Chianti-shire grows kosher

The Jewish Chronicle - - JC SPECIAL -

IT’S ONE thing for an es­tab­lished win­ery to de­cide to pro­duce a brand-new wine, name it, mar­ket it and then sell it. It’s quite an­other for one young man with a fam­ily to de­cide to do ex­actly the same. Yet that is ex­actly what Eli Gau­thier is do­ing. To be fair to the Paris-born 26-year-old, that is some­thing of an over-sim­pli­fi­ca­tion of the time, ef­fort and money he has in­vested in his kosher Cantina Gi­u­liano, a qual­ity Ital­ian red wine from Chianti. The wine is 70 per cent San­giovese, 20 per cent Mer­lot and 10 per cent Cilie­gi­olo, a lo­cal va­ri­etal that gives aroma and soft­ens the body of the wine. Su­per­vi­sion is by Rav Eliezer Wolff of Am­s­ter­dam and the Ortho­dox Union.

The vine­yard it­self — also named Cantina Gi­u­liano — is in the sun­drenched hills of Tus­cany, dubbed “Chianti-shire” by tabloid news­pa­pers ow­ing to the in­flux of Bri­tish peo­ple buy­ing homes there. The wine has been given the coun­try’s high­est wine cer­ti­fi­ca­tion, DOCG (Denom­i­nazione di Orig­ine Con­trol­lata e Garan­tita), which de­notes con­trolled pro­duc­tion meth­ods and guar­an­teed wine qual­ity.

“Many coun­tries in Europe pro­duce kosher wine but al­most none of it is pro­duced by Jews. I saw there was a gap in the mar­ket in Italy for such a prod­uct,” says Mr Gau­thier.

Ini­tially, how­ever, he had no thought of be­com­ing a wine pro­ducer. At univer­sity, he be­gan to study ar­chi­tec­ture but de­cided it was not for him. Is­rael beck­oned and then Nepal, be­fore he headed for Lon­don, to study pol­i­tics at the Univer­sity of Lon­don’s School of African and Ori­en­tal Stud­ies. At this point he met his fu­ture wife, Lara, who was later to play a cru­cial part in the story. For a while, though, they parted.

A third year of univer­sity took Mr Gau­thier back to Jerusalem, where he en­rolled in yeshiva. One day he was out walk­ing when he saw a girl who looked fa­mil­iar. It was Lara who, un­be­known to him, had gone to Is­rael to study in­ter­na­tional re­la­tions and work as a nanny for a strictly Ortho­dox fam­ily. The ex­pe­ri­ence had had such a pro­found ef­fect on her that she was un­der­go­ing con­ver­sion.

Af­ter mar­ry­ing in Is­rael, they re­turned to Lon­don to fin­ish univer­sity, liv­ing in Stam­ford Hill, where Mr Gau­thier took a job at Ke­dem, the

Su­per­vised vines on Tus­can ter­rain wine com­pany. “Af­ter univer­sity, I had a choice,” he says. “Do a master’s and be a teacher or go into wine. I chose wine.” He found a dis­tance-learn­ing de­gree and a job with the pres­ti­gious Do­maine Marc Kre­den­weiss in Al­sace, where he ex­pe­ri­enced all as­pects of wine pro­duc­tion, in the heat of sum­mer and the bit­ter cold of win­ter. He re­ceived a rab­bini­cal dis­pen­sa­tion to en­able him to taste wine and spit it out, as part of his ed­u­ca­tion. He also made stren­u­ous ef­forts to main­tain his study of To­rah.

Now he came up with the idea of pro­duc­ing a kosher Ital­ian wine. Spend­ing time with Lara’s par­ents in the vil­lage of Cas­ciana Alta, he helped his fa­therin-law tend the fields where he pro­duced olive oil, fruit, veg­eta­bles and wine. One of the top five wine-mak­ers in Italy took the young man un­der his wing and Mr Gau­thier set up his pro­duc­tion plant in the vil­lage.

The grapes for Cantina Gi­u­liano are hand-picked and placed in small bas­kets, to pro­tect them un­til it is time for them to be crushed and fer­mented in tem­per­a­ture-con­trolled stain­less-steel tanks. Af­ter fer­men­ta­tion comes ageing: half the wine is put into wooden bar­rels and the rest back into the steel vats for eight months. Then every­thing is brought to­gether again, fined, fil­tered and bot­tled.

The re­sul­tant wine is light and burst­ing with the flavours of ripe cher­ries, berries and al­monds. Mr Gau­thier is very hands-on with his grape hus­bandry, keep­ing them healthy and so min­imis­ing the use of sul­phites (which are an­ti­sep­tic but are of­ten blamed for han­govers). The ver­sa­tile wine is a good ac­com­pa­ni­ment to poul­try and meat and is equally at home with an hors d’oeu­vre or cheese. I know this be­cause I have tried it with both — though of course at sep­a­rate times.

Mr Gau­thier has am­bi­tions be­yond this first wine — he wants to make a kosher ver­sion of Brunello, one of the most ex­pen­sive wines in Italy, which takes five years to ma­ture. He also hopes to pro­duce a white wine and a rosé to com­plete his col­lec­tion. Cantino Gi­u­liano goes on sale soon in UK kosher wine stores. The win­ery wel­comes tourists for wine tast­ings. canti­nag­iu­

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