Grape Tips Tuesday: What is Kosher Wine?

This Week In Wine 101: What is Kosher Wine?

Let’s start with the word kosher and its meaning? In Hebrew kosher translates to “proper,” “correct,” or “fit.” Generally speaking, people of Jewish faith practice, Kashrut (Jewish dietary laws), which state which foods can and cannot be eaten, and how these foods should be prepared, stored and eaten. This brings us to kosher wine and raises the following questions, “What are the differences when compared to other non-kosher wines and what makes kosher wines unique?”


Making Kosher Wine

The early stages of producing kosher wines really aren’t that different from non-kosher or traditional winemaking practices. Starting with the harvesting of grapes, which can take place either once or twice a year and is done either by hand or machine. The grapes are then taken to the winery where the intact grapes are separated from the damaged or broken grapes. Next the grapes are de-stemmed and separated from the grape skins.


Supervising the Kosher Winemaking Process

From the moment the grapes are brought to the winery they are closely supervised by staff known as the Mashgichim (practicing Jews). Their role is to keep a watchful eye on the entire winemaking process and ensure that Kashrut rules are enforced at the winery. Producing kosher wine is very sensitive and requires only those who are qualified and observant of Judaism to initiate the process, operate winemaking equipment, handle grapes and oversee the transformation from vine to grape and grapes to wine. This is so important, that if a non-Jew participates in any part of the winemaking process, including operating machinery or the handling of grapes the entire kosher winemaking production is disqualified and must start from the very beginning.

In addition to the sensitivity of the entire winemaking process, the conditions of the facility must be pristine. This means, the entire production, including the grapes and the wine, must remain unpolluted by any animal products, and the physical cleanliness of all of the machines must undergo a thorough cleaning process. For example, all tanks, crushers, and any other equipment used to produce wine, must be cleaned (thoroughly) three times before the winemaking process begins. Using steam cleaners, boiling hot water and in some cases blowtorches, to purify the kosher wine making equipment.

Also, all of the barrel tanks must either be new or used only for winemaking purposes. In order for the wine to maintain its kosher title it undergoes a process known as Mevushal, “to cook.” Meaning after the grapes have been crushed and are placed in tanks for fermentation they are heated to a boiling point usually a minimum between 180 – 185 degrees Fahrenheit. Afterwards, the wine undergoes a cooling process that takes around the same the time it took to boil the wine. Some wines are pressed, chilled, pasteurized, and then fermented although this depends on the winemaker’s methods. Wines that undergo the ‘Mevushal’ process can maintain their religious purity even if the wine is served by a non-jew. In addition, kosher wines cannot contain any chemical additives, gelatin, lactose, glycerin, corn products or non-wine yeasts.


Buying Kosher Wine

So, where can you find kosher wines? To be honest, almost anywhere! Kosher wines have recently grown in popularity and can be found everywhere! Besides Israel, countries like: Australia, France, Italy and South Africa are all making kosher wines now. What’s more, they can be bought at your local grocery store, specialty liquor stores and online. Whether you shop at Ralphs, Whole Foods, H.E.B., Safeway, Winn Dixie, Trader Joe’s, or your local Jewish market, these places all have sections dedicated to kosher products including wine. If you don’t see any at your local grocery store, ask a store manager to order some and they will deliver and let you know when they’ll be in stock.

As you can see, kosher wines are not that much different from most wines. The main difference is in the winemaking process, and with the individuals who manage and operate the vineyards and wineries. Now that you know what kosher means and what the wine making process entails, we hope you’re inspired to add kosher wines to your wine collection. We’ve provided a list of wines above to give you a good starting point for exploring delicious kosher wines. We look forward to hearing which of kosher wines you have recently enjoyed. Share in the comments below, on our Facebook page, on Twitter or email us at Enjoy & Le Chiam (to life)!

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