Drink blue and white this Seder night

The Jewish Chronicle - - PASSOVER SPECIAL - BY ADAM MONTEFIORE

THESE ARE heady years for Is­raeli wine. The suc­cesses and third­party recog­ni­tion have been bet­ter than ever. Wine Spectator, the world’s most fa­mous wine magazine, de­voted a cover fea­ture for the first time to the ris­ing qual­ity of Is­raeli wines. Is­raeli wines scored 94 points in top critic Robert Parker’s Wine Ad­vo­cate. Is­raeli winer­ies were ranked with four stars in lead­ing wine writer Hugh Johnson’s Pocket Wine Book. In ad­di­tion, Is­rael gained its first ever Master of Wine.

While it is im­por­tant to re­mem­ber not all Is­raeli wines are kosher (and not all kosher wines are Is­raeli), it is clear to those look­ing for kosher wines that Is­rael is pro­duc­ing the best qual­ity and va­ri­ety.

So my first rec­om­men­da­tion is to sup­port the grow­ers of Is­rael, bring Is­rael to your ta­ble and buy blue and white this Passover.

Passover is, of course, not just about Seder night and the fes­ti­val of free­dom, it is also the fes­ti­val of wine. When and where else are we com­manded to drink four glasses a night? The or­der of the evening is like a Ro­man ban­quet, with the wines spaced out to last the length of the evening.

In a ban­quet, the sparkling wine will be the aper­i­tif. The white wine will go with the first course. The red wine will ac­com­pany the meat and a sweet dessert wine will go with the pud­ding. The or­der is dic­tated by cus­tom and com­mon sense. For in­stance, you do not eat the meat course be­fore the soup.

For Seder night, the rules may be sim­i­lar. A sparkling wine or lightly sparkling moscato can be the first glass. Some slaves to tra­di­tion in­sist on a kid­dush wine for the first bless­ing. I re­mem­ber Seder nights as a child, with Pal­win on the ta­ble. I quite liked it and it felt agree­ably naughty to be drink­ing wine at a grown-up event. Now I am in the wine trade, I feel ashamed at the mem­ory of en­joy­ing it so much. If you do buy a kid­dush wine, try serv­ing it cold; it will taste bet­ter.

The sec­ond glass can be a chardon­nay, sau­vi­gnon blanc or a semi-dry white wine such as Gewurz­traminer. This can con­tinue to be en­joyed with the first course of the meal. For the meat course, a caber­net sau­vi­gnon, mer­lot or syrah or a blend can be cho­sen and this will also suf­fice for the third glass. For the fourth, I rec­om­mend a sweet dessert wine, a nice way to fin­ish the evening.

Many pri­vate cus­toms will pre­vail. Some in­sist only on red wines. Oth­ers use grape juice. I do think a taste of al­co­hol is im­por­tant, to make this night dif­fer­ent from all our other nights. If you have chil­dren or in­deed adults who sim­ply dis­like wine, think of a low-al­co­hol moscato. Sweet and slightly sparkling, it is the per­fect fam­ily wine for Shab­bat and fes­ti­vals.

For a small Seder, the wines I would choose are spe­cial and rare and kept for the oc­ca­sion. If it is a big Seder, the wine buy­ing is muted ac­cord­ingly, so there is some­thing for ev­ery­one and no dan­ger of wast­ing money on those who will not ap­pre­ci­ate it.

If you are look­ing for the best, I rec­om­mend Do­maine du Castel and Flam Win­ery, two of Is­rael’s finest wine­mak­ers. Grand Vin Castel or Flam No­ble are per­fect reds; Petit Castel and Flam Clas­sico are good les­s­ex­pen­sive al­ter­na­tives. As for whites, the C Blanc du Castel (a chardon­nay) and the Flam Blanc (a sau­vi­gnon chardon­nay blend) are out­stand­ing. The best dessert wine is the Yar­den Heights.

For bud­get wines, I rec­om­mend any­thing from the Ta­bor Win­ery, in par­tic­u­lar the Har Mount Ta­bor and Adama la­bels. They pro­duce good qual­ity at ev­ery price point. Oth­ers mak­ing wines of good value are Barkan, Se­gal and Teper­berg. Shop around. Deals are at their keen­est be­fore Passover.

You could, if you wish, choose winer­ies with a strong English Is­raeli con­nec­tion, maybe Dal­ton or Montefiore. The Dal­ton Alma blends are ex­cel­lent and the Montefiore Red and White rep­re­sent great value.

The 1848 Win­ery has an en­chant­ing his­tory. The Shor fam­ily founded Is­rael’s first recorded win­ery in 1848. Nearly 170 years later, they are still mak­ing wine.

My fi­nal ad­vice is: buy what you like. Do not worry about try­ing to match the wine to each course. To­day we say: “Match the wine to mood, not to food.” Take the pres­sure off. You have to drink wine, so you might as well en­joy it.

Adam Montefiore is known as “the am­bas­sador of Is­raeli wine”. He writes the reg­u­lar Wine Talk col­umn for the Jerusalem Post

Montefiore: ‘Worry less; just en­joy the wine’

Try caber­net sau­vi­gnon from Kay­oumi vine­yard

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