In most homes, Shabbat is the time to get out the finest crockery. People who look quite scruffy during the week will be dressed in their best suit and finest dresses. There is a lot of pressure on the lady of the house to prepare the best possible meal. With this effort to make Shabbat as special as possible, it is surprising how often people are happy to drink any old wine or even the most basic, sweet Kiddush wine.
I recently attended a memorable Shabbat in Long Island. Kiddush was made using a Carmel Single Vineyard wine. Then I was entertained with the following wines: Corton Charlemagne, Yatir Sauvignon Blanc 2005, Herzog Alexander Valley 1994, Carmel Ramat Arad Cabernet Sauvignon 2002, Castel Grand Vin 2002, Yatir Forest 2001 and Yarden Katzrin 2000. Not bad for six adults!
Most of these wines are unavailable from both wineries & the best wine stores. Only the avid collector can provide a list of such wines from their private cellar. However, despite their age, all the wines were superb and kosher. What occurred to me, not for the first time, was how many kosher wines today are genuinely world class wines losing absolutely nothing by being kosher. Secondly I was struck by the fact that so few people honor Shabbat by choosing a special wine. Now, if it is important for Shabbat, it is even more important for Passover, the Jewish peoples annual banquet. For a banquet, I will always take as much time choosing the right wines as I would in considering each course. Actually, to the annoyance of those around me, I will take more time over the wine than I will over the food. During preparation, you can alter the food to match the wine, but not vice versa.
Arguably the very best kosher wines in the world are: Castel Grand Vin, Yatir Forest, Yarden Katzrin, Carmel Limited Edition from Israel and Herzog Generation VII, Covenant from California; Chateau Leoville Poyferre , Chateau Valandraud from France. What a statement it would be to serve one of these at the most special wine event in the Jewish calendar.
However, they are rare, hard to find and very expensive. If you are looking for better value wines I recommend Baron Herzog, Gamla, Carmels Appellation and Private Collection, or Dalton wines.
To assist you select your choice, Hugh Johnsons Pocket Wine Book 2010 (published by Mitchell Beazley) rates Israeli wineries. Those producing kosher wines with the highest rating are: 1. Castel, 2. Yatir, 3. Yarden, 4. Carmel, 5= Galil Mountain, Barkan & Recanati.
In Rogovs Guide To Kosher Wines 2010(Toby Press), Daniel Rogov provides tasting notes for kosher wines produced all over the world. Here the wineries awarded the maximum 5 stars are: Covenant, Hagafen & Herzog from California ; Castel, Golan Heights and Yatir from Israel.
When I am choosing wines for Passover, I like to treat the event like a banquet. I choose one of my very best wines for the first glass, in order to honor both the occasion and my guests. We will then follow with a dry white wine for the second, a dry red for the third and a dessert wine for the fourth. I will also use the second and third wine to accompany the meal. My choice for this year will be:
Carmel Mediterranean first glass; Appellation Viognier 2nd glass; Yatir Cabernet Sauvignon 3rd glass and Shaal Gewurztraminer Late Harvest for the 4th glass. I will also have the Young Selected Carignano available as an alternative for the first glass. This is the perfect answer for those who would otherwise drink grape juice or a Kiddush wine. It is also a gentle start for the first glass on an empty stomach.
You can also have fun choosing a theme to make your wine selection more interesting. Maybe one night choose Israeli wines and the next Californian. Or choose each wine from a different growing region in Israel. Another idea is to choose one grape variety, but in different styles for each glass. Whatever the motivation for your choice, I recommend taking time to consider what is appropriate. It is absurd to make either Shabbat or Seder Night special in every way, yet with wine just to buy the cheapest possible. Now is the time to take time over wine. If not for Seder Night, when
This article was written by Adam Montefiore for The Jewish Chronicle in London.