Kosher wine has come a long way, baby. I don’t mean that it has moved beyond Manischewitz to Merlot—that’s yesterday’s news. I’m talking about the kosher-wine market’s glorious expansion beyond the usual suspects—overly oaky Chardonnay and mediocre Merlot—to less-obvious wines of distinction and deliciousness from all over the world. I call such wines “Brave New Pours,” and below I recommend kosher versions that will have you drinking stylishly for the high holidays.
Bartenura Prosecco Brut NV (Italy, $18)
You will start your Rosh Hashanah feast on a high note if you opt for Prosecco, which delivers bubbles and fun at half the price of Champagne. It may be not be as elegant as its French cousin, but this zesty Prosecco makes a fine aperitif or cuts through the richness of any tsimmes it encounters.
Goose Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2008 (New Zealand, $17)
I like to say New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc’s grassy, citrusy personality is so distinctive that it’s almost flourescent. Goose Bay’s refreshingly crisp rendition is no exception, and it harmonizes well with fish, including a forkful of gefilte with horseradish.
Daltôn Galilee Chardonnay Unoaked 2009 (Israel, $17)
Have you ever tried Chardonnay freed from its oaky, vanilla-shake shackles? Insiders have been enjoying this style for years, and Daltôn’s crisp and subtly peachy version makes their lips smack with satisfaction. Savor it with everything from seafood to salads to matzo ball soup.
Recanati Galilee Rosé (Israel, $15)
Summer may be waning, but your passion for pink needn’t. Clean and zesty, this dry, cherry-scented wine pivots between the world of white- and red-wine foods, equally at home with fish dishes as it is with more substantial fare like barbecue, lamb, or kasha varnishkes.
Tabor Merlot “Adama” Chalk Soil 2006 (Israel, $21)
The famous rant in Sideways notwithstanding, this selection proves that Merlot doesn’t have to be a wine for the wounded. Its soft, generous blackberry character and hints of coffee bean and sweet spice flatter a range of rich meals, from stuffed cabbage to stews.
Bodega Flecha de los Andes Gran Malbec 2008 (Argentina, $20)
It seems like everyone I interviewed for my new book—including John Lithgow and John Leguizamo—waxed rhapsodic for the pleasures of Malbec, and this version makes it easy to see why. Lush and ripe, it offers plenty of blackberry and blueberry fruit, joined by whiffs of coca powder and licorice, with a smooth, enduring finish. It is perfect with brisket and other richer, meaty creations.
If you have a kosher wine question you want me to answer, maybe you need a suggestion of a particular wine to pair with specific dishes, post a comment below and I’ll see what I can do to help you out.
Mark Oldman is a wine expert whose new book is Oldman’s Brave New World of Wine.