Wine has been a cherished and respected centerpiece of Jewish celebrations for centuries. Sabbath and holiday meals are preceded by the sanctification of the wine, and the Passover seder is highlighted by four cups of wine.
Some say that wine also relates to the art of moderation, which if abused can lead to excess and a loss of control.
For years now, however, wine for the holiday has been highly forgettable — leaning toward sweet and syrupy concoctions, or a product so dry that the matzah seems moist.
Today's wide span of choices, especially from Israel, allow the Passover consumer to dabble into a range of wines — from red to white and rosé, from sweet to dry — and in between. A well-educated buyer can refine his or her appreciation in wine culture with the satisfaction of knowing that enough quality beverages are out there on the store shelves to accommodate a demanding and discerning palate.
For Passover purposes, since a winery would be obliged to halt production, replace the machinery and equipment, and do independent runs, wineries traditionally make their products kosher-for-Passover whenever they produce a new vintage. They strictly adhere to the exclusion of any unleavened (chametz) materials in the process, or the ingredients having any contact with non-kosher equipment while under the watchful supervision of the supervising rabbis.
And so, on to my personal "Favorite Four" in kosher wines for Passover:
Baron Herzog Chardonnay 2005 (California) — From the Central Coast in California, this is a winning wine that displays tropical flavors with subtle hints of chamomile. This particular vintage earned remarkable accolades, topped by a vote as the eighth best Chardonnay in the nation by the incontrovertible critique of Consumers Magazine in December. Fruit vies with oak in the nose, mouth and body.
Goose Bay-Sauvignon Blanc 2006 (New Zealand) — The New Zealand ripe berry fruit with undertones of cherry have catapulted this wine to impressive ratings and reviews. While rich tropical fruit dominates at first encounter, a tangy gooseberry permeates the pleasure in the palate. Thanks to the clay loam, soil and a cool climate, citrus flavors abound with a crisp texture that underpins the body of this wine.
Barkan Altitude 624+ 2003 (Israel) — Israel continues to amaze critics and consumers alike with this product's smooth royal-purple appearance, as well as ripe tannins that blend with oak, and resonate with red currants and plums on a tantalizing earthy-herbal background. A lasting finish develops as the wine sits, showing an elegant full-bodied taste with an enduring yet endearing finish.
Casa da Corca Reserve 2005 (Portugal) — From the reputable Douro Valley's 40-year-old vineyards in Portugal comes this dark ruby wine with balsamic hints in its bouquet. Strong tannins declare a balance through fresh fruit and woody notes. Complexity will further develop in the cellar, but the wine already has a notably elegant finish. This wine has great character!