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May 24, 1996 - Image 86

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1996-05-24

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Wine Winners

hese days, kosher wines
are in. Not surprising
when you consider that
"they are quality wines
at terrific value," said Deborah
Alexander, executive vice presi-
dent of 3-D Marketing Services
Inc. in New York.
Since 1990, continued Alexan-
der, Israeli exports of wine and
spirits have increased dramatical-
ly, from approximately 54,000 cas-
es to an expected 90,000 cases in
Jewish consumers aren't the
only ones buying kosher wines.
New York's Royal Wine Cor-
poration, the world's largest dis-
tributor of kosher wines and
liqueurs, attributes more than 60
percent of its sales to non-Jews, ac-
cording to Alexander. Gourmet
restaurants are including these fine
wines — which just happen to be
kosher — on their wine lists.
"Kosher wines have come a
Jong way in the last 10 years and
i the expanding kosher wine list is
i reflected in our increased sales of
1 the product," says Ron Asmar,
( owner of the Vineyards Cafe and
( Catering in Farmington Hills. To-
( day, customers can come in look-
i ing for a kosher wine to
; accompany a particular entree and
can choose between a domestic,
French or Spanish Courtenay or
a white Bordeaux.
Asmar notes that many people
prefer kosher wines because they


Ethel G. Hofman is a syndicated
columnist and president of the
International Association of
Culinary Professionals.

believe there are fewer chemicals
used in kosher wines; the wine-
making process is more con-
To non-Jews, the kosher certi-
fication is incidental. It's taste and
value that count. (In many cas-
es, no Hebrew letters appear on
the label and the kosher certifi-
cation is obvious only by the tiny
seal tucked into a corner.)
For the kosher wine connois-
seur, the move away from sweet,
dark sacramental wines to the pro-
duction of outstanding varietal
wines, like Chardonnay, Merlot
and Cabernet Sauvignon, opens
up exciting new vistas.
"The notion of kosher wine be-
ing limited to the thick, very
sweet wine used for the seder
table is a thing of the past," ex-
plains Phillip Tewel, owner of
Jewel Catering. "Today, a cater-
er can provide a kosher wine for
a champagne toast, one to ac-
company your first course, an-
other to accompany your entree
and still another to go with
dessert. There are elegant kosher
wines, some produced domesti-
cally primarily in California and
others bottled from grapes in Eu-
rope. And there are many basic
kosher table wines providing you
with choices from light to very
full-bodied, delicate to very rich,
bone dry to very sweet, as well as
some of the fruitier tasting."
But what makes a wine kosher?
Any grape, from any region or na-
tion, may be used for kosher wine.
According to Jay Buchsbaum, Roy-
al Wine's vice president of mar-



keting, traditional methods are fol-
lowed in fermentation, blending,
maturation and bottling. Howev-
er, he said, "before a winery is
used, every nook and cranny and
all the equipment must be made
pristine clean, sterile."
In addition, he continued, only
a limited amount of natural in-
gredients may be used. For ex-
ample, unlike many other
wineries, kosher wineries cannot
use gelatin as a clarifying agent.
They cannot use non-wine-based
yeasts, or dairy-based acids to bal-
ance the wines.
Because of these strict rules, as
well as the necessary rabbinical

supervision, there are few low-end
priced kosher wines. All vinifica-
ton steps, from harvest to bottling,
must be performed by a knowl-
edgeable, religious observer in or-
der to certify the authenticity of
the wine kosher for daily use.
Israel, the major producer of
kosher wine, has a long, illustri-
ous winemaking history, stretch-
ing back to pre-biblical times when
the wine industry was an impor-
tant part of the economy.
It wasn't until the 19th centu-
ry, though, when Baron Edmond
de Rothschild provided the ex-
pertise and money, that vines were
cultivated and facilities for wine-
making were built. In 1957, the
Israel Wine Institute was estab-
lished in Rehovot and wine pro-
duction became a serious
In the 1970s, it was discovered
that the Golan Heights, with its
volcanic soil, good drainage and
relatively cool climate, was the
ideal location for growing premi-
um wine grapes. The West Bank
was a close second. (In spite of the
uncertainty over the future own--
ership of the Golan, the Israeli
Wine Institute reports that plant-
ing and development are going on
as usual.)
Visiting viticultural experts from
California, state-of-the-art tech-
nology and strict quality control
have all paid off. In 1983, seven
years after the first grapes were
planted in the Golan Heights,

Ron Asmar, owner of the Vineyards Cafe
and Catering, displays a bottle of kosher
wine from a vast store collection.

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