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Wineries Offer New Kosher Bottlings in Time for PassoverPassover

Jacob Gaffney
Posted: April 19, 2000

After the sun sets on April 19, millions of Passover celebrants will pop thecorks from bottles of kosher wine. As the demand for kosher wine approaches itsyearly peak, wineries are bringing out new kosher bottlings of popular varietalsto meet the needs of buyers who want quality wines that they can drink at anytime of year.

Kosher wines have long suffered from the stigma created by so-called"traditional," heavy, sweet wines made in the United States with Concord grapes.Today, however, many kosher wines are made in dry styles, using high-end grapevarieties such as Chardonnay and CabernetSauvignon, and they come from wine regions all over the world.

Wine companies say that the booming economy, coupled with new winemakingequipment that has helped improved quality, is bringing more attention to kosherwines.

"America is a big country, and kosher wine is still, to a big degree, a sweetwine," said Nathan Herzog, vice president of sales for Royal Wine Corp. But, headded, wines such as his company's Baron Herzog brand -- made to compete withnonkosher California wines -- have helped to bring kosher bottlings into themainstream.

"Buyers have changed: They're younger, yet they're readopting their Jewishheritage," said Martin Sinkoff, president of Martin Sinkoff Wines, which importsReserve St. Martin kosher wines. "But they don't want to give up their lifestyle.We are at an intersection where high-quality wines and kosher wines meet. Thebuyer has more choice than ever before."

The options now available to consumers range from a kosher sparkling wine madeby well-known California bubbly producer Korbel to the Napa Valleybottlings of Hagafen Cellars, a kosher-only winery that makes Cabernet Sauvignon,Chardonnay, PinotNoir, Merlot, Syrah and other varietals.

New York-based Royal Wine Corp. is best known for its flagship BaronHerzog brand, as well as its Herzog Special Reserve and Special Editionbottlings, which have earned very good to outstanding ratings from WineSpectator. But the company also imports kosher wines from around the world,including Alfasi Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon from Chile, a variety of Italianwines under the Bartenura label and a range of wines from France.

This year, in its first venture Down Under, Royal Wine has introduced a newline of kosher Australian wines to its portfolio. The Teal Lake Shiraz andChardonnay, both from the 1999 vintage, are produced by Normans Wines of SouthEastern Australia. Some 4,000 cases of each were imported, retailing at about $13a bottle.

Also new for Passover this year is a kosher 1999 Merlot from Reserve St.Martin of France's Languedoc-Roussillonregion. Reserve St. Martin also offers kosher Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon.About 2,000 cases of each were imported, at a retail price of around $10 abottle.

Not all Reserve St. Martin wines are kosher, so read their labels carefully.The company's kosher wines are made at the same winery as its nonkosher wines,but the kosher wines are produced in a separate, rabbinically supervised area andstored in kosher-only cellars.

For a wine to be kosher, certain rules must be followed regarding the ritualcleansing of winemaking equipment. Also, observant Jews must perform thewinemaking, and only certified kosher products, such as yeast and fining agents,can be used. Many kosher wines are also mevushal, meeting additional standardsthat allow them to be handled by non-Jews and still remain kosher.

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See the kosher wine primer.

For more information on other kosher wineries:

Learn more about Herzog wines:

  • November 15, 1999
    Kosher Cabernet

  • March 31, 1999
    Chile Produces Kosher Wine

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