Let’s start with a little understanding of what makes a wine Kosher. Grapes are grapes, neither Kosher nor non-Kosher until they arrive at the so-called crushpad where they begin the process of becoming wine. Once that happens, for the wine to be Kosher, the grapes must be handled from that point by Sabbath-observant Jews. So far so good. So, let’s assume that the grapes are crushed, pressed and fermented by this Kosher crew, using only Kosher ingredients and approved processes. For example, wine can be fined with egg whites, which is pretty standard in the industry, but not using Isinglass which is made from Sturgeon bladders and is decidedly not Kosher. The wine is then aged and bottled, again under Rabbinical supervision.
At that point, the wine can simply be distributed, but the hitch is that for the wine to remain Kosher down to and on the Passover table, it can only be opened and poured by a Sabbath-observant Jew. To deal with that, many wineries subject the wine to a heating process (it’s not really boiling, although that’s a popular misconception) called Flash Pasteurization, which renders the wine Mevushal and it then can be handled by anyone. However, wine that’s been heated has been, well, mistreated, at least in my humble view.
My friend and teacher Jeff Morgan has a nice, concise primer on the what makes a wine Kosher and the distinction of Mevushal or non-Mevushal – read it here. And please, avoid Mevushal wines if you can, and try these:
Covenant Cabernet. From Jeff Morgan (full disclosure here) and Leslie Rudd of Rudd Vineyards, this is the best Kosher wine you or I have ever tasted. Not cheap but c’mon, splurge a little for Passover!
Red C Cabernet
Second label California Cabernet from the Covenant people; still not cheap but more affordable at about $45 per, and outstanding in its own right.
Pommery Champagne Brut Royal.
This non-vintage is 35% Chardonnay, 35% Pinot Noir and 30% Pinot Meunier. Rich, yet nicely acidic.
Dalton Sauvignon Blanc Reserve.
Tried to find a non-Mevushal SB from NZ – no luck – but this one from Ha Eretz is pretty nice.
Domaine Lafond Tavel Rhone Rose.
I drink this all the time after, er, Church. It’s medium-bodied, dry rose Kosher wine, non-Mevushal, made from Greanche, Cinsault and Syrah. The ’06 and ’07 are widely available too, I imagine.
Ramon Cardova Rioja.
Tempranillo from old vines – it’s got some nice spice and leather, although it may lack a bit in body. Great bargain, too.
Domaine St. Benoit Chateauneuf du Pape.
Outstanding offering that’s a combination of Grenache, Mourvedre, Syrah – and the only Kosher Chateauneuf du Pape I know of. This is a find.
NOTE: The links to most of these wines takes you to online store headquartered in Skokie, IL. I don’t have any interest in that store (or any store) and I don’t know the people who own it. It’s just that they’ve got a great range of Kosher wine and a lot of information too. If you want one or these wines, you can purchase online, or ask your local retailer.