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Wine Review: Expand your palate for Passover

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There is an old joke among Jewish people concerning how and why they celebrate certain ancient Old Testament holidays: They attacked us, we beat them, let’s eat.

That really sums up many Jewish holidays and their way of celebrating them, with a large feast. April 15 will bring on one of the most joyous of all Jewish holidays, Passover, a holiday celebrating the Jewish exodus from Egypt.

One of the rituals that must be observed at the Passover service and dinner is called a Seder, when adults drink four cups of wine during the meal. For all too many years, the beverage that most often was used was a sweet red concord grape wine made from the same grape as your morning jelly. The reason for that choice was the wine was one of the very few available that was made to conform to all of the requirements of strict kosher rules.

Since kosher wines are now being made in all varieties and colors, there is no reason why the wine of choice could not be white or rose. With that in mind, I would like to introduce you to some traditional red wines but also whites that conform to all kosher requirements. Be sure to check on the label that the wines you may purchase state “kosher for Passover.”

Gilgal Cabernet-Merlot 2019 ($20)
A decent cabernet-merlot blend at this price is difficult to find. From its makeup of cabernet sauvignon and merlot, this wine could have been a Bordeaux knockoff, but it most definitely is not. There is more fruit aroma and flavor and considerably less of the austerity that is common among Bordeaux wines. There is oak to be found in this wine, but it’s like how a great chef uses spices: noticeable but not overpowering. This wine is a fine example of the variety and of Israeli wines.

Gilgal Mount Hermon Red 2020 ($15)
Another wine in the classic Bordeaux tradition, this is a blend that would please any aficionado with cabernet sauvignon, merlot, cabernet franc, petit verdot and malbec. The flavors and aromas are right there, up front, and presented as though they are wrapped in velvet. This wine displays a bright ruby color, with intense dark cherry, vanilla and cinnamon aromas. Plum, boysenberry, cranberry and cherry flavors blend with an earthy, mineral element. To say the least, this is an interesting and delightful wine.

Covenant 2020 Chardonnay ($20)
A red wine is customary for a Passover dinner, but that rule is set in ice and not stone. Since the first course is usually seafood, there is no reason that the wine couldn’t be white. What better white wine than the Covenant 2020 Chardonnay, which also is kosher for Passover? Made from grapes grown in Lodi, California, the aroma is about as chardonnay as one can get with lemon, lime, pear, green apple, melon, pineapple and a whisper of oak. All of these carry over to an exceptional finish.

Covenant Sauvignon Blanc 2021 ($20)
I can assure you that this is a sauvignon blanc wine that will not be easy to forget. Both the aroma and the flavor display guava, kiwi, melon and the citrus characteristics of the grape, while maintaining a creaminess not often found in this variety; This bit of creaminess raises this wine from the ordinary to the position of an impeccable dinner wine. While sauvignon blanc wines are usually reserved for seafood. This wine can perfectly fit the bill wherever a white wine is called for and can easily replace the usual Passover red wine.

Wine columnist Bennet Bodenstein can be reached at


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