In time for Passover, Royal Wine Corp. has released new kosher wines from Chile. The New York-based company -- the parent of Baron Herzog Wine Cellars, a well-known kosher producer in California -- has teamed up with a Chilean winery to create Alfasi Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.
"Kosher has become a successful niche business," said Nathan Herzog, vice president of sales for Royal Wine Corp. "Now it sells 12 months a year -- to the kosher consumer and to the general public. We have to keep on looking for something new and unique. Chile is the hot country nowadays, so we decided two years ago to go there."
Alfasi is made at the Carta Vieja winery in the Maule Valley of Chile, about 130 miles south of Santiago. The winery produces inexpensive Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc from its estate. Royal Wine Corp. set up its own winemaking facilities and equipment and brought in its staff and rabbis to work with Carta Vieja's staff, said Herzog.
To be kosher, wines must meet certain rules regarding ritual cleansing of winemaking equipment. In addition, all winemaking must be performed by Sabbath-observant Jews, and only certified kosher products, such as yeast and fining agents, can be used. Many kosher wines are also mevushal, which means they are a pasteurized or heated to alter the wine's spiritual essence so they can be handled by the general public, such as a non-Jewish waiter, and still remain kosher. However, Alfasi is not mevushal.
The first Alfasi wines were released in small quantities last year; this year, Royal Wine Corp. also introduced a reserve line. The company produced about 8,000 cases each of the 1997 Alfasi Cabernet and Merlot ($7), and about 4,000 cases each of the Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot ($10). Herzog said he expected the company to double the production next year.
In addition to Alfasi wines, Royal Wine Corp. makes the high-end Herzog Reserve line of Cabernets and Chardonnay and a wide variety of California varietals under its Baron Herzog label.
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