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At a Passover seder in the late 1940s, the young man in the center looking at the camera is the author of this column.
provided by Bennet Bodenstein
At a Passover seder in the late 1940s, the young man in the center looking at the camera is the author of this column.

Wine Review: Growth in kosher wine enriches the Passover seder

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The Jewish holiday of Passover begins at sundown on April 22 and ends at nightfall on April 30. It is a holiday that celebrates a time when, at the last of the 10 plagues that struck Egypt in biblical times, the Angel of Death passed over the homes of the Israelites. Part of the celebration of the holiday is a major dinner at which each adult guest must drink four glasses of wine. For years, in this country, the most common wine used was a sweet concord grape wine with absolutely nothing to recommend except that it was sweet and that it followed the strict kosher laws. With the advent of the State of Israel, better kosher varieties became more well known and other nations even picked up the trend and are also producing kosher wines for the Jewish citizens in their country.

To make a wine kosher, all the materials used to ferment and clear the wine must follow strict kosher laws and have been under constant supervision of a rabbi during its fermentation and bottling. With that in mind, I would like to review some of the kosher wines that are currently in the marketplace and, as the old joke goes, you don’t have to be Jewish to enjoy a kosher wine.

Ben Ami 2021 Merlot ($19)
The often-maligned merlot shows its true colors in the excellent kosher wine. This is a very friendly merlot – soft, supple and easy to drink. The color is a dark crimson, and the aroma is that of cherries and fresh summer berries. The cherry carries over to the flavor where it mingles with the flavors of cassis and tea. There is also a myriad of under flavors that dance across the palate and remain in the mouth long after the wine has been swallowed. The Ben Ami Merlot can give many of the merlot wines presently available, kosher or not, a good run for their money and is also the perfect red wine for the meat dishes often served at a Passover table.

Ben Ami 2021 Cabernet Sauvignon ($20)
This is a cabernet sauvignon that does not display any of the harsh characteristics that are often found in many of the young cabernet sauvignon wines. The color is a dark crimson, and the aroma presents cherries and fresh summer berries. The cherry carries over to the flavor where it mingles with aromas of cassis and a myriad of under fruit flavors that dance across the palate and will remain in the mouth long after the wine has been swallowed. The Ben Ami 2021 is the perfect red wine for the meat dishes often served at a Passover table.

Castello del Poggio Moscato d’Asti 2021 ($18)
Moscato grapes produce a naturally sweet white wine with a heavy body and rich with the flavors of raisins and ripe peaches. For those who still prefer a sweet kosher wine, this is a good substitute for an old favorite. Although this is a white wine, there is no law in the kosher directives that indicates that the wine used for the Passover meal, called a seder, must be red.

Manischewitz Concord Grape ($9)
I cannot end this review of kosher wines without mentioning the grandsire of the kosher wines, the Manischewitz Concord Grape. This wine, that has been made in the New York upstate city of Canandaigua in the heart of the Appellation Mountains, is full bodied, sweet and displays the easily identifiable flavor of the concord grapes that is often called foxy, and does take some getting used to. Kosher concord grape wines have been available in the United States, almost unchanged, for well over a century. During the Prohibition period, when sacramental wines were legal, the wine could only be obtained from a certified rabbi and/or from synagogues. Needless to say, during that dry Prohibition period, there were numerous instantaneous, temporary conversions to Judaism.

Wine columnist Bennet Bodenstein can be reached at frojhe1@att.net.

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