There is a misconception about Kosher wine, that
it simply doesn’t ‘hold-up’, taste wise. However, one
only has to taste some of Golan Heights Winery’s wines
(just as an example), to know that is simply not true.
Kosher wine used to mean a sweet dark-red liquid – since
the mid 1980’s all that has changed.
With the emergence in recent years of so many
boutique wineries in Israel, not all of the wine being
produced locally is kosher. Many of the boutique
wineries simply are unwilling or unable, (due to their
growing and production methods) to produce kosher wines.
For a wine to be kosher, strict regulations must be
followed. It really all begins in the fields. Grapes
from new vines may not be used for making wine, until
after the fourth year. Every seventh year the fields
must be left fallow and there is a prohibition on
growing other fruits and vegetables between the vines.
All the equipment, tools and winemaking storage
facilities must be kosher. During the harvest, only
Sabbath observant male Jews are allowed to work on the
production of the wines. Since most of the experienced
winemakers in Israel are not observant, this means that
they can’t touch the wine or the equipment, during the
During the production of kosher wine, no animal
products may be used. Gelatin or egg whites are
sometimes used by non-kosher wine makers, to clarify the
wine, while kosher wine makers use a clay material,
called bentonite, which pulls suspended particles to the
bottom of the barrel.
For wine to be kosher one percent of the wine must be
discarded, a symbolic remnant of the 10% tithe, paid to
the Temple in Jerusalem in days gone by. Additionally,
barrels must be cleaned three times.
There are really two levels of kosher wine. The first
includes the restrictions outlined above, while the
second, known as “mevushal” utilizes an additional
process. This is important since Kashrut law stipulates
that in order for a wine to retain its ‘kosherness’ once
opened and poured by a non-Jew, (such as a waiter, for
instance) the wine must be "mevushal."
Bringing the liquid to a boiling point makes this
type of wine, causing air bubbles to be brought to the
surface and the loss of some wine, due to evaporation. A
wine that is produced in this manner retains its
religious purity, regardless of who opens or pours it. A
study at the University of California at Davis, has
proven that it is not possible to consistently taste the
difference between non- mevushal and mevushal wine.
To ensure wine’s purity, the codification of
koshering wine began in the days of Maimonides. Today, a
quick glance at the bottle’s label will clearly indicate
whether the wine is kosher or not. Some truly wonderful
kosher wine is being produced in Israel.