This year the first night of Hannukah falls on the same date as Christmas Eve, so there will be festivities all around and in many homes wines will be enjoyed. Wine is an essential part of any Jewish holiday or celebration since wine is associated with joy. Observant Jews will drink only kosher wine, some for ritual use only and others at any time. So, what exactly is kosher wine?

Many people think of overly sweet concord wines like Manishewitz or Kedem and for many Othodox Jews who are not year round wine drinkers, this is true, but the term really has nothing to do with these wines. Nor does it have anything to do with a rabbi blessing the wine. The meaning of kosher wine goes back millennia.

In Biblical times, those who worshipped idols would pour out wine as a libation to their gods. Thus, Jewish law forbade the drinking of those wines. Wine, therefore, had to be a product that was produced only by Sabbath observing Jews from the time the grapes were pressed until it was bottled. All other wines were suspect as being wines used for pagan ritual use and thus forbidden.

It is even more complicated when a kosher wine is poured by a non Jew. Even though there aren't many pagan libations being poured these days, the age old custom still holds for observant Jews. So, in this case, the wine is flash pasteurized at a high temperature for a few seconds. The wine is then referred to as "mevushal", or "cooked" and can be poured by anyone. So there you have it. 

Palate Wines & Spirits is happy to announce that we are now carrying 2 kosher wines from Spain. Ta'anug (pleasure in Hebrew) ($16) is a full bodied blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, ideal for brisket, lamb, or turkey dark meat. We also have a bubbly kosher Spanish Cava ($18) that is exceptional and would go well with latkes, either potato or the Sephardic version made from leaf greens (spinach, kale, chard) and leek. So, come in and see us as you light your candles and enjoy good food amid the warmth of family and friends. Merry Christmas and Hannukah Sameach to all our supporters. 

Yaakov Sullivan