This is a “special edition” of Griffy on Wine. I have decided to enter the Monthly Wine Writing Challenge. The MWWC was created by another blogger “The Drunken Cyclist” and “The Armchair Sommelier” to promote more creative wine writing. The thought was that we get caught up in tasting notes, winery visits, and the occasional food porn and we soon forget that part of the reason we put in all the hours that we do on these silly blogs is that we love to write!
I haven’t been drinking wine long enough to have developed any of my own wine traditions, so I went looking for some to learn about. That’s what wine has become to me: education, history, geography, culture and civilization all available to me at the pop of a cork!
It didn’t take me very long to find a wine tradition, and one that is about 3,000 years old no less! I can hear Tevia singing “Tradition” in my head, because today we’re talking Kosher wine.
The Kashrut is the body of Jewish law dealing with what can and cannot be eaten. More specifically, it details how those foods must be prepared. The root of the word is KaF-Shin-Resih, which means “fit” or “proper.”
Are these laws Religious or just common sense health regulations? A little of both and none of each. No blessings are uttered over the food, and food can be Kosher without any involvement from a Rabbi. Also, the laws really don’t have anything to do with health.
So to channel Tevia, why do they do it? “I don’t know but it’s a Tradition,” but the short answer really is because the Torah says so. The word used to describe this is “CHUKKIN:” laws which there are no reasons for. It’s a way for Jews to demonstrate they are different and that they simply make a choice to trust and obey a higher authority. It’s a tradition that takes a humble meal and turns it into a religious event, or a simple table into a temple. Rather impressive if you ask me.
Wine is the quintessential beverage to the Jewish faith, as it is to many other religions of antiquity and today. There is the rub, wine used for any of these other rituals can not be Kosher. Therefore the laws about making wine are the most sensitive, complicated, and tedious of the Kashrut.
Growing the grapes is not much of a problem. Usually the grapes are left untouched and are 100 percent organic. The entire process of growing and tending the grapes must be done by observant Jews.
The hard part begins at harvest. Once delivered from the vineyard the entire winemaking process is under the direction on the Mashgichim, the “supervisor.” No non-Jews can enter the wine processing area or take part in any part of the process. If they do, the entire harvest is lost.
Any ingredients used must also be kosher and must be handled by observant Jews up to the point of bottling or pasteurization, whichever comes first. If bottled first the bottle is marked with a “helhsher” seal of approval and the wine can now be handled by non-Jews and still be considered Kosher.
The other route is called “mevushal” or boiled wine, where the wine is heated to between 164 and 194 degrees. Once it reaches this point the wine is kosher. The mashgichim marks the tanks with his seal and now the wine can be handled and aged in normal fashion and by Jews and non-Jews alike. The winemaker must be extremely careful not to cook his wine, as this will limit its age-worthiness, but this is the most common way of making kosher wine. Again, no one knows where this boiling of the wine comes from but it is not an uncommon practice, even for other religions that are close to Israel. For example, boiling water is added to sacramental wine used by the Eastern Orthodox Christians.
How do they taste? I couldn’t notice any difference in nose or flavor between a Kosher wine or non-kosher wine. It gets back the point that you are making a choice to follow a different drummer or not, the wine will not be the determining factor.
Finding Kosher wines will not be the easiest thing to do. There are only three 100% kosher vineyards outside Israel, and they are in California, Oregon and France. The vineyard in France, Parnassa, which means “Prosperity,” is a growing enterprise but is being hampered by growing anti-semitism in France. The world is being hampered by growing intolerance everywhere and it’s a shame that something as innocent as wine is being effected.
There is a tradition I will adopt and that is the reciting of the Borei Pri Hagafen when opening a bottle of wine:
“Blessed are You, LORD our God, King of the universe, Who creates the fruit of the vine”.