By Matt Miller
It’s that time of year again, when gifts are given, corks are pulled, and cheer is had by most while we’re all having a certain corporate holiday spirit shoved down our throats regardless of our beliefs. That being said, we can all agree that the days are cooling and nights are creeping up quickly, and more than any other time of year a good bottle of wine in both price and quality should always be at arms reach; even if it’s Kosher.
If you’re anything like me, the very mention of Kosher wine probably brings up horrid memories of Manischewitz, right? That sweet, sticky stuff your parents drank that would probably be better poured over pancakes than into a wine glass. Imagine putting grape jelly in the microwave, then pouring the melted results into stemware. But for a long time, that was all there was on the Kosher wine front because Kosher wine isn’t easy to make.
In order for a wine to be Kosher, the grapes can only be handled by Sabbath-observant Jews, in a rabbinically certified winemaking facility under the supervision of a rabbi to be sure the wine complies with all kosher laws. And in order for the wine to remain kosher, it has to be uncorked and served by an observant Jew, because the handling of an open bottle by a non-Jew causes the wine to no longer be kosher, unless it’s gone through a process called mevushal.
Mevushal wine is wine that’s additionally been pasteurized, or heated to 185 degrees farenheit. Previously pasteurization, or heating a wine, was a sure-fire way to ruin good bottle. But with new methods of flash-pasteurization, all that’s changed.
In this list you’ll find a collection of kosher wines from all over the world—in red and white and sparkling—that don’t need to be limited to religious holidays. If fact, if you didn’t already know they were kosher, you’d probably never know it by drinking them. Look for them wherever kosher wines are sold.
2010 Covenant cabernet sauvignon
100% cabernet sauvignon grown on three acres outside of St. Helena in the Napa Valley, the wine is dark and opaque with rich color that stains the inside of the glass. Old world in style, the wine has notes of black cherry, charred forest, black fruits and coconut on the nose. On the palate the signature peach fuzz tannins of 2010 offer a soft grip that intermingles with notes of lavender, cassis and currant, a touch of dried leafy brush and super dark chocolate. The finish lingers offering notes of blackberry and licorice.
Perfect pairing for slow roasted brisket or filet mignon.
2010 Chateau La Colonne
Lalande De Pomerol, Bordeaux $29.99
Dark ruby and opaque with notes of black cherry, eucalyptus, pencil led, forest, rock and earthy mushroom notes combined with soil and smoky char. On the palate the wine is soft with sprinkled tannins, and alive with bright tart cherries, a touch of coriander, bitter dark chocolate and mineral. There’s a long finish that resonates with notes of mission fig and brambly dark fruit. Perfect for all red meats or, thanks to its softer tannins, roasted chicken.
2010 Chateau le Vieux Chantre
Puisseguin Saint Emilion, Bordeaux $29.99
Dark ruby red in color with notes of cherries, sandalwood, and mushroom on the nose. Red and black fruits on the palate with berries and black plum skin on top of dust and mineral. A very soft mouth feel similar to some of the 2010’s of Napa with a supple tannin – not too gripping, but with enough structure to stand up to beef.
A short finish, but not lacking in baking spices and pepper.
Will pair well with all red meats, especially roasted game.
2013 Terra Vega cabernet sauvignon Bin # 945
It’s bad manners to show up to a holiday dinner empty handed, and often times the inclination is to bring a bottle of wine. But let’s face it, showing up with a bottle of Golen or Yarden to a holiday dinner is no different than handing your host a bottle of two-buck-chuck. Terra Vega cab, on the other hand, is perfect when you don’t have $30, or $40 bucks to spend. The notes of red fruits, cherry cola, and tart raspberry on the nose are rich and full. On the palate the wine is medium bodied with soft tannins and cedar notes filled with spicy pepper and an even layering of red currant. The finish is relatively short, but this is more of a table wine that’s versatile enough to go with chicken as well as red meat. The complexity it may lack is made up for by the fact that it’s very much the little black dress of wine – it’ll go with just about anything.
2012 Terrenal cabernet sauvignon
Yecla, Spain $3.99
At $3.99, Trader Joe’s does it again. Not too much on the nose, but if you’re keen you can pick up aromas of dusty wood, black currant, chocolate covered cordials and a hint cola. On the palate, the wine has a pop of flavor that ranges from red fruit to dark baking spices. While medium bodied and relatively mild on the tannins, the dusty sensation on the palate lends the wine enough structure to stand up to BBQ chicken, brisket, or even lamb.
2013 Cantina Gabriele Pinot Grigio
Light pale yellow veering into a hew of green, this crisp white has a nose of white flowers and citrus zest. On the plate it’s fresh and clean with notes of stony mineral and lime rind leaving a clean and quenched sensation. A perfect pairing for Gefilte Fish, green apples and honey, roasted green vegetables.
2013 O’Dwyers Creek Sauvignon Blanc
Marlborough, NZ $14.99
Grassy and green on the nose with hints of tomato leaf, gooseberry and lemon. The palate is crisp and bright with delicate grapefruit and mineral flavors intermingling with fresh lime. There is a bit of acidity on the top of the palate, but it rounds slightly on the sides making this wine refreshing and quenching as a pre-meal glass, but it will pair best with crisp mixed greens and fresh seafood.
2012 Hai Ely Riesling (Dry)
Judean Hills, Israel $13.99
Rich with aromas of lychee fruit, yellow wild flowers, citrus blossom and honey baked golden apples on the nose. On the palate the wine is surprisingly round with notes of lemon water, green Jello, a touch of white peppery spice and a certain nuttiness lingering towards the finish. Perfect with fresh fruits or bitter mixed greens. Also, since the Hai Riesling is dry but without overt mineral notes, it would also be a nice pairing for a traditional honey cake.
2013 Notte Italiana Prosecco
One of the things you look for with any sparkling is the bubble, it’s the reason one drinks from a tulip shaped glass. While the bell of a regular wine glass is better for trapping the aromas, the first thing you’re looking for is the size of the bubble, and the small the better. In the case of the Notte Prosecco, a surprisingly beautiful steady confetti-like spring of tiny bubbles erupt from the bottom of the glass creating a fine white line in the center of otherwise golden glimmer of the wine. On the nose there are notes both of white and pink flower petals, star fruit, fresh casaba melon and a hint of lemon ice. On the palate the bright tingle of the bubbles helps to perk up your senses with soft chalky mineral, wild flowers, melon rind, and a zip of white pepper. Drink with a chilled green salad, crisp apples dipped in honey, or new fruit of the season. (You’ll know this wine by the cobalt blue bottle.)
Matt Miller is a freelance writer and wine specialist living in Los Angeles. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. This article originally appeared in LA Weekly (laweekly.com).