Saturday March 27, 2021, begins the seven-day most sacred, and widely observed holiday of Passover (Pesah or Pesach) that commemorates the Israelites’ liberation from 400 years of slavery in Egypt. Its name is derived from “passing over” of Jewish houses, where the first-born were being slayed during the last of the ten plagues.
The Seder is a family meal held on the first night of Passover. It is filled with rituals intended to remind all of the significance of the holiday. There are fourteen parts to the seder, all rich with symbolism. Wine is involved in three of the fourteen parts. First, during part one, wine is poured and blessed in honor of the holiday. The wine is drunk, and a second glass is poured. After part five, where the story of the Exodus from Egypt and the first Passover is recounted, the second glass of wine is blessed and drunk. And the third glass of wine is poured during part twelve, and once grace after the meal has been said, that glass of wine is drunk.
City Vino has written about Kosher wines in the past on our Blogs: “What is Kosher Wine?” from 2018, and on “Kosher Wines & Recanati Winery,” from 2019. Wines can be labelled Kosher or Kosher for Passover. Wines labelled Kosher for Passover specifically cannot be made using a yeast that does not grow on bread. Also, some common preservatives like potassium sorbate cannot be used as well as any grain, bread, and dough products. While you may intuitively think that these products would not be used in winemaking, a wheat flour paste has been traditionally used to seal the groove in the head (end) of the barrel, so this is a concern. All Kosher for Passover wines must be certified by a certification agency.
For our weekly tasting last weekend, we tasted chardonnay, merlot, and cabernet sauvignon from Recanati that are all Kosher for Passover, and still have a few more bottles in the shop. All the wines hail from the Galilee, in Israel.
The first wine is the 2018 Recanati Chardonnay which is 100 percent Chardonnay, fermented in stainless steel tanks. Then half of the wine is aged in French oak barrels in contact with its lees (yeast cells that have finished their fermentation work) for six months, to add texture to the wine and preserve the flavors. This Chardonnay has a buttery texture with aromas and flavors of tropical fruit, white grapefruit, and oak spices. Pair this wine with rich fish like salmon or tuna, poultry, or a dish with a light cream sauce.
Our next wine is the 2018 Recanati Merlot. The wine is 100 percent Merlot that was destemmed but not crushed, so that some whole grapes start some internal fermentation. This method of winemaking produces a wine with a more prominent, fruitier characteristic. Aromas and flavors of berries plums, cherries, spices, and gentle oak are found in this medium-bodied red wine. Meat dishes like roasted beef, lamb, or veal would be a great companion for this wine.
The final Kosher for Passover wine is the 2019 Recanati Cabernet Sauvignon. Like the previous wine, this is made from 100 percent of the varietal, and again fermentation was started with whole berries. Darker fruits are experienced on this wine, with aromas and flavors of black currant, blackberries, blueberries, and black plums. This wine, too, will pair well with beef or lamb dishes, and perhaps even roasted poultry or duck.
We hope you will enjoy these very familiar grape varieties, but from a different wine-producing region – Israel. The three wines are also Kosher for Passover, and can grace your table during the holiday of Passover.