Wine company finds its niche
Making kosher wine can be a logistical challenge, but one Marlborough wine company has found its niche meeting the dietary requirements of observant Jews.
O’Dwyers Creek Vineyard owner Lindsay Dahlberg was the first person to start making kosher wine in the region after Jewish friends told him there was demand for kosher sauvignon blanc.
The former Oyster Bay grapegrower, who owns a 8-hectare vineyard in Rapaura, teamed up with contract winery Marlborough Vintners for the first kosher vintage in 2010.
To make wine kosher, every stage of the winemaking process has to be handled by a mashgiach, an observant Jew who oversees the production.
Eric Anderson, a follower of Orthodox Judaism, fills this role for O’Dwyers Creek Vineyard.
The kosher wine market was a niche one, but Lindsay says this is a good thing for his company, as he does not have to compete against other Marlborough producers.
There are logistical challenges making kosher wine, additives have to be certified kosher, which meant traditional fining agents like milk, fish and eggs cannot be used, he says.
To make sure the wine is pure, part of the winery at Marlborough Vinters has to be sealed off for 24 hours when grapes from the vineyard are brought in, to avoid contamination.
A number of Jewish holidays also fell during harvest, so Anderson and the other Orthodox workers brought in during the period could not work on certain days, Lindsay says.
‘‘From the moment we harvest, Eric or other Orthodox Jews are the only ones that are allowed to touch the grapes and the machinery until the wine is in the bottle.’’
O’Dwyers Creek Vineyard wine is also pasteurised during the winemaking process to make it mevushal, from the Hebrew word for boiled.
This meant meant observant Jews are still able to drink it if the wine is handled by those who do not follow the 613 commandments in the Torah.
The kosher wine was exported to Canada, England, Australia and the United States, where the Orthodox Union is based, a kosher certification body which sends a rabbi to inspect production twice a year.
Last year, Lindsay also started making kosher grape juice.
Mashgiach Eric Anderson, left, and O’Dwyers Creek Vineyard owner Lindsay Dahlberg with a bottle of kosher wine.