THAT MOMENT when you nervously knock on the door of an apartment that you’ve never been to, awaiting the inviting “come in!” from inside. You comply, as any proper guest would, and enter the home of your Friday night Shabat dinner hosts. As the door peels open, you are greeted by a too-eagerly smiling host who comes toward you. His hand, cocked and ready for a firm handshake, and his eyes, already gazing toward the pink Rami Levy plastic bag which holds your glass bottled treasure, are both in full gear.
After the rote ‘how are you’ handshake is completed, you remove the plastic bag. And as the purple glass emerges, the host’s eyes unabashedly molest the label from the poor, helpless wine bottle. You hand the bottle over to your host, perhaps nervously wondering what this host is thinking. Does he like the wine? Has he had it before? Does he know I got 4 for 100 NIS? Did he just frown? Oh God. Where’s the bathroom.
These are all normal thoughts. That is because in the 1.5 seconds that the host sees and accepts the wine, his brain is indeed judging, calculating, and ascertaining both the value and appropriateness of the wine brought to him.
A Friday night Shabat dinner guest could spend an ENTIRE MEAL thinking about and wondering how his or her wine bottle is received by the host. As someone who has spent a fair amount of time both mulling wine bottles in supermarkets as well as gallivanting through many Friday night “social” situations, I feel compelled…no, I feel obligated to present my 2014 Israel Wine Bottle & Etiquette Guide:
Type: Red and Gold?Price: 16-19 NIS
As tasty as Topaz wine may be, it should never, ever be brought to a meal. In fact, it shouldn’t ever be taken to a party- unless you can sneak it in, but then what’s the point? You won’t get credit from the host! The only usage for Topaz wine is if for making mulled wine, and make sure to recycle the bottle immediately after use.
Segel wine is a staple for two events: big Thursday night parties and Purim. Because it costs between 17-22 NIS, it is generally the most popular alcoholic beverage brought to a party on a Thursday night, or any night for that matter. The existence and popularity of Segel wine is proof that Jews are the premier economic minds of the world.
Type: Frown-Inducing Red
Price: 18-22 NIS
Bringing Vino to a Shabat meal is the equivalent of Barak Obama bringing a Koran as a Chanuka gift to Bibi. As much as he might want to, as a joke, he never would, because it’s too disrespectful, way past the tongue in cheek realm of humor. As with Vino, it is a bare bones red wine which serves one purpose: Cheap and not vile. I’ve been to many a party where 5 bottles of Vino sat sheepishly next to an empty bottle of Golan. Vino is a popular and reluctant wine choice for many Thursday night parties, but a Shabat meal? That comes with the very real risk of social ostracization.
Type: Generic Dry Red
Price: 20-30 NIS
Selected is the equivalent of Segel Wine but with an Ivy League degree. Selected can be purchased on sale at most makolets, making it an easy and popular wine to bring to parties. As for the taste, it’s passable, but that’s about it. The real question with Selected, however, is whether it can be brought to a Shabat meal. The answer is decisively no. Bringing Selected to a Shabat meal is basically telling the host “I don’t really feel like I have to impress you, but I have to bring a bottle, so take this one.” I will make an exception: if a meal has over 18 people, then you can sneak it in- only because there will likely be at least 3 to 4 other bottles on the table, and the host is therefore less likely to be offended. (As long as you don’t overtly point out ownership of the bottle).
Type: Definitely Red
Price: 26-35 NIS or 4/100
The spelling of this wine was tricky, to say the least. I’ve always felt that the unwritten rule for bringing a bottle of wine to a meal is that it should cost at least 35 NIS and not more than 60 NIS. Depending on one’s closeness to the host, the amount of people at the meal, and whether you have a crush on anyone at the meal, will probably lead you toward spending somewhere in that range. Guetto Neggro tastes fine, and because it creeps into 35 NIS territory, makes it a passable candidate for a meal, right? At one point, I subscribed to that theory, since it *JUST* falls into the right price range. It wasn’t until I brought it to a meal that my sister was attending, in which she exclaimed to me in a hushed tone upon seeing the wine: “You brought the cat wine?? Are you serious??” Now, when she said it like that, the words “cat wine” reverberated in my head. I shuddered. Sure, the wine tastes fine, but there is a freakin’ cat on it. NOT suitable for a meal.
Type: Kinda Bitter Red
Price: 25- 32 NIS
Don Julio wine hit Israeli supermarket shoppers by storm. Whoever produces this wine cracked the case of supermarket marketing with a classic consumer marketing myth busting strategy: fancy name + fancy label + cheap price = irresistible purchase to Israelis and Anglos alike. When guests started bringing Don Julio to Shabat meals, people hushed. “Wow, who brought the Don Julio??”. Oh, that was me, me, and me. The problem with Don Julio, however, was two things: It tasted worse than Selected, a lower tier wine. But more importantly, as with wine, was that everyone started to learn that it was cheap! The more popular it became, the longer it was on the shelf, and soon, the jig was up! Now, if you bring Don Julio to a meal, everyone will know that you paid 25 NIS for it, which is slightly under market rate for bringing a bottle to a meal.
Type: Smooth Red
Price: 26-39 NIS
Har wine had been the matter of debate among certain echelons of local communities. Is it an acceptable bottle for a Shabat meal? The answer is yes, but as with any gift, the price tag nags at most people. Har wine is probably the most affordable tasty wine that one can get. Sure, it isn’t on the level of Hermon or Golan, but it is above average, and the fact that the price is somewhat low gives off the impression that the dinner guest didn’t really care.
Type: Red, again
Cost: 29-37 NIS
I’m a fan of this wine for two reasons. It tastes good, and no host can frown if you bring it to a meal. This wine– in fact, any Golan wine is an acceptable gift to any host. Although, the host will know that you didn’t exactly exert too much effort or caring. It’s kind of like getting an MBA from Sy Syms- no employer will be impressed, but no will object to it either. Okay, some might object, but at least not outwardly.
Type: White or Red
Price: 40-50 NIS
Bringing Hermon Wine to a meal is the equivalent of when Barack Obama chose Joe Biden to be his running mate back in ’08. Everyone wanted him to take Hillary, and that would have been the more colorful, dramatic, and sexier choice, but Obama played it (somewhat) safe and took a veteran Senator who few would truly disapprove of. Hermon wine is an acceptable and even appreciative gift for a meal, the problem however, is that it is a bit vanilla. Yes, it costs a bit more and even tastes nice, but something about the overall presentation of it screams — sorry — whispers: “meh”.
Type: Red and Silver?
Price: 42-52 NIS
If someone brings a bottle of Teperberg to your meal, you should shush the room, crack it open, and immediately offer up a toast to this great person. Why? Because it looks nice and costs more. Sure, the taste is nice too, but Teperberg is all about presentation. It’s the trophy wife of wines.
Dalton Canaan Wine
Type: Delicious Red
Cost: 43-62 NIS
Dalton is a wine that you bring when you want to impress a girl at a meal. Everyone knows that it costs a lot, but everyone also knows that it is high quality and has a very smooth texture. I can’t say that this wine actually did successfully impress a girl that I may have been trying to impress, in fact, it totally didn’t, but that was for another reason, and perhaps now is a good time to offer perhaps THE most important etiquette tip regarding bringing a bottle of wine to a Shabat meal:
When attending a big meal, let’s say with more than 12 or 13 people, there will likely be a few bottles of wine brought, and of course, many people. The obvious potential issue for the guy who brings the nicest bottle is not getting credit for it. This can happen in any number of ways: you may opt to place your bottle on the table before the host sees it, or the host is tied up in the kitchen and it would be awkward to walk in there and hand her the wine while she’s hurriedly chopping onions, or walking in with a group and not having that personal moment with the host that we all desire upon entering a home, in order to properly hand off the bottle. If bringing a nice bottle such as Dalton, MAKE SURE that the host knows you brought it. TRUST me, there is nothing worse than sitting and stewing through a meal with your bottle of Dalton on the OTHER side of the table, while you have to stare at a bottle of Selected and maybe even the cat wine, and no one knows that you brought the Dalton, and some loud guy on the other end is just guzzling it down like a bottle of 7-Up. Now I know what you may be thinking: Well, why don’t you just say that you brought the wine, maybe make some comment along the lines of “…so when I was buying that Dalton today, the lines were soo long!!!”. Sorry, but the risk of appearing petty is just too great in this situation, (if it wasn’t already obvious enough).
Type: Pretty, Prettyyy Red
Price: 55-80 NIS
I am very torn about Recanati wine. Sure, the obvious instinct is to say, “wow, that costs 65 shekel, it must be great”, and for the most part, that’s true. However, to the naked and untrained eye, Recanati looks like a cheap bottle with a lot of makeup that goes out to the Ha-Oman 17 dance club in Talpiyot with Topaz and Segel wine on Thursday nights. Something about the label looks cheap, and for those who don’t realize that it costs a bit, may think that you are gypping them.
Price: 26-38 NIS
Young Selected is probably the most intriguing wine to bring to a meal. On the surface, it is considered a ‘kids’ wine, because it is sweet and bubbly, and tastes like soda. And yet, I would venture to guess that Young Selected has the HIGHEST completion rate of any wine bottle brought to a meal. I say this with confidence because I’ve never been to a meal where a bottle of Young Selected hasn’t been finished.
And therein lies the issue- a fan favorite but not wholly acceptable in the vein of bringing a nice bottle of wine to a meal. It is the equivalent of a guy telling his buddies that he just went out with a girl 8-10 years younger than him, and in response, he gets high fives and smirks, but in reality, he has to deal with a girl who is younger and likely more immature. If I had to give an official ruling, which I do, because this entire article is based on making these rulings, I’d say that Young Selected is okay IF you get permission from the host. Of course, that would automatically filter out any host whom you are not friends with, meaning that Young Selected is essentially only acceptable if you are tight with the host, and know a large portion of guests at the meal.
The 2014 Israeli Wine Bottle & Etiquette Guide is officially over. I hope that you enjoyed, and learned a few things that can be put into practice in your future wine bottle excursions. Cheers.
Disclaimer: To any wine companies that I may have offended, I’m sure you realize that my palette is not one to be taken seriously, and therefore you should not and cannot be offended.