With Passover starting at sundown Friday, April 6, there’s still time to lay in wines for the seder meal. And whether you’re of the Jewish faith or not, you may be fascinated by the origin of kosher wines and blown away by their quality.
Passover is not about traditional Mogen David and Manischewitz any more. Think dry varietals from all over the world — Israel, California, Bordeaux, Portugal, Italy, Chile and Spain.
“The wines keep getting better and better, and the selection keeps getting larger, especially the availability of wines from Israel, and at reasonable prices too,” says Larry Waller, the guru of kosher wines in Oakland County — you can find him managing Hiller’s wine shelves at the West Bloomfield store.
Like everything else in the world, kosher wines — once sweet and red, or sweet and pink — have gone “high tech.” They are every color and grape variety a wine can be. From vineyard to cellar, their production has been updated without breaking religious laws to capture flavors to satisfy current drinking trends.
The availability in Michigan is best at stores where the demand is highest. For Hiller’s, that’s their stores in West Bloomfield, Ann Arbor and Commerce Township at 14 Mile and Haggerty.
Hiller’s is promoting Israel’s Segal’s Special Reserve Chardonnay, $14.99, recently recommended by Wine Spectator, along with the Segal’s Special Reserve Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cab-Merlot blend, all reduced to $16.99.
Adds Hiller’s wine buyer Eric Novak: “This year’s kosher for Passover wines are the best I’ve tasted.”
For under-$10, Hiller’s brought in Recanati Yasmin Red and White, $8.99, for easy-drinking, quaffable pours.
Chile’s Don Alfonso Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon are available year-round at Hiller’s for $7.99.
All three locations of Plum Market — Ann Arbor, West Bloomfield and Bloomfield Township — also are stocked for Passover.
Ryan White at the West Bloomfield store says the red flying out the doors is Yarden Mount Hermon Red from Galilee. “It’s an outstanding value,” White says, “juicy, round and incredibly easy to drink.”
Gently priced at $9.97, White also recommends the Ben Ami Cabernet Sauvignon from Israel, along with the Borgo Reale Pinot Grigio, $11.97, from Italy’s Veneto region.
From my own tasting experience, I can highly recommend key brands such as Baron Herzog and Weinstock from California, Capcanes from Spain, Alfasi in Chile, and Carmel, Barkan and Psagot Edom from Israel. And if you can find yourself a Goose Bay Sauvignon Blanc, you’ll experience one full-throttle, quintessential New Zealand dry white.
Kosher is like an added stamp of assurance that extra steps are taken to make the wine — in the vineyard and cellar.
Kosher for Passover:
When you see these words on the back label, it means the wine is produced according to Jewish religious laws, which cover everything from who can handle the grapes to the fermentation process. It must be fermented with yeast that has not come in contact with bread, dough or grain. Use of the common preservative potassium sorbate is not allowed. The word “Mevushal” indicates the wine has undergone a process of flash pasteurization and can be poured by non-Jews — for example, by servers in restaurants. This gentle process does not alter the wine or affect its quality.