Israeli Wine History & Guide to Kosher Wines
Kosher winemaking is regular winemaking.
Israeli Wine History
Kosher wines are far more popular than the 2% Jewish population in this world. American consumers have been moving in a healthier direction that aligns with the "kosher" standards. Why? Because it adds a layer of oversight that excludes additives, preservatives, and artificial colors found in processed foods and other products. These steps are also appealing to people with dietary restrictions, lactose intolerance, and vegetarians.
Kosher wines have come a long way since the 1980s when the market was a fraction of the size. The stigma of a sweet, cooked Israeli wine is becoming a thing of the past as more kosher wines are winning awards and notable recognitions. And we have to say, it's a blessing.
Israel's wine history dates back thousands of years and is considered the oldest wine-growing region. Although a small country, its Mediterranean terroir and elevation has offered a natural habitat for grape varieties. Sadly, indigenous grapevines were uprooted across Israel when wine consumption was prohibited in 600 CE. Fast-forward to 1882 when Baron Edmond de Rothchild reawakened the Israeli wine industry with grapevines sourced from Kashmir, India. Why India? Because France was dealing with a terrible aphid outbreak killing its vines.
Kosher Israeli wine is engrained in their country's culture, used for religious observances and beyond. But not all Israeli wines are kosher. And wines sporting a "kosher" symbol don't mean they come from a specific region in Israel like a Bordeaux wine. Kosher wine is more about the process and procedures than anything else. Let's explore.
Kosher Wine Process
The word "kosher" has become synonymous with the thought of a healthier and more natural product. Nowadays, it's hard to know exactly what is in everything you consume. Products with simplified ingredients are becoming preferred choices. Just look at the cleaning supplies and healthier food alternatives sprouting up. The same can be said for wine. A level of comfort can be felt when a wine has been vetted, ingredients checked, and approved for consumption. Kosher labels can represent a stamp of approval to many because the classification has been earned.
Decades ago, the kosher wine process represented a different method contributing to an underwhelming taste. Wines known as "mevushal" require a boiling process that impacts the end product. Nowadays, a small number of kosher wines on the market go through that process. When they do, they undergo flash détente, a quicker process that doesn't flatten the grape flavors.
Passover wines also can't include grain yeast, corn syrup, or any raising agent, generating a tricky predicament for a wine producer. Outside of that, yeast and fining agents are acceptable in the majority of kosher wines. Kosher wines are made just like other wines except with no preservatives or artificial colors. Grapes are naturally kosher. It's only when you start introducing foreign entities that it becomes non-kosher.
Kosher Hechsher Labels
When it comes to kosher wine designations, the U.S. has become the mecca for the four biggest organizations that designate "kosher" wines. But hundreds of organizations across the world certify wines with their own hechsher rabbinical mark for labeling and packaging. The largest certifier with more than half a million different brands of food and wine is the Union of Orthodox Rabbis (OU). You might recognize their kosher symbol.
Liquid Kosher Wines
Andrew Breskin, Founder and Sommelier at Liquid Kosher, has been sourcing kosher wines long before it was cool. Back before French kosher wines peaked the interest of high-end collectors.
"Our focus is on kosher wine that can be cellared, opened now, and embodies the highest expressions of where they come from." - Andrew Breskin
Breskin became a Certified Sommelier in 2004. Since then, he has teamed up with the best in the business to share kosher wines that rival the best in the world. He has even partnered with Ya'acov Oryah, one of the most highly regarded Israeli winemakers.