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Wines You Should Not Pass Over This Year


Kosher wines have come a long way in the U.S.. 

By Laura Ness

Passover begins at sundown on April 15 and lasts 8 days. The highlight is the Seder, two nights of tradition and storytelling, accompanied by the consumption of four cups of wine. Although the size of the cup is not specified, this year, Jews the world over have more choices than ever before when it comes to filling said cup with Kosher wines. And they don’t necessarily have to be sweet, although that has long been a style some prefer and continue to enjoy. 

What is kosher wine? 

Gabriel Geller, Director of Public Relations for Royal Wine Corp.
Gabriel Geller, Director of Public Relations for Royal Wine Corp.

Says wine expert Gabriel Geller, Director of Public Relations for Royal Wine Corp., the largest manufacturer, importer, and exporter of kosher wine, “The fundamental difference in the kosher winemaking process is who does the physical work: anyone who handles the juice or wine must be a Sabbath-observant Jew. All winemaking ingredients, including yeast, must be certified kosher.” 

Geller continues, “According to Halacha, the Jewish Law, wine is used at nearly every Jewish ceremony, including circumcisions, weddings, and at least twice weekly at the start and end of the Sabbath and so much more. Wine [and grape juice] cannot be handled by a non-sabbath observant Jew or a non-Jew [including opening and serving], or else it loses its kosher status.”
Finally, Geller points out a loophole that lets kosher wines be handled by anyone. “When kosher wine or grape juice is boiled, it can then be handled by anyone without losing its kosher status. Until a few decades ago, the process of cooking wine would affect the quality and taste in a very negative way. Nowadays, modern methods called flash pasteurization, and flash détente are used to make wine ‘Mevushal’ while having virtually no effect on the quality and taste of the wines. Many non-kosher wineries often use the process to eliminate bacteria.”

Kosher wines have come a long way in the last 10 years or so. When Jews first arrived in the United States, they settled mostly on the East Coast, where Concord grapes grew wild. They fermented this easily accessible fruit, adding sugar to the finished wine to make it more palatable (as the grapes are high in acid), which is how sweetness became associated with kosher wine. 

But, says Geller, most kosher wines today aren’t sweet at all, and are made from a wide variety of more traditional wine grapes, such as Pinot Grigio and Cabernet Sauvignon — and they come from all over. “There is an ever-growing selection of world-class wines from nearly every major wine region in the world that just happen to be kosher.” 

Tasty and affordable

Larissa Nahari of Twin Suns, a California-based producer of affordable kosher wines since 2010, notes that, in addition to Israel’s booming wine industry, kosher wine is being made all over the world.

Larissa Nahari of Twin Suns
Larissa Nahari of Twin Suns

“We use the same techniques and state-of-the-art equipment as non-kosher wines. We are also trendsetters in kosher with the only buttery Chardonnay and Oregon Pinot Noir Rosé, as well as styles that are popular in non-kosher, like Old Vine Zinfandel and Sonoma and Napa Cabs. Our Italy production also includes the only kosher Amarone, Super Tuscan, and Gavi di Gavi.”

Twin Suns wines provides quality tasting wine at very affordable price points across a diverse product line. Says Nahari, “Twin Sun’s believes in personalization of wine for our customers so that each customer can experience quality wine without breaking the bank.” The wines can be found at retailers like Total Wine, Ralph’s, Kroger, Meijer and Fresh Market.

Major players

By far, the major North American producer of kosher wine is Herzog Wine Cellars, the largest fully kosher winery in the United States, with 250,000 cases annually. Covenant winery in Berkeley and Hagafen in Napa Valley each produce around 10,000 to 15,000 cases annually. 

And the market is growing. Geller at Royal Wine Corp. estimates it at around 15 million cases per year. “Royal Wine has a highly-skilled team of salespeople who service wine retailers and restaurants throughout the country,” he says.

Among its most popular products are Bartenura Moscato, in its iconic blue bottle (also available in cans since 2020). It sells nearly 100k cases of Jeunesse semi-sweet wines from California annually. Baron Herzog offers inexpensive dry and off-dry wines grown on California’s Central Coast, including a rosé. Their prices range from $10 to $225 for a French Bordeaux. 

More to come

Jeff and Jodie Morgan from Covenant Wine
Jeff and Jodie Morgan from Covenant Wine

Jeff Morgan of Covenant Wines agrees the kosher wine market is expanding well beyond the days of Manischewitz. “Our best selling wines for Passover are the RED C RED blend ($44); RED C Sauvignon Blanc ($24); and RED C Rosé ($35). They are the quintessential kosher wines for Passover, considering the whole story was inspired by Moses leading his people through the parting waters of the RED SEA!” Morgan had intended to call the wine Red Sea, but someone else had trademarked “Red Sea Pedestrian,” a reference to Monty Python and the Holy Grail

Larissa Nehri of Twin Suns agrees the kosher wine market is growing. “This is especially true as more ‘good’ kosher wines are becoming available. Also, the younger generation wants better wines and is more adventurous in their choices.”

May your Passover cup overflow with abundance.

Visit this link for tasting notes on several excellent kosher wines.


Laura Ness
Laura Ness

Laura Ness

Laura Ness is an avid wine journalist, storyteller and wine columnist (Edible:Monterey, Los Gatos Magazine San Jose Mercury News, The Livermore Independent), and a long time contributor to Wine Industry Network. Known as “HerVineNess,” she judges wine competitions throughout California and has a corkscrew in every purse. However, she wishes that all wineries would adopt screwcaps!

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