Ray Isle (@islewine on Twitter) is Food & Wine's executive wine editor. We trust his every cork pop and decant – and the man can sniff out a bargain to boot. Take it away, Ray.
If there’s one kind of wine in the whole world of wine that’s misunderstood, it’s probably kosher wine. The basic misnomer is that it is somehow different - that the process of making kosher wine differs in some radical way from the process of making regular, un-kosher wine. This idea, mostly, isn’t true.
The short version is this: Grapes are kosher, and there’s nothing about the nature of the winemaking process that makes them not so. What matters is more the who than the how.
Kosher for Passover is slightly more complicated, but rather than get into the rules, the easiest approach is simply to turn the bottle around. If the back label has a hechsher - a printed certification marking; in the U.S., it's usually the OU of the Orthodox Union - with a P next to it, that signals that it’s OK for Passover; ditto the phrase “kosher for Passover,” which often appears as well.
Which brings us to Israeli wines. Though people don’t realize it, there’s a robust wine industry in Israel, making both kosher and non-kosher wines (that said, more than 90 percent of the Israeli wine that comes to the US is kosher, as there’s effectively no market here for non-kosher Israeli wine).
The place, like many other Mediterranean countries, has some terrific vineyard land, particularly in the Judean Hills and Galilee. The most widely planted grapes aren’t exactly unfamiliar, either: Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc.
So here’s the deal. The following kosher reds - all from Israel, and all good - would be great for Passover. But they’d be equally good for Easter, or Mother’s Day, or even any random weekday dinner with a roast chicken and a salad too. It’s something to think about.
2012 Segal’s Fusion ($15)
2010 Binyamina Yogev Cabernet Sauvignon/Petit Verdot ($15)
2008 Yarden Merlot ($26)
2007 Barkan Cabernet Reserve Altitude +624 ($48)
2010 Flam Reserve Syrah ($50)
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