Passover comes around again. To me it is the main wine event of the year. A family get-together, with too much food and a lot of wine. The Seder is set up like a real Roman
banquet, and so are the wines.
Many relate the Arba Kossot, the four cups of wine, to G-d’s four expressions about how the Exodus would come about: “ I will bring out……deliver… redeem…take….” However I am told in the Mishnah, the drinking of four cups, is mentioned as fitting in with different stages of a meal, as in any banquet.
This fits in with my theory. The wine connection has its historical roots in the Greek Symposium, which was a glorified wine tasting, and the Roman banquet, in which food & wine were celebrated without restraint! The first glass is the aperitif. The second glass is with the starters and continues with the fish course. The third glass is also with the meat course and the fourth glass is after the meal.
There are no rules as to which wine to choose, so my advice is follow your own customs and buy what you yourself like, without becoming over wrought if it is the correct choice or not. Customs differ depending on the family minhag. Some people will start with sparkling or a light semi sparkling (frizzante) wine. Many use a sweet Kiddush wine for the first glass, because of tradition or because guests will be drinking on an empty stomach. Families with children may insist on grape juice. Whilst there are some who will reserve only the very finest wine for the first cup, considering the first blessing the most important. They will follow this with a dry or semi dry white wine, then a red wine and finish with a sweet dessert wine and a great deal of singing.
As for question of whether to buy white or red, there is always a view to support your opinion. Some will only use red wines believing they are more appropriate. Others may use whites, because red wines remind them of the blood libel. There is no right or wrong, just personal preferences.
I recommend for the usual large family gathering, that usually makes do with Kiddush wine and grape juice, to buy instead Moscato, Carignano or Red Muscat wines. You will find them under the labels like Buzz, Hermon, Dalton, Selected and Teperberg. These are usually low alcohol semi sweet, and slightly sparkling. They are perfect for young families and for those who drink wine as a necessity, but do not really like it. You will discover that everyone likes Moscato. Serve them cold from the fridge. These are the best Jewish wines invented for many years. They tick all the boxes.
If there is a little wine pride in your family and you appreciate a bargain, the best buy area in supermarkets is the ‘three for a hundred shekels’ sector. These are the best QPR (quality per price) wines in the market and they will be on promotion before Passover. You may even find a better offer than that.
I am referring to brands like Barkan Reserve, Carmel Private Collection, Golan Heights Hermon, Recanati Yasmin, Segal Merom Galil, Tabor Har and Teperberg Impression. My favorites in this section are the Private Collection Shiraz and Mt. Hermon Red amongst the reds. As for dry whites, the Har Chardonnay and Yasmin White give great value for their buck. If you want semi dry, you can’t beat both the Har and Impression Gewurztraminer.
Next stop for the wine loving family is the 50 to 100 shekels category. Here the wine shops offer the best range. All the large wineries have wines in this category. What is a surprise is that many smaller boutique wineries are these days also offering wines less than 100 shekels. The wine shops are a treasure trove for the wine lover looking for something different or new. You will have fun browsing and do not hesitate to ask for assistance from the staff, who should be wine knowledgeable.
I certainly believe this is a time for patriotism. I will usually only drink Israeli wines at Passover, and think this should be so if the Seder is in Jerusalem, London, Paris or New York. I believe not only that Israeli wines are the finest kosher wines in the world and but that they also provide more variety in different styles and at varying price points than anywhere else. Some believe that Chateau Something at a cut price, offers better value, because it may be from France. I disagree.
For those who constantly moan Israeli wines are too expensive, when you visit the supermarkets and wine stores in the weeks before Passover, you will find special prices, deals and promotions abound. There will be an enormous choice of wines at very attractive prices. It is a buyer’s paradise. Most of the talk about pricing is because the media, wine critics and special tastings all center around trophy or medal winning wines. However these may be the wines people talk about. They are not always the wines people actually drink!
I am always being asked what I drink and what my choice is. It is our family tradition to hold a special tasting on Seder night, based on a theme. A month before Passover, my children are asking, “well what are we going to drink this year.” They don’t ask about the food!
Two of my children and I, work in the wine trade and between us, we are proud to represent four different wineries. It is a common question: “So who wins the battle of what to drink in your household every Shabbat” The usual answer is nobody, because when we are together, we invariably taste something new.
This Passover though, we are staying close to home. Each family member who works in wine, will be asked to bring their best red and white wine to our Seder. Responsibilities have been divided up. I will bring both the Carmel Limited Edition and Admon Vineyard Chardonnay from Carmel Winery, and also the Yatir Forest and Viognier from Yatir Winery. My son, David will bring the Tabor Limited Edition and Shahar (a Riesling) from Tabor Winery and my daughter, Rachel will bring the Kerem Moshe and Montefiore White from Montefiore Winery. The reds are similar, either Cabernet Sauvignon or Bordeaux style blends based on Cabernet Sauvignon. The whites could not be more different.
This will be our first Seder without my much missed wife, who passed away before her time. She loved port. So as a special concession against my Israel only rule, we will also be opening a Taylor’s 1980 Vintage Port. It is particularly appropriate, because this was the year we met.
Whatever your poison, remember the mitzvah in the Mishnah is that even the poorest in Israel must be given not less than four cups of wine to drink. The quality, style and cost of wine is not important. Buy within your means to allow everyone to partake in this particular mitzvah. It is obviously not economically sound to pay for expensive wines with an enormous family, where only a few souls will appreciate it. On the other hand, we have to drink, so buy something you like. The beauty of Passover is that Jews all over the world, whether religious, traditional or secular will celebrating the Seder with four glasses of wine. Let’s wish everyone a Kosher & Happy Passover …and LeHaim!