In this article, we unpack what it takes for a wine to be kosher.
What is kosher wine?
Kosher wine has a rich and sacramental role in Jewish history and winemaking started east of the Mediterranean where Lebanon and Israel stand today long before it did in Bordeaux and Burgundy! After the Roman conquest of Israel the Jews emigrated all over the world in what's known as the Diaspora, bringing their methods and practices with them, and today you can find kosher wines from most of the famous wine-producing countries.
So, what is the difference between kosher and non-kosher wine? Kosher wines are produced according to Jewish dietary laws, known as the kashrut. Each stage of production of kosher wines, from bottling to handling in the wine cellars, must be supervised by sabbath-observant jews, whilst other additives and fining agents must also be certified kosher. If satisfied the wine carries a kosher certification (or hechsher) from either an agency or a rabbi.
There are other types of kosher wine too. For example, a wine that is kosher for Passover, the Jewish holiday that commemorates the exodus out of Egypt, and during which Jews may not eat or use chametz, or foods made using leavening agents (like bread). Wines suitable for occasions like the Passover seder then must not have come into contact with leavened agents during any part of the production. There is also mevushal wine, or wine that remains kosher even after coming into contact with non-Jewish people, and is made by boiling the wine, although great care is taken today to ensure that the wine survives without vastly altered tannins, becoming something little more attractive than overcooked grape juice!
Kosher wine grew in popularity in the United States as a slightly sweet wine made from the Concord grape (not the common winemaking grape Vitis Vinifera), and as such many of the biggest businesses in kosher wine, like Manischewitz, are based on America's East Coast. In recent years there has been a move to creating high-quality kosher wine, especially in the US, so California wineries such as Baron Herzog as well as Hagafen in the Napa Valley are doing wonderful things with red wines made from grapes like Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Merlot, and white wines primarily from Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.
Other than the US several other countries have begun to adopt the Kosher winemaking process to satisfy increased demand. Israeli wine is very well-known now thanks to producers like Yarden, Barkan, Flam and Domaine du Castel. Other kosher estates can be found in South Africa, New Zealand, Spain, Italy (the Moscato can be very good!) and France, with production of everything from sweet to rose wine.
All that being said, while most kosher wine can be very drinkable, rarely does it scratch the heights of what great Bordeaux or Burgundy can. We're always challenging ourselves to find great wines off the beaten track, so it was only natural then that sooner or later we would try to source some really excellent kosher wine. As many Jewish wine collectors who observe kashrut will know, finding great kosher wine in the UK for special occasions like Passover and family events leaves much to be desired. Our aim is to make great wines that happen to be kosher, rather than kosher wine that happens to be drinkable!
We're now in our 4th vintage of kosher production, having teamed up with two of our favourite growers - the maverick 100-point Saint-Emilion winemaker Jonathan Maltus and Burgundy superstar Etienne de Montille - to make hands down the best kosher wine available in the UK.
This means access to some of the greatest wines from the most coveted parcels in Bordeaux and top premier cru sites in Burgundy’s Volnay, Pommard and Puligny-Montrachet. The process is simple. They are crowdfunded by syndicates in volumes of 2+ barrels (600+ bottles) and made available at the best price to syndicate members. All wines are supervised by Rabbi Akiva Padwa, Director of Certification at KLBD, and project managed by our chairman Nathan on behalf of the syndicate.
Our 2020 kosher production is well underway, with most of the shares allocated already. If you have any questions about kosher wine or are interested in joining the syndicate, please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We also have a growing number of kosher wines which you can purchase here.