Starting writing on this new forum, I want to expand beyond my perceived comfort zone writing about Israeli wines. After writing about 300 articles about Israeli wines and hosting a radio show about Israeli wines for three years SOME people have come to think of me as a one trick pony yet before I wrote one article about Israeli wines I wrote locally and internationally about local and international politics, crime, health, intellectual property law ,celebrity interviews, alternative health and published two poetry books for over twenty years. Recently for example, I interviewed a few of Israeli most notable physicians and as well as the Chinese Ambassador to Israel.
Writing is my craft, my passion and no matter what day job I’ve ever had I’ve always had a writing outlet. Today, I write about wine for two Israeli magazines and several websites (and am translated typically once a week into Hebrew) but mostly about Israeli wine. I do hope to post wine articles here as well but I hope to post on other topics relating to life and culture in Israel and for Jews worldwide less I put my philosophy minor to ill use.
Yet, Passover is near and as you might expect people (and several editors and publishers) are asking me for my suggestions for wines for Passover. It’s a much more tricky proposition when I’m writing in a print publication with a limited word count since trying to become most familiar with close to 300 Israeli wineries and an estimated 2000 labels where does even a wine writer begin never mind end.
Well, I’ve faced this challenge before so lets try to get some interesting choices before you for PASSOVER 2013!!!!
You can serve your Passover seder’s four cups based on several criteria (or of course no criteria at all since I won’t come by to monitor and Elijah seems to enjoy whatever wine is put in front of him…unlike me).
1) Just serve what your guests brought you… a real crapshoot depending on who your guests are and what their budget and tastes in wine are can make or break the culinary highlight of your Judaic year. Unless some pleasant surprises make it your way shelve most wines brought for future servings at Shabbat or if you get what I’ve seen arrive at other tables for making into sangria for Israel’s long hot summer ( sangria recipes will be a later article I imagine…I write said article every few summers) or regift them to someone who has the same level of wine appreciation for whatever plunk came your way.
2) Come up with wine suggestions for your guests if they’re going to bring wines have them bring from a list of approved wines, wineries, styles, whatever criteria you’re comfortable putting forth. Or have them bring something else other than wine.
3) Avoid Shmita wines. Wines from the Sabbatical agricultural year in Israel (the last two were 2008 and 2001) require no one waste any of the wine in the glass or the bottle and who wants to monitor that during a festive meal. I don’t personally have a problem finishing whatever good wine is in my glass or a bottle but if it’s plunk please protect me and for many casual drinkers finishing wine in their glass or helping polish off the odd bottle can be challenging. Its easier over Shabbat or a weekday meal but if you have a dozen or dozens at your seder playing wine police is a downer when most want to relax. A seder, literally meaning order, doesn’t need added rules (but wine suggestions, maybe?).
4) Pick a budget and find the best wine to fit that budget, your taste and what food you plan to serve. Easier said than done but Passover only comes once a year. It breaks my heart when I see people scrimp on Passover wine selections when I see them drink better wines on Shabbat. If you don’t want to go bankrupt then serve your cheapest wines first. The lightweights will slow down after a glass or two and you’ll have more of the good stuff left for the more serious imbibers at your table. There’s lots of good deals this time of year and if you still can’t wrap your mind and wallet around buying beyond what’s available or on sale at the supermarket (in contrast to buying at one of Israel’s dozens of good wine shops or buying directly from a winery or a wine broker) maybe think of it this way there’s no higher level of charity than giving someone work and by buying better (and more expensive) wine (especially from smaller boutique wineries) you’re providing jobs for people at the winery and in the vineyard. That makes even the driest wine a bit sweeter.
5) Mix it up a bit. If you want have just red or white wine (the norm is all red) but how about this: for the first glass an Israeli dry sparkling wine from the Golan Heights WInery (their Gamla Brut or Yarden Blanc de Blanc) or Tishbi’s Brut or Tabor 561, Carmel has a couple of Brut sparklers as well as Teperberg who might have the newest Brut on the scene. Then as a second glass how about a dry white. I suggest a dry white and Sauvignon Blanc is one of the best food friendly white wines with its herbal, grassy and citric notes. It matches well with fish, salads, asparagus, artichokes and even some chicken dishes. Recanati, Teperberg, Gush Etzion, Ella Valley and Dalton have a range of mouth watering SB’s to complement your seder meal. For a third glass, how about a light red like a Pinot Noir. It will match chicken, turkey or even salmon (one its most famous pairing partners). Gvaot, Yarden, Galil Mountian and Tishbi all have kosher for Passover offerings (almost all kosher Israeli wines are kosher for Passover…maybe/probably all…but there could one out there that’s not). For the fourth glass, a BIG RED to match a beef or traditional lamb entree. Either a Cab, a Shiraz/Syrah, a Petite Sirah or a Carignan. So many choices here that if I started trying to list them all now I might not finish before your seder starts since a warmer wine region like Israel would conventionally be prone to make better big reds than any other style. For a Cab how about one of Barkan’s Altitude series ( I typically like the 624 the best) or Saslove’s 2010 Adom or Cab Reserve for a Syrah Tulip’s Syrah Reserve (which became kosher in 2010) or Flam’s 2010 Syrah Reserve (they too became kosher in 2010), for Petite Sirah either Dalton‘s Petite Sirah “D,” Recanati‘s Petite Sirah/Zinfandel or Tishbi’s Single Vineyard Petite Syrah will show you why in the US there is a PS I Love You club. For Carignan, there are more and more quality Old Vine Carignans hitting the shelves each year it seems. For a good deal Carmel’s Appellation series will get you some bang for your buck or shecklim as the case may be but for something a bit more powerful and expressive try Binyamina‘s or Recanati’s Carignan Reserve or if you can find it Yaffo‘s 2009 Carignan.
I could go on to give you many more ways on how to make your selections special including using wines from just one winery, region or grape varietal but I think and I hope I shook you up enough to make your wine choices more interesting for Passover 2013 and since Passover and most Jewish holidays are about remembering and being thankful for overcoming challenges as a people I hope this article makes your Passover a bit more memorable for you and your guests or whatever host has you as their guest at their table.