If you plan to drink Manischewitz for Passover you must be meshugana! There is a wide variety of great tasting Kosher wines that are made from Vitis vinifera grapes (think winemaking grapes like Cabernet or Chardonnay, not Vitis labrusca grapes like Concord that are used to make grape juice and Manischewitz).
Though Israel is the leading producer of Kosher wines in the world, many other countries are now producing Kosher and Mevushal* wines. Best of all, these wines are becoming easier to find. You’ll be able to buy most of them in many wine shops, as well as grocery stores like Whole Foods and Publix. If your local shop has a Kosher or Israel section you’re likely to find these wines there.
Here are some of the wineries that produce Kosher wines:
Yarden is one of the labels produced by Golan Heights Winery in Israel. This winery was founded in 1983 and is located high up on the Golan Heights in the northeastern part of the country. Yarden is Hebrew for the Jordan River, which bisects the Golan Heights. These wines can be easily spotted by their label which features an oil lamp decorated with mosaic tile, a symbol of ancient Israel.
Yarden has a wide variety of reds, whites, sparkling and sweet wines that range from $12 to $30. I like the Mount Hermon Red ($12), a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc that is fermented in stainless steel and has notes of raspberries, cherries and a hint of herbs, as well as the Cabernet Sauvignon ($27) which is aged for 18 months in French oak barrels and has flavors of blackberries, cassis and spicy vanilla.
Gamla is another label produced by Golan Heights Winery. The name comes from an ancient Israeli town in the Golan Heights that withstood the conquering Romans for a number of years.
Gamla offers a selection of single varietal whites and reds including Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon and a sparkling white wine. These wines range from $12 to $30.
Golan is a budget-friendly label produced by Golan Heights Winery. There are single varietal wines (Chardonnay, Gamay, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon), as well as blends. Most of the wines cost between $10 and $12.
The Golan Moscato ($12) makes a great aperitif or dessert wine. This sparkling wine is made in the style of Moscato d’Asti and has floral and honeysuckle notes.
Galil Mountain Winery
This winery is located in the Upper Galilee in northern Israel and is a joint venture between Kibbutz Yiron and the Golan Heights Winery. Galil has a diverse assortment of whites and reds made from Bordeaux, Rhône and Italian varietals. The wines range from $12 to $30, with most between $15 and $20. I am a fan of their Cabernet Sauvignon ($14) which has juicy flavors of ripe plum and blackberry with a hint of pepper and spice.
This winery is the sixth largest in Israel, established in 2000 and located in the Hefer Valley in the Upper Galilee. The winery sources its grapes from high-altitude vineyards which have a climate similar to the Napa Valley.
Recanati has three series of wines: the Diamond Series ($10 – $14), Reserve Wine Series ($20 – $25) and the Yasmin Series ($10) which are Mevushal. White wines include Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. Red wines include Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Zinfandel and Syrah.
Taking its name from the blessing of the wine, Hagafen Cellars produces whites and reds in California’s Napa Valley. The winery was founded in 1979 and their first commercially released vintage was harvested in 1980.
Hagafen’s whites start around $18 and go up to $25. They include Chardonnay, Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc. The reds start around $30 and go up to $45. These include Pinot Noir, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Syrah and Zinfandel.
Click here for a review of the Hagafen Cellars “Prix” Riesling.
Herzog Wine Cellars
This California winery has been producing Kosher wines since the mid 1980s, though the family traces its winemaking roots back to Philip Herzog who made wine in Slovakia for the Austro-Hungarian court more than a century ago. The winery itself is located in Oxnard, on the Central Coast, but Herzog makes wine with grapes from all over California.
Herzog’s variety of whites, reds, rosés and dessert wines generally range from $13 to $40. White wines include Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay and Riesling. Reds include Pinot Noir, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Zinfandel.
If you’re a fan of Italian wines you can drink one from Bartenura on Passover. Bartenura sources its grapes from several regions in Italy including Piedmont, Veneto and Tuscany. Some but not all are Mevushal.
Bartenura produces such Italian staples as Pinot Grigio, Prosecco, Malvasia, Chianti and Barbera D’Asti. They also make a Kosher Amaretto and Lemon Liqueur. Bartenura’s wines range from $10 to $16.
Tekiah Mevushal wines are produced by Bodegas Barberis in Argentina’s Mendoza region. Each year the Barberis family turns over about 20% of its vineyards and winery to a team of Hasidic Jews from Buenos Aires who supervise every aspect of wine production to make the Tekiah wines. There are a handful of whites and reds available including Chardonnay, Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah which range from $12 to $20.
A great online store for Kosher wines is www.kosherwine.com. You’ll find all of the above wines, plus a huge selection of other Kosher and Mevushal wines from around the world.
As with any wine, you should drink what tastes good to you. So if you’re a fan of Manischewitz then keep drinking it!
Have a Kosher wine to recommend that wasn’t mentioned? Be sure to share it in the comments section.
*Mevushal wines differ from Kosher wines in that they are Kosher wines that have been flash-pasteurized so that they remain Kosher regardless of who serves them.