Pesach is the story of our exodus, when we left Mitzrayim and were freed from slavery. I’d like to take the theme of exodus and encourage you to consider freeing yourselves from the same old wine and try something new this yom tov.
The myriad of pre-Pesach wine-tasting events present an excellent opportunity to expand your horizons and check out the new wines that have hit the market. It is understandable that once you have found a favorite you want to stick with it; the risk involved when buying a new wine could mean less enjoyment than your favorite would have provided—much like the Jews wandering the desert wanted to go back to the known, to Egypt. But keep in mind the potential pleasure and growth that can be derived from a new experience (OK, comparing drinking your favorite wine to wanting to remain slaves in Egypt is pushing it, but play along with me).
For those who like to keep things safe and stick to regions like Israel and California, you are in luck. Recent arrivals from Israel include the wines of Tabor, Or HaGanuz, and new boutique winery Montefiore. Some favorites there include the Mt. Tabor Shiraz, Or HaGanuz single vineyard series, and the award-winning Petite Sirah from Montefiore winery.
If you prefer California, you can check out the Alicante Bouchet or Cabernet Franc from Weinstock, the new single vineyard “Basin” Cabernet Sauvignon from Herzog or even the new “The Tribe” wines from Covenant Winery.
For those really adventurous spirits, there may be a whole world of unknown wines out there for you. Italy, Spain, and France, all countries with rich winemaking histories, are seeing a bit of a reemergence in wine. Whereas kosher wines from these regions have been an afterthought the past 5–10 years, today we are seeing wines from these regions that compete in price and quality but also inject a bit of unique character, whereas many of the Israeli and California wines are quite similar to one another.
From Italy’s only exclusively kosher winery, Terra di Seta, come two new wines: A Chianti Classico and Chianti Classico Reserva, expressions made predominantly from the Sangiovese grape. These wines provide a healthy dose of fruit and oak, yet they tend to possess a unique spice character and are usually lighter-bodied wines that are great complements to food (as the Italians say, “Wine is made to be enjoyed with food”).
The Cohen family of Spain offers many unique wines worth checking out in their “Elvi” brand of wines. Much like the famed Chianti from Italy, Spain has its Rioja. Rioja wines are made predominantly from the Tempranillo grape. Starkly different from Israeli and California wines, the great Spanish Riojas such as those produced by Elvi possess intense fruit, vanilla from the American oak barrels, and rich tannins that will pair well with any richly flavored meat.
Many a wine lover has eschewed French wines in recent years as high-priced, unapproachable, and obscure (those named by regions, with no indication of grape used), which led kosher consumers en masse to Israeli and California wines. But French wines are also making a comeback. An obvious place to look is Bordeaux. Bordeaux (a region in France) wines are generally dominated by the Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. Whereas these wines once needed many years before they could be enjoyed, modern styles are fruitier and much more approachable in their youth. Those with patience and proper storage can still put these wines away for 10+ years and be rewarded with wines that have softened and matured.
Some Bordeaux to consider include Chateau Tour Seran, Chateau Rollan de By, Chateau Moulin Riche, and Chateau Haut Condissas. I love these wines for their unique earthiness—but don’t let that scare you; they each are still full-bodied fruit-driven wines. And white-wine lovers should not feel excluded from the new and unique wine party as Chateau de Valmer Vouvray, a lovely Chenin Blanc, is back on the market and deliciously different from the more common Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc found today.
A final grape to keep in mind this Pesach is Pinot Noir. I know many people who have previously not loved “Pinots” they have tried, but I think now is a great time to try Pinot again as there might be more solid kosher Pinot Noirs than ever before. Oregon’s Pacifica Winery makes a Willamette Valley Pinot Noir. New Zealand’s Goose Bay makes a Reserve Pinot Noir. The best Pinot I have ever tasted from Israel is available now, the Tzuba Winery Pinot Noir. And a new Reserve Pinot from Chile’s Alfasi brand of wines is both very affordable and quite lovely. Not only are these Pinots great wines, but Pinot Noir’s typically light body makes any of the aforementioned wines great options for the arba kosot.
New or old, red or white, bold or light, I wish you a chag kasher v’sameach with friends, family, and delicious wine! v