A (Very) Short Treatise on Kosher Wines

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Manischewitz White Concord – My Coming of Age Wine!

Back when I was at legal-ish drinking age, a couple of girlfriends and I would meet in one of our basements and bring our bottles of Manischewitz to drink. We always got the White Concord because the bottle looked cool, and because we knew nothing about wine, it was delicious to us. Of course, we’re talking about Philadelphia in the 70s, and our only requirement for wine was that it needed to be sweet. And besides, we weren’t drinking to savor the wine; we were drinking to get a buzz. There was no swirling or sniffing. Only drinking!

We sat and watched TV or played games and had a lovely time. We had no idea about the significance of Manischewitz; we just knew that it was wine, it was cheap, it tasted good, and we liked it. Simple requirements and simple fulfillment.

Fast forward a few years, and now I know what wines are. I am no longer a fan of sweet wines (unless specifically made as a dessert) and prefer dry and complex wines. So if I am at a Seder with friends, what do I do? Surely Kosher wines must be dreck (that’s Yiddish for plonk) and, therefore, mostly unpalatable, right?

Wrong.

So, What’s a Kosher Wine?

Chianti Classico Riserva (Kosher, non-Mevushal)

Kosher wines come in two forms: Mevushal and non-Mevushal. Mevushal wines are flash pasteurized in order for them to be halakhically (according to Jewish law) handled by non-Sabbath observant Jews or non-Jews. When I say “flash pasteurize,” that’s exactly what it sounds like. Literally seconds, and then it’s ready to go.

All wines are raw products. They are not cooked; the only heat they see is during fermentation when the yeast turns our favorite juice into our favorite adult beverage. Otherwise, it is an uncooked product.

Non-Mevushal wines maintain their raw state, except they are only handled by Sabbath-observant Jews. That, in a very tiny nutshell, is what makes up a Kosher for Passover wine.

It is natural to believe that Kosher wines are only made in Israel. If you go to a wine site like wine.com, that’s easy to believe. Nearly all of their available Kosher wines are of Israeli origin. Israel has a thriving wine community, and they make wines ranging from too sweet for me to award-winning. And interestingly, they are not all Kosher.

You’ll probably be surprised to find out that many Kosher wines (both Mevushal and non-Mevushal) are also made in other countries. There are Kosher wines produced in Bordeaux, Argentina, Italy – a lot in Italy – the United States, including California, Oregon, and Washington, Australia, etc. In other words, Kosher wines are available everywhere, and some are incredibly delicious.

So Why Kosher Wines?

Iconic Bottle of Manischewitz

Kosher wines are significant during Passover because only non-leavened items can be consumed. That means that only yeast that hasn’t been grown on grains can be used in winemaking, and only Sabbath-observant Jews can make and handle it.

During Seder, many times during the reading of the Haggadah require the participants to drink a cup of wine (plain grape juice for those who are alcohol-averse or underage.) Jews set an extra cup of wine on the dinner table and open the door for the prophet Elijah, harbinger of the Messiah, with the prayer that he will enter.

Oh. And for what it’s worth, all Manischewitz wine is Kosher wine!

And for those who observe and celebrate, Chag Pesach Sameach!

Vegas Wineaux
Vegas Wineauxhttp://vegaswineaux.com
Life now, especially after leaving the day job, is even crazier! I hope that you continue to follow and enjoy the wine and Vegas news!

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