DALTÔN Merlot Galilee 2000||82||$18||Israel|
|WOHLMUTH Chardonnay Südsteiermark 2000||81||$26||Austria|
|YARDEN Galilee Mount Hermon White 2001||80||$11||Israel|
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