Drink blue and white this Seder night
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