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The Kiddush Cup Runneth Over

By Debra Meiburg MW

For 2000 years wine has featured prominently in the Judeo-Christian faiths.
In Jewish tradition, wine is a symbol of joy and plays an integral role at wedding ceremonies, weekly Shabbat and the upcoming Seder dinner at Passover. In Judaism, wine symbolizes God’s creation and his provision of life. The old testament Psalms declare, “wine maketh glad the heart of man. L’chaim, the classic Jewish toast, means “to life” and who can forget Tevye’s joyous song “To life, to life, l’chaim” on the engagement of his daughter in Fiddler on the Roof?

In accordance with Jewish dietary law, kosher wine is served at devotional observances. Historically, many kosher wines were sweet, often made from fruit and raisins. Early kosher wines in the United States were produced from an indigenous Concord grape—resulting in a sweet, grape-flavored wine and a lousy food match. If the intense grape aromas and syrupy character of this popular style are too much for you, try sneaking a squirt of lemon juice into your glass when Aunt Ruth isn’t looking.

These days, winemakers around the world are also producing fine, dry kosher wines, ranging from Chardonnay to Shiraz. Kosher wines are made exactly the same way as all other table wines, except that from crush to corking, the winemaking is supervised by a rabbi. Yeasts and other aids used during production must also be kosher.

Many winemakers produce kosher wines exclusively. Others, such as Mouton Cadet, offer kosher wine as part of the general portfolio. Most kosher wines display a circle-U symbol on the label guaranteeing that the wine has been produced according to kosher law. The letter “P” may be noted next to the symbol. This is a higher level of kosher certification and guarantees the wine has been produced without any grain products, rendering it suitable for Passover Seder. Additionally, the label may state “meshuval” which indicates the wine has been flash pasteurized and may be opened or served by a non-Jewish person while retaining its kosher purity.

For bright, fresh flavors, fill your kiddush cup with Baron Herzog’s Chenin Blanc. This wine’s fine, light character is marked by floral and grapefruit aromas and it is an easy match for Gilfelte fish. Baron Herzog Chardonnay is a classic California Chardonnay, with attractive oak flavors, a rich mouthful of fruit, apples and caramel–a perfect pairing for roast chicken. If forgoing leavened bread leaves you craving morning toast, open a bottle of the toasty Fortant Chardonnay, Vin de Pays d’Oc, France. Or, with roasted shank-bone, serve Fortant’s Merlot. The wine is subtle and layered with earthy black truffle aromas and supported by gentle astringency. And for loads of blueberry and spice, open a bottle of Beckett’s Flat Shiraz. It is soft, delicious and ready to drink. All of the wines are available at the Jewish Community Centre on Robinson Road, so don’t pass them by.

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