Is it Kosher?
June 2, 2017
If you know very little about Kosher wines, you are not alone, and if you are not Jewish, you are unlikely to have ever tasted, or asked for one. Notions of boiled wine and tart, immature grapes have, over the years, given Kosher wines an unglamorous reputation; leading many to believe they have little to offer beyond religious ceremony. But, as we have discovered through our musings at The Secret Cellar, the black sheep is often worth pursuing.
Kosher wines are inherently the same as any other wine; both Kosher and non-Kosher wines come from grapes and go through the same fermentation, aging and bottling processes. Grapes in themselves are already Kosher, and there are few ingredients that require substitution to meet Kosher standards. The main difference between Kosher and non-Kosher wine is that a Sabbath Observant Jewish person must supervise the entire process from grape crushing to bottling for the wine to be certified Kosher. Clearly, there is no reason why Kosher wines should taste different, or be of an inferior quality.
The criticism of Kosher wines is not entirely unfounded however, and stems from the process of Mevushal. This process involves boiling the wine; a Jewish requirement that allows kosher wine to be served by people of any religion. Unfortunately, this intervention can have a negative impact on quality and taste.
For the past twenty years, my father has supplied quality Kosher wines to Perth’s Jewish community, but late last year we decided it was time to take stock and reassess our collection. The wine industry has seen an amazing explosion of varieties in recent years and we had the feeling that a little research might uncover something special.
So, last November we sourced mixed boxes of promising kosher wines from all over the world and in February, had the pleasure of hosting a tasting for Rabbi Froehlich and his esteemed colleagues and guests. It soon became clear that many of the wines had merit far beyond religious ceremony and were clearly capable of challenging stigmas and raising the stature of Kosher wines.
Semillon from Harkham’s Estate in Australia’s own Hunter Valley is one Kosher wine that I will gladly revisit. Delicately spiced, with a hint of honey and grapefruit, and the texture of French oak, this bottle is a rich and satisfying example of superb Kosher wine. Richard Harkham, part owner of this boutique, family-run winery, is dedicated to producing natural unadulterated wines, free from chemical additions, filtration or flavour adjustment. Furthermore, Harkham’s is the only winery in Australia that is exclusively Kosher, and while produced in accord with the strictest Kosher policies, the majority of Harkham’s wines are purchased by non-Jewish clients. It is just that good!
France, Italy, Spain and of course Israel are also offering the world some exciting varieties and we have many of them instore now. So, whether you are seeking the perfect wine for Rosh Hashanah, Hanukkah, or are just keen to experiment with new varieties, head over to the store. I can’t wait to introduce you to La Vigna’s recently refreshed selection of Kosher gems!