Kosher Wine Deserves a Better Reputation

Think they’re all sweet and syrupy? Think again

Kosher wines

Antonis Achilleos / Food Styling by Emily Nabors Hall / Prop Styling by Claire Spollen

As a sommelier who was raised in a kosher household—my father was a cantor, and I am, yes, a decanter—here’s a simple guide to what kosher wine is and, almost more importantly, what it isn’t.

First off, when something is kosher, it simply means the product is fit for consumption by observant Jews. However, there are a lot of myths and falsehoods out there about kosher wine, so here are a few of the common misconceptions. First, kosher wine, or any kosher product, is not “blessed” by a rabbi. (That said, production must be supervised by a person versed in the rules of kosher.) Second, kosher wines are not cooked — this is a very occasional practice, used specifically to make a type of kosher wine called mevushal. Finally, the popular brand Manischewitz, which is made from Concord grapes, has convinced many people that all kosher wines are cloyingly sweet and low alcohol; the truth is that most aren’t. In fact, whether a wine is kosher or not has absolutely nothing to do with its quality (or lack thereof). For an analogy, consider organic wines: There are stellar examples and also terrible ones. That a wine was made following organic principles has absolutely nothing to do with its quality. Kosher is much the same way.

On the positive side, what people often don’t realize is that kosher wine actually, by its nature, follows some of the principles most valued by the wine world as a whole: environmental friendliness, social responsibility, and mindfulness about what one eats and drinks.

Environmental friendliness, for instance, is a longstanding tenet of kosher production. In order for agricultural produce in Israel to be kosher, every seven years the land must be left to go fallow, a concept known as shmita (“the year of release”). Essentially, the land is returned to nature so that it may recuperate. Also, during that time, anyone who is hungry may freely help themselves to what the fields offer. This past year, 2022, was a shmita year, and across Israel, fields displayed signs encouraging those who were hungry to take what they liked. This kind of consideration for humanity is fundamental to Judaism and intrinsically linked to kosher as a result. Finally, kosher also means mindfulness regarding what one puts in one’s body. Biblical kosher rules had almost as much to do with health and safety as with religious ideology. Nowadays, many common additives and chemicals are actually excluded from kosher production; so many that many kosher wines are effectively organic. Good for the environment, good for society, good for your body, and great tasting, too: now that’s kosher wine.

2021 Tabor Adama Galilee Sauvignon Blanc ($20)

This vivid white has the beautiful bright citrus and gunflint notes of Loire Valley Sauvignons, a touch of grapefruit that nods to New Zealand, and a soft texture hinting at fresher style Bordeaux Blanc—but the truth is that it’s Israeli through and through.

2020 Herzog Variations Be-Leaf Organic Cabernet Sauvignon ($26)

Notes of ripe brambly fruit like blackberry and boysenberry are complemented by vanilla bean and baking spice in this impressive Cabernet from California’s Paso Robles region.

2018 Segal Whole-Cluster Judean Hill Pinot Noir ($45)

Master of Wine Ido Lewinsohn uses whole-cluster fermentation to give this red-fruited Pinot from Israel sweet tobacco leaf and spicebox notes. It’s on the full-bodied side, with a long, smooth finish.

2018 Château Clarke Bordeaux Rouge ($54)

Full-bodied and earthy, this Cabernet-based wine is classic left-bank Bordeaux. Ripe, dark cherry, plum, and a beautiful graphite earthiness are what to look for here.

Champagne Laurent-Perrier Kosher Brut ($65)

This is Laurent-Perrier’s flagship cuvée and is made in a drier style than other brut Champagnes. Expect bright citrus and stone fruit flavors with a touch of brioche.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles