Much has changed
Once synonymous with a cloyingly sweet and syrupy wine made traditionally from the Concord grape, many of today's kosher wines are actually dry and more elegant, produced from more popular grape varietals such as Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. They are perfect companions for the main course, which typically features roast chicken, turkey or lamb shanks.
These contemporary kosher wines have become a welcome addition to the table for a generation of food and wine savvy Jewish baby boomers who have returned to their traditional roots and keep a kosher home.
For those who make the annual pilgrimage to the kosher wine department at this time of year, there is an incredible variety from which to choose. There are kosher wines from California, Bordeaux, Champagne, Italy, Spain, Chile and even Australia, as well as Israel, the land of milk and honey. Due to more popular demand, many kosher winemakers are using state-of-the-art technology to produce better quality wines and their efforts are paying off.
What makes a wine kosher?
The wine must be produced in accordance with Jewish dietary laws following strict rules of preparation under the supervision of a rabbi. No artificial additives, coloring or preservatives may be used. Only certified kosher products may be used in the winemaking process right down to the equipment and machinery, which may be used exclusively for the production of kosher products.
There are two types of kosher wine -- non-mevushal, your basic kosher wine -- and mevushal, fit for the most orthodox wine lover. Non-mevushal wines must be produced, handled and even served by Sabbath Observant Jews in order to be kosher. Mevushal wines go through an additional step, flash pasteurization, in which the wines are subjected to heat during the winemaking process but are not boiled, contrary to popular belief.
This process originated from ancient times when wine was once used by pagans for idolatrous worship. By pasteurizing the wines, they were considered unfit for pagan worship and should satisfy the most orthodox Jew. As a result, mevushal wines may be handled by non-Jews and remain kosher. The back label should indicate whether the wine is mevushal or not and that it is certified "Kosher for Passover."
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