Wine Talk

Snooth User: jhack287

Kosher Wine

Posted by jhack287, Mar 12, 2009.

The world of Kosher wines is no longer limited to Manischewitz. There is a great array out there coming from every wine producing region in the world. Though Israel stands in the vanguard of just the sheer number of bottles of kosher wine coming for one place, France has a very nice selection, as well as Australia, California, and even some south American wineries.
I don't know how versed members here are of Kosher wines, but I say we start talking about it. There is a world out there of great tastes that please the palate. I am part of a monthly wine club for a Kosher distributor, normally I try to let the bottles sit for a year or so, but hopefully I can add the the discussion monthly by popping the cork, sharing the bottles with friends and reporting back with notes and impressions.
If anyone has any kosher wines that are worth trying shoot a message my way. I'm always looking for new things to try. Keeping kosher limits my wine horizons, but still, just cause its kosher doesn't mean it has to be second rate.

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Replies

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Reply by Degrandcru, Mar 12, 2009.

Just to get a better insight into the subject, could you explain the difference in production of "Kosher Wine" and "Non - Kosher Wine"?

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Reply by jhack287, Mar 12, 2009.

You ask a great question. I have to give you some background to explain this issue. Because Judaism is fragmented and there are many different denominations different rules and understandings of the mandates arise. The best area I can speak to is what the laws are and then individuals are free to chose what they want to observe.
Kosher wine is defined as wine under the supervision of an approved "Hashgacha" agency. A Hashgacha is an agency that trains Rabbis to watch the production process. Inherently there is nothing unkosher about most wines. However just like there is nothing inherently unkosher about orange juice, unless it is marked as being kosher and has been certified by a reputable agency, observant Jews will not consume it. Well known agencies that certify things as kosher are the OU- orthodox union, the Star-K, Kaf-K as well as many others.
Now with that said there is another layer to make it more complicated. That is the rule of Mevushal. This concept is that the wine is "cooked" or "boiled".
Traditionally, this edict was followed literally. The boiling process killed most of the fine mold or "must" on the grapes, and greatly altered the tannins and flavours of the wine. The result was typically a weak wine. Rather than being full red in colour, it often displayed an opaque, permanganate-coloured tone.
Later, the process was modified to require only that wine be heated to 90 degrees Celsius. This managed to reduce some of the damage done to the wine, but still had a substantial effect on flavour.
Recently, a process called flash pasteurization has become the new style. This method avoids causing the juice of the grapes to simmer or boil, and is said to have a minimal effect on flavour, at least to the casual wine drinker. Indeed, the non-kosher winery Château Beaucastel flash pasteurizes and its wines are considered among the world's finest, although few others have copied this technique.
In most territories, the bulk of kosher wine is supplied by wineries producing both kosher wine and wine for the general market. However, irrespective of the method, the pasteurization process must be overseen by mashgichim (people certified in to rule on the Kashrut "Kosherness" of a product) to ensure the kosher status of the wine. Generally, they will attend the winery to physically tip the fruit into the crush, and operate the pasteurisation equipment. Once the wine emerges from the process, it can be handled and aged in the normal fashion.
There are Rabbinical reasons why these laws exist. I can go into them if you want. But the fact is that observant Jews hold by this idea of Kosher wine, (which is either mevushal or not mevushal - a wine does not have to undergo the mevushal process to be considered kosher).
Does this help explain your question? In essence there is no production difference (unless its mevushal), its a matter of who oversees the process. As I mentioned above different denominations practice these rules to varying extents.

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Reply by Degrandcru, Mar 13, 2009.

Hello JHack, that completely answers my question. Thank you.
I work in the food industry and we produce food ingredients in Mexico. As we had requests for Kosher ingredients once, we needed certification as well, which worked as you described it. We changed absolutely nothing in the production process, but a Rabbi had to watch and certify the production. Unfortunately the certification is very expensive and at the end you have the same product "stating Kosher" for more than twice the price.
I understand that this is a very important topic in the jewish religion, but I don´t think that anybody non-jewish is willing to pay more for a kosher product knowing that there is no difference.
So a Kosher wine is definitely not second rate, just the same product being more expensive.

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Reply by Philip James, Mar 13, 2009.

There are some famous Champagnes that are Kosher, I thought. I just can't remember which ones...

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Reply by WhatsUpDoc, Mar 28, 2009.

Best wines for Passover service are classed as apperitif wines, since they will be drunk w/o food. One excellent value choice is Herzog Chenin Blanc. If you intend to serve wines with the dinner as well, they should be other, more food-friendly selections. An excellent choice for matzo ball soup is Hafner Gruener Veltliner 2007 from Austria, but try finding it. (Most wines overwhelm such a delicate-flavored dish.) It can be bought online from the producer, but shipping charges from Austria are exhorbitant. Perhaps next year. An excellent value choice for gefilte fish, sweet recipe, is Weinstock White by W. For matzoh brei brunches, a kosher asti spumante or similar light, semi-sweet sparkling wine (of which there are many) works beautifully

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Reply by WhatsUpDoc, Mar 28, 2009.

Wine is a more manufactured product than, say, orange juice, so there are two areas in which a Kosher wine can intrinically differ from a non-Kosher wine, and one is in the area of what material is used in the filtering process, or "fining". European wines may use casein (milk protein), isinglass (a pure gelatin from fish swim-bladders, not urinary bladders!), or, rarely, beef gelatin. No kosher wines do. All Israeli and U.S. kosher wines filter only with purified clay (bentonite), making them vegan. So do most European kosher wines, though some may use egg albumin, a common practice for non-Kosher wine, so they are all vegetarian, but not reliably vegan.

The second is in the area of traditional taste profile. At the lowest price points, Kosher wine is usually sweet, sometimes syrupy, for Jews accustomed to traditional sacramental wines. Even some lower-priced Syrahs and Merlots have been slightly sweetened. However, some South American wines have been coming in a very low price point made in the more standard food-friendly dry style. Since some labels, like Herzog, include examples of both types, and reviews that describe the flavor profile don't always mention that the wine may be off-dry unlike most wines of the varietal, caution is necessary.

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Reply by WhatsUpDoc, Mar 28, 2009.

Some of the finer, more expensive Kosher wines have "crossed over", and are being marketed on their merits to those not interested in Kasrut, as well as Kosher buyers. At that stratified level of quality, they are considered fair value, comparable with the best non-Kosher wines. Buyers of fine wine should not assume that a superb Kosher wine is over-priced.

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Reply by WhatsUpDoc, Mar 28, 2009.

At the medium ~$20 price point there are quite a few excellent Israeli wines (where the cost differential of producing kosher is less than elsewhere) that compare favorably value-wise with non-kosher wines. Daniel Rogov has reviewed many of these.

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Reply by WhatsUpDoc, Mar 28, 2009.

The final significant difference for the non-Jew or secular Jew would be that Mevushal wines don't stand up to aging as well as non-Mevushal wines do. Many Israeli wines are not Mevushal (read the labels) as well a few of the top level kosher wines from elsewhere. Since making a Kosher wine that is not Mevushal requires a workforce of Sabbath-observant Jews, it is understandable that it is hard to do outside Israel.

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Reply by dmcker, Mar 28, 2009.

From what I've read above, the thing that flags my concerns most when it comes to the quality, esp. complexity and longevity, of properly kosher wines would be the requirement for boiling (or even flash pasteurization) of the wine during the fermentation process.

Originally trained as an anthropologist, I have tended to view religious proscriptions regarding diet and certain other areas of behavior as most often stemming from environmental threats to the health and social hygiene of the particular historical communities, which have then taken on other significances over time. Easy examples are bans on pork (trichinosis and other diseases) or mollusks (numerous toxins that occur seasonally or in shellfish that are not fresh).

I'm curious about what health-related problems may have ensued from unboiled wine in the past?

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Reply by hhotdog, Mar 28, 2009.

nothing for nothing here...i have tried a nice reasonably priced kosher red form Israel. Yarden Galilee Mount Hermon 2007. pretty good at $15. wasn't looking for a kosher wine... just gave it try, liked it and actually got another bottle! always enjoy the great insight guys!

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Reply by Alleigh, Mar 30, 2009.

I was actually getting online today to ask about recommendations for Kosher wines for Passover. I'd love to hear more recommendations, especially since Kosher for Passover is not the same as year-round kosher.

BTW, this is a great conversation!

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Reply by DanielCohen, Mar 30, 2009.

Hi,

A great kosher for passover wine is a wine I tried 3 weeks ago.
The name of the wine is: Chateau Labegorce Margaux
I bought from here:
http://www.mykosherwine.com/product...
The price different between the sites out there are crazy, this is the lowest price I could find.
This wine cost - $45.99 / Bottle but it's on sale now and cost only $19.99 / Bottle.
It's the best wine I can recommend from my tasting experience.
Have fun drinking it.

Regards,
Daniel

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Reply by hhotdog, Mar 30, 2009.

has anyone else noticed that many wine prices are coming down a bit lately? from what i've heard there are a lot of close-outs in the distibutors warehouses...with the economy the way it is they need to clear out inventory to get cash!

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Reply by dmcker, Mar 30, 2009.

Am still curious: does anyone know what health issues may have ensued in the past with un'cooked' wines?

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Reply by DanielCohen, Mar 31, 2009.

hhotdog,
What you basically say is that it's a good timing to collect the wines out there?
In that case I'll buy few cases.
Good to know... :)

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Reply by jhack287, Jun 18, 2009.

dmcker, I would like to answer your questions on the need for mevushal or cooked wines. I have not checked the forum in a while. Wines that have gone through this process of mevushal can be handled by Jew & Gentile alike and still retain their kosher status, whereas non-mevushal wines can not be handled by non-Jews should they risk losing their status as kosher. This practice evolved as a way to prevent Kosher wine from being used in pagan rituals/libations done over/with wine. It was believed that due to the significant difference in the taste, color and quality of the mevushal wine and non-mevushal wine, pagans would be less inclined to use this wine. As such the rabbi’s decreed that all kosher wine be boiled as to prevent it from being used in so that Jews would not use pagan wine for their own sacramental purposes.
The Gemara in Avoda Zara 30a (the Gemara also known as the Talmud is a collection of Jewish law) cites Rava (a rabbi), who believes that the restrictions concerning non-Jews touching wine do not apply if the wine is cooked. The Gemara (ibid.) quotes a striking anecdote that demonstrates the application of this Halacha (Jewish law). The Gemara relates that Shmuel and a non-Jew named Avlet were sitting together and cooked wine was served to them. Avlet took his hand away from the wine so as not to render it forbidden to Shmuel. Shmuel thereupon told Avlet that he need not worry, as the wine was Mevushal. Rashi (a 12th cent. rabbinic commentator) writes that this Gemara teaches that we may drink Mevushal wine that was touched by a Non-Jew. Tosafot (late 12th cent. collection of commentators - also Rashi's grandchildren) add that this constitutes normative Halacha (Jewish Law).
Does this help?

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Reply by dmcker, Jun 19, 2009.

Thanks for the very interesting doctrinal history. I still wonder why it was first boiled, not so much how the practice came to be administered afterwards. *Just* to make it different, so as to ensure separate, exclusive practices and behavioral guidelines? Or was there some imperative issuing from hygienic requirements back then, as well? Without such an initial cause for the boiling it tends to seem like the attempt to segregate is a self-damaging custom, merely shooting the winedrinkers in the foot (or palate), because cooked wine is nowhere near as tasty, even when a taste for it has been acquired through custom.

Thus I'm curious if you know anything about the origins of the custom, long before the middle ages. At any rate, thank you for taking the time to answer my somewhat impertinent question.

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Reply by jhack287, Jun 19, 2009.

So the Talmud was codified in 400ce. The practice and reason as far as idolatry is concern stretches as far back as beginning of the second temple period with the return to zion allowed by Cyrus of Persian and lead by Ezra the Scribe. To add some more details, the boiling processes practiced prior to flash pasteurization (which is not accepted by some rabbinic authorities as proper procedures to allow the title mevushal), was to boil the wine to approximately 180 degrees Fahrenheit which in turn causes the wine to no longer become Stam Yaynom (just regular wine) and thus it can no longer ferment naturally. Therefore the wine needs to have outside wine enzymes added to the juice so that artificial fermentation can occur. However, rabbinic supervision is needed at this point as well to make sure that only Kosher wine enzymes are used.
It seems that historically the alcoholic content was significantly lower since from what I understand ancient Israel did not add the needed enzymes to further the fermentation process. The lesser alcohol content created a loop hole in Jewish law. The priests in the Temple located in Jerusalem are instructed in the third book of the Pentateuch that they are not to enter God's House having consumed wine. This can be found in Leviticus:
וידבר יהוה אל אהרן לאמר יין ושכר אל תשת אתה ובניך אתך בבאכם אל אהל מועד
And God spoke unto Moses saying: wine and alcohol do not drink you and your sons, when you come to the Tent of Meeting (this is my own translation). Since it says one should not consume wine, the lesser alcohol content allowed this loophole to made thus allowing the priest to drink wine before preforming their tasks and now be in violations of this precept. I believe there are other reasons but I am limited in my resources since I am in the middle of travels and not near a Judaic research library.

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Reply by dmcker, Jun 19, 2009.

Thanks for your attention to my question, jhack. Interesting tidbits there, and I'll be looking forward to hearing what you might unearth if you have a chance to dig further whenever nearer a research library.

L'chaim.

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