If you’re visiting a Jewish home for Passover or any other festive occasion, it might be a good idea to pick up a bottle of kosher wine as a wine gift. While kosher wines have endured a somewhat negative reputation in years past, there are an increasing amount of excellent kosher wines currently on the market, such as the Recanati wines found in our Recanati Kosher Wine Duet. Currently the bulk of kosher wine is produced in Israel, though it is also being produced in regions as diverse as France, California, Australia, Spain, and South Africa. If you know anything about the stringent processes that are followed to produce kosher foods, you can imagine that similar regulations are in place for kosher wines.
For a wine to be certified as kosher, several requirements must be met. For instance, in the fields, grapes from new vines may not be used for making wine until after the fourth year. Every seventh year the fields must be left fallow, and there is a prohibition on growing other fruits and vegetables between the vines.
During the harvest, only kosher tools, equipment, and storage facilities may be used. In addition, all of the winemaking equipment must be cleaned so that no foreign objects remain in the equipment or vats. It is also important to mention that only Sabbath observant male Jews are allowed to work on the production. Since most of the experienced winemakers in Israel are not observant, this means that they can’t touch the wine or the equipment, during the winemaking process.
Some higher levels of orthodoxy require that the wines must also be flash pasteurized. In addition, to symbolize the 10% tithe once paid to the Temple in Jerusalem, there is a ritual in which just over 1% of the wine produced is poured away.
There are actually even further laws in place for the making of kosher wines, who can pour them, and blessings that need to be made before uncorking, but hopefully you should have a pretty good idea as to how detailed the process is by now. Just something to keep in mind the next time you see a wine labeled “kosher,” which is likely to happen with more frequency in the future as some wonderful kosher wines are finding their way into the American market.