What Rebekah Mahru, wine director at Chicago's City Winery, finds fascinating about traditional Jewish cuisine is that it's not, well, traditional. "Most of these recipes are an amalgamation of dishes brought over from Eastern Europe and the Ashkenazi Jews that have survived, adapted, and modernized," she says. Due to the symbolism of cooking with oil around Hanukkah, rich fried foods are de rigeur. And to a sommelier's ears, that's a cue for breaking out wines with vibrant acidity.
To find out which bottles industry insiders crave around the holiday, Food & Wine caught up with a handful of sommeliers around the country – including Mahru, Doug Kahn of Sixteen Restaurant in Chicago, Andrea Morris of NYC's Nix, and Peter Weltman of Bi-Rite Market in San Francisco. Here, they share their ideal matches for four time-honored classic dishes.
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Fried potatoes are among the world's most wine-friendly foods, notes Morris, but pairings "get trickier once you start playing around with the toppings." For versions with apple sauce and sour cream, she suggests an off-dry German Riesling such as the 2015 Karthäuserhof Karthäuserhofberg Kabinett ($27). "The green apple and lemon character of Kabinett Rieslings from the Mosel complement the flavors perfectly while the bright acidity cuts through the richness of the sour cream and potato," she says.