Production process, history and cultural meaning of kosher wine
With about 300 companies with vineyards covering about 6,000 hectares (78% red grapes and 22% white grapes) and 336,000 hectoliters of wine per year, Israel is slowly gaining a relevant position in the international wine scene.
Mainly consumed locally, only 15% of Israeli wine is exported abroad. For how small this wine segment is, Israel has a considerable variability of zones and climates, with macro areas each with very variable microclimates. The most common vine varieties are Sauvignon, Carignan and Merlot, which cover 50% of the overall production.
Israeli wine has another peculiarity. Wine is a key part of the Jewish religion and culture as it is used ritually during meals of Shabbat (Saturday, Judaism's day of rest), Purim and Pesach, the Jewish Easter. The wine consumed during Jewish holidays, however, must be kosher and have the appropriate certification.
What is kosher wine? Its requirements
Kosher wines are something really peculiar and related to Israel’s history and culture. Kosher wine is made just like other table wines, but to be considered kosher (meaning "proper" or "fit") it must comply with an extra set of rules consistent with Jewish dietary law.
In order to be deemed kosher, a wine must be made under the supervision of a rabbi, must contain only kosher ingredients (including yeast and fining agents) and must be processed using equipment “rabbinically” certified to make kosher wines. Grapes must come from a vineyard at least four year old. Tools and equipment for harvest and storage must be kosher and clean. Preservatives, additives or artificial colors are forbidden. What’s more the wine can be handled, from must to bottle, only and exclusively by Sabbath-observant Jews, unless it is mevushal.
Kosher wine: an ancient history
The use of wine has a long history in Judaism, dating back to biblical times, when God gave Moses the well-known Ten Commandments as well as some dietary laws, which have been interpreted throughout the centuries by rabbis and Jewish sages.
Kosher food means no pork meat, no mixing meat with dairy products and no eating animals unless they have been blessed by a Rabbi and slaughtered according to specific rules. Specific rules also comply with beverages.
The tradition and religious use of kosher wine have continued across the centuries and across the world together with the Jewish diaspora. The requirements for making kosher wine today are the same as in ancient days, but the quality and variety seem to be increasing with a consumption increase also into non-Jewish homes.
In the USA kosher wine is associated with the sweet, syrupy-like wines produced by wineries founded by Jewish immigrants in New York. The revival of kosher wines has started in the 1980s and is still continuing: today kosher wine is produced not only in Israel but all over the world, including first-quality areas like Napa Valley, California, and Bordeaux, in France.
The making of Kosher Wine
Manufacturing kosher wine is a complicated process that requires a very knowledgeable staff (exclusively Jews) and strict compliance with kosher laws.
Harvesting takes place once or twice a year, usually during the Yomim Noraim season. Grapes are picked and transferred to the winery where they are pressed and crushed, mechanically or manually, and broken down into three components - must (the juice), pulp and skin - then conveyed into fermentation vats. During each pouring phase a Rabbinical authority must be present.
Fermentation is the natural process that converts the grape juice into wine; for producing kosher wine it must be natural, that is it must not contain additional ingredients but just natural enzymes. Yeast naturally contained in the grape turns the sugar of the grape juice into alcohol and carbon dioxide gas. As the gas escapes, the juice ferments: in case of red wine the skins are left in the fermentation vats for a long time to absorb the red color, while for white wine the must ferments without skins.
During the aging process, wine is transferred from cask to cask to get rid of sediments. When the maturation process is ready, the aged wine is filtered and then bottled. The production is accompanied by a Kosher certificate issued by a competent agency or a rabbi, whose name will be printed on the label.
And now? It’s only time to say L'chaim, cheers in Hebrew.
Find below our latest range of Kosher wine straight from Israel!