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Celebrate Purim With a Glass (or Two) of Shiraz

The ancient Persian city of Shiraz was known for its wine

Stephanie Butnick
March 14, 2014

Purim begins tomorrow evening, and, while there are many ways Jews celebrate (delivering gift baskets, helping the poor) one of the most publicized elements of the Purim festivities is the Talmudic imperative to drink. “Drinking is not only permitted but encouraged,” explains Tablet’s handy Purim guide. “The Talmud tells us that one should drink on Purim until one can no longer distinguish between the blessed Mordechai and the cursed Haman. The Hebrew phrase for “no longer tell the difference”—ad lo yada—has become the name for drunken Purim carnivals celebrated annually across Israel, in which Haman (or Hitler, or Saddam Hussein, or any other enemy of the Jews) is traditionally hanged or burned in effigy.”

So you’re supposed to drink. But drink what exactly? Wine in ancient Persia has a rich history—according to a 2006 New York Times article, “Wine’s discovery in old Persia predates French wine. The earliest evidence of winemaking dates from 5400 B.C., in the Haji Firuz Hills, near western Azerbaijan Province, south of where the city of Orumieh is today.”

The ancient city of Shiraz was known for its wine production, known as Shirazi wine. Shiraz wine, as it happens, is a synonym for Syrah, a dark red wine produced in Australia and France. While Shiraz has been all but confirmed as originating in France, one myth about Shiraz’s roots involves “a winemaker from Iran, where legend says the grape was actually born, bringing the vines with him to France in 600 B.C.”

I’ll take it—or, as the holiday demands, at least drink enough of it until I can’t remember exactly where Shiraz originated. Plus it pairs excellently with hamantashen, the triangular shaped cookie whose filling is usually made of poppy seed or jam.

Merry Purim. Now drink up.

Stephanie Butnick is chief strategy officer of Tablet Magazine, co-founder of Tablet Studios, and a host of the Unorthodox podcast.