Lindsay du Vin

Wine tales from an evolving palate

When Your App does the Tasting

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It’s Friday night. I’m doing a tasting with multiple vendors and this guy comes over and quite abruptly picks up the most expensive wine on my table and scans it into his phone. It was a bottle of ’07 Noster Crianza from Priorat, Spain. He looks unimpressed at his screen and comments, “the ‘08 vintage is better.” I wasn’t happy with this guy and was ready to tell him to come back next year.

However, I remained polite and suggested he at least taste the wine. I poured some in his glass and before I could get a word in about what makes this wine truly exceptional, he literally shoots back my pour in one gulp. I was horrified.

“Did you like it?” I asked.

“No, not particularly. This isn’t very remarkable.”

Says who, your app?

So, I tested the app…

I love Noster and felt my wine was being unfairly treated. I managed to catch the name of this app—Vivino—and downloaded a version the next day onto my phone. I scanned my leftover bottle of the ’07 Crianza and saw it had an average rating of 3.1 (out of 5). Then I noticed it had just three people rank it (including the fellow from last night’s tasting). So, I created a profile and immediately gave my beloved Noster 4 stars, which it well deserved given its complexity and the fact it’s a Priorat selling for under $20. Now, it has four ratings and its average is a 3.6 :)

As you can see, the app’s rating system has its shortfalls. The more well-known, widely-distributed wines arguably have a fairer ranking because more people have rated them (and less forget, the ranking system is simply an average of all ratings, which means it’s an average of people’s opinions).

However, after fooling around a bit more with the app, I was hooked: I scanned all my leftover bottles from the tasting, plus a few others I had lying around. Once you scan the label (essentially take its picture) within seconds you’re presented with basic information (region, grape varieties, producer, avg. price), ranking stats, the number of times it’s been scanned and tasting notes from others who’ve scanned it. Furthermore, you get to connect with fellow scanners who’ve created a Vivino profile.

Final thoughts: good app, but not to be used in replace of one’s own tongue during tastings.

Written by L. duVin

November 17, 2013 at 11:57

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Ros(é)y Expectations

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Recently, I cracked open a bottle of “value” Sauvignon Blanc from Chile. Frankly, for under $10, it’s a good wine. There’s a little asparagus, some herbs, a touch of earthiness, suggestive citrus— but after my initial taste, I was disappointed.

“Awww… I should’ve spent the extra money on [x brand] from New Zealand.” My despair continued: “The finish is too short… I want more vibrant acidity and some prominent star fruit flavors.” (In one of those moods I suppose…).

However, my thoughts suddenly drifted to the night before, where I shared a bottle of Sangiovese “rosato” (aka. rosé) from Marche, Italy. This is also a wine that would retail for approximately $10. I’d say its redeeming quality was the fact it was organic—but never mind that, it was as satisfying as can be. Why? Because it drank like juice!  It was fruity, fun and went down easy—not to mention, it was as pink as pink comes = great extraction!

Now, imho this Italian rosé is a wine I’d gladly share with friends again and again. However, was it a complex wine? Absolutely not! As for that “value” Chilean Sauvignon Blanc—I’d be embarrassed to present this bottle to any wine enthusiast; yet, its degree of complexity would easily rival the aforementioned rosato.

This leads me to believe that we simply don’t place the highest of expectations on our rosé wines (aka. “the pink stuff”). Just today I read that exports of Provence rose alone to the U.S. jumped 62% in the past year. I honestly don’t get it because, aside from those who’ve had the fortune of actually vacationing in the Provence region of France and want a liquid souvenir to continuously remind them of that lovely experience, why shell out $15 – $20 for a certified Provence rosé when you can have a rosé wine for a lot less?

Again, we’re talking “pink wine”. Many think it’s sweet, though a few understand it can also be dry. At the end of the day, I ‘drink pink’ (dry or sweet) because I’m looking for something that is refreshingly different, fruity and easy-drinking… If you were to tell me that this particular white/red wine “drinks like juice”, I’d stay away… but to have a rosé wine that is guzzle-friendly and looks pretty to boot, I’d say, “hell, yeah—home run!!”

Written by L. duVin

March 22, 2012 at 20:44

Posted in Marche, Provence, Rosé

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Meet Virginia

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Lunch at Fabbioli Cellars with Winemaker Doug Fabbioli and reowned Bloggers Allan Liska and Christian Schiller

It’s been busy times of late. I’m in the process of changing jobs (moving up the 3-tier ladder from retail to the wholesale level) and just this past weekend had a whirlwind trip to the D.C. area courtesy of the German Wine Society to present my MBA thesis together with the wines of Weingut G.A. Schneider (the winery I had interned with a year ago in Nierstein, Germany).

However, Saturday lent itself to a free day and thanks to the wonderful arrangements of renowned wine bloggers Allan Liska of CellarBlog (who knows everything and everyone when it comes to Virginia wine; not to mention is quite connected in Bordeaux where we first met!) and Christian Schiller (German Wine Society board member and publisher of SchillerWein, aka. the go-to blog for the latest on the German wine scene) we wound up spending what I would consider a VIP introduction to Virginia wine.

The basics: Virginia today features 192 wineries which ranks it #5 among all fifty U.S. states (after California, Washington, New York and Oregon) in terms of number of wineries. It produces wines made entirely from vitis vinfera grapes (e.g. Cabernet Franc, Viognier, Petit Verdot), as well as wines made from hybrid grapes and other fruits. Its most famous viticulturist undoubtedly remains Thomas Jefferson, who did a lot of experimentation around the turn of the 18th century with vitis vinifera vine cuttings that he would bring back from Europe while serving as U.S. ambassador to France and later as U.S. President.

In the process of crushing some Petit Verdot at Fabbioli Cellars

Ribs, Brownies and a Glass of Chambourcin—Lunch at Fabbioli Cellars

That could be one description of heaven. Our day began at Fabbioli Cellars where Allan treated us with the best Loudon County, Virginia has to offer in terms of take-out culinary. As we pulled up we eyed the harvest teaming in the middle of crushing some Petit Verdot. Allan followed with the food to which we were promptly seated inside the tasting room and joined by winemaker and founder, Doug Fabbioli.

Doug had plenty to say about the Virginia wine scene. Returning from California after a ten year stint at Buena Vista Winery in Sonoma, he started Fabbioli Cellars in 2001 and today has an impressive business featuring some engaging wines. His focus is to continue building the image of Virginia wines (citing the motto, “a rising tide lifts all boats”) by acting as a consultant to new growers and winemakers in the area.

Like much of the East Coast, the Virginia wine industry is relatively young (excluding those experimental vineyards planted by Thomas Jefferson back in the day), dating back to the mid-seventies. Doug feels attention is still needed on finding the right grapes to match with the region’s humid and often wet climate. I asked him a bit about the local soil structures and he mentioned that Loudon County features mostly loam together with some limestone; but that the growers aren’t quite ready to devote full attention to extracting the soil properties in the wine because work is still needed on growing the best fruit in the given climate.

8 Chains North and Breaux Vineyards

Next stop on the tour was to 8 chains north, a relatively new vineyard that just opened its doors a year ago. Our main reason for stopping here was because the tasting room also featured the wines of Otium Cellars, a small boutique winery with a German-born proprietor who makes a point of growing traditional German grape varieties like Dornfelder and Blaufränkisch (though technically its Lemberger—apparently the Austrian name is more marketable). Again, Allan was escorting two renowned German wine enthusiasts, so he knew how to impress his audience!

Delighted with my expert introduction to Breaux wines from tasting room consultant, Sam Cochran (holding a bottle of Nebbiolo Ice)

Our tour finished at Breaux Vineyards, where we had the pleasure of meeting with Jennifer Breaux Blosser, who manages the property that was founded by her father in 1980. It was definitely a party-like atmosphere when we arrived, where a good 100+ people were gathered at bistro tables and chairs throughout the property, surrounded by cheese, crackers and bottles of Breaux wine. Aside from the usual excitement, an additional buzz was stirring since just the day before Jancis Robinson, M.W. had released an article on her impressions of the Virginia wine scene, in which she announced Breaux Viognier as being among her favorites.

Indeed, after speaking with Jennifer we learned that Breaux has for the 4th year in a row been named Virgina’s Favorite Winery (frankly, the shear crowds it drew that day make this fact easy to accept). Furthermore, it is one of the few VA wineries to sell its wine outside the U.S., with a fairly healthy export market in the U.K. In fact, this year Breaux Vineyards was even awarded three medals at the Decanter World Wine Awards.

Virginia Wine—first impressions

Having visited just three wineries, I can’t say these wines are telling of the entire Virginia wine scene. However, upon revisiting the tasting sheets at each place, I did notice somewhat of a pattern in terms of common grape varieties, wine styles and token blends:

  • Cabernet Franc is king: Though it appears Viognier is on its way to becoming Virgina’s “signature grape”, I noticed a lot more Cab Franc on the menu. In the case of Fabbioli Cellars, one could sip it as a varietal wine with or without oak. Though the alcohol levels are relatively low (12% on the unoaked version) this is not a cool climate expression of the grape. I noticed very little vegetal notes (e.g. bell pepper, mushrooms, etc.), but instead a lot of red fruit, some black pepper spice and a fairly substantial amount of weight on the palate.
  • Where East meets West: My experience to-date with East Coast wineries (New England and Long Island) is they tend to look towards Europe for stylistic expression in their wines. You’d often hear someone reference a “Bordeaux blend” or “Bungundian-style” Chardonnay. That was not generally the case in Virginia. Though they do grow many of the European grape varieties (especially those from the Bordeaux region), the styles and influences tend to vary (and I even came across an official “Meritage” wine at Breaux). Overall, I find the wines to be fairly fruit-driven, but not so high in alcohol as one would expect from a warmer climate, and with balanced acidity. This was especially true in the case of Fabbioli Cellars, which I believe has to do with the ten years Doug spent in training at Buena Vista Winery in Sonoma. Otherwise, I noticed a more European influence on the wines at Breaux Vineyards, where the reds emulated that token rustic character you generally find across Italy and much of France.
  • Hybrid wines with character: Coming from New England, I am quite familiar with hybrid wines and believe they can be equally interesting and enjoyable as those made strictly from vitis vinifera grapes. Two wines in particular stood out for me: the 100% Chambourcin at Fabbioli (light, fruity red wine that really does pair well with BBQ!) and what I guess could be seen at the state’s “token white blend” of Traminette and Vidal Blanc. This is a refreshing white wine produced at both Fabbioli and 8 chains north. It’s dry, yet very aromatic and reminiscent of a more subdue Gewürztraminer (which makes sense since Gewürztraminer is a parent grape of Traminette).
  • Fun with fruit: I love the creativity found at Fabbioli cellars, where they featured an Aperitif Pear Wine (port is more like it since the wine is fortified with distilled pear brandy, so it’s pretty high-octane stuff), as well as everyone’s favorite Raspberry Merlot. This wine is a blend of 70% Merlot and 30% fermented raspberry juice made from berries grown on the property. It is further rounded out with some oak barrel aging. What I found most intriguing was just how influential the raspberry wine was vs. the Merlot. Though you could detect Merlot’s soft texture, what you smelled and tasted was an abundance of raspberries.
  • Wines of distinction: What follows are the wines that really stood out for me in terms of quality and/or just plain, simple enjoyment (prices are quoted from the winery).
  1. Fabbioli Cellars 2010 Something White – refreshing dry, white blend of Traminette/Vidal blanc. Crisp, aromatic—think Gewürztraminer on sedatives. ($16.00)
  2. Fabbioli Cellars 2009 Chambourcin – dry, light red wine with an abundance of bright strawberry and cherry flavor; none of the foxyness you may expect from a hybrid red. ($16.00)
  3. Breaux Vineyards 2010 Viognier – a surprisingly light style wine, yet full of flavor; peaches & cream in a glass. ($24.00)
  4. Breaux Vineyards 2009 Nebbiolo – Wow, reminiscent of a great Langhe Nebbiolo. All the dark fruit flavor, leather and rustic notes you’d expect from the mother county. Good structure, acidity and fairly light on the palate. ($38.00)
  5. Breaux Vineyards 2006 Petit Verdot – I think this is for wine club members only (thank you Allan for the hook-up). This is a big wine full of black fruit flavor with plenty of structure, yet offers a smooth, velvety texture that’s not too tannic. (Price??)

Written by L. duVin

September 21, 2011 at 10:22

Vinexpo 2011: Wine, Business… and a Case of Shin Splints

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The notorious floating bridge connecting both sides of Vinexpo

I returned recently from a whirlwind week in Bordeaux, where I attended both my MBA graduation and Vinexpo. It was all very surreal, especially the chance to reconnect with good friends, colleagues and professors, as well as witness Vinexpo first-hand. In fact, I have so many scattered thoughts on this particular experience that I’m just going to list my many impressions in an attempt to convey what it’s like to visit one of the world’s most renowned wine and spirits tradeshows.

Business, not pleasure

People come to this show with a mission. Exhibitors consisted mostly of either suppliers (producers, wine merchants, etc.) or promotional boards (e.g. “Wines of XYZ country”). On the exhibitor side, you’re there to meet with existing customers (usually importers, key accounts, etc.) as well as hopefully attract new ones.

Attendees were largely importers seeking out new products and suppliers for their markets. This isn’t a show for wine enthusiasts looking to taste a bunch of wines. In many circumstances, you weren’t encouraged (or even allowed) to visit a booth without an appointment.

Then again, pleasure

That being said, I attended the show largely as a wine enthusiast seeking to taste a bunch of wines (shame on me). I came under the badge of the retailer I work for; though honestly, I truly hope to attend in the future on behalf of an importer because it really is amazing the variety of product you’re exposed to. Exhibitors were constantly asking me for my advice on the U.S. market and if I had any contacts who could take on their product.

Maybe myself in a few years…

Exhibition plan (note the floating bridge = red line)

International flavor

Based on pure observation, the largest representation of exhibitors hailed from France (bien sur!) followed closely by Italy. Most of these exhibitors consisted of well-established producers whose names you’d instantly recognize in any wine store. However, it was also very common to see smaller producers share a stand or organize themselves by a particular region. For instance, if you stopped by the California Wine Institute stand, you could meet with representatives from J. Lohr, Michael David Winery, Napa Valley Vintners, etc. The same could be said for producers from regions such as Corsica, Cahors, Sicily, Romania, Canada…

As for attendees, I know there are stats out there, but most I bumped into hailed from the U.K., Canada and the U.S., as well as Northern Europe, e.g. Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium and Scandinavia. There were also a lot of visitors from Asia, namely China, India and Singapore.

Your visitor badge listed the country you came from (au français) and that was always the first thing people would look at when meeting you.

Must wear comfy shoes

I think this goes without say. You cover a lot of ground during Vinexpo, given the show is spread out among three halls that I estimate measure a good mile from one side to the other. Furthermore, the show also featured a tasting center located across the lake from the exhibition halls, which was best accessible by “the floating bridge” (which I’ll get to in a moment).

However, in general, when you visit Bordeaux comfortable footwear is essential because no visit is complete without the notorious public transit strike. During this particular visit, there was a partial strike during the show and a full-blown strike the day before. I kid you not: I had shin splints by the time I left.

Don’t underestimate the floating bridge

I was not a fan of the so-called “floating bridge” that connected the exhibition halls with the show’s main entrance. Yes, it’s pretty, and the concept of crossing a lake along a red carpet is kind of cool. However, the floating bridge literally shakes during the entire 25 minutes it takes to traverse it. It’s bad enough trying to cross it first thing in the morning, but after a full day of tasting and 90 degree heat (coupled with a bad case of shin splints) it was nearly impossible to walk over on the way back.

Best experience

Without question, the best part of the show was the time I spent at the Wines of Germany stand, run by the German Wine Institute, aka. DWI (if you know me even just a little, you know I am a huge fan of German wine).

With the German Wine Queen at the Wines of Germany stand

The moment I stepped onto the booth, I instantly recognized the current German Wine Queen, Mandy Grossgarten, from the country’s Ahr region. I was living in Nierstein during the time of the annual Wine Queen elections and had the opportunity to watch her compete. I felt like I knew her personally and literally approached her as if I did. However, she didn’t seem at all surprised and we ending up chatting for a good half hour about German wine (what else?), as well as my thesis paper that was devoted to the subject and also her background (interestingly enough, she studied Chemistry, which has a strong correlation with winemaking. However, she isn’t from a wine producing family, like I thought). Needless to say, she is very knowledgeable on the subject of German wine, but best of all, is extremely friendly and great to talk with.

So, after my chat with the German Wine Queen, I attended a session on Generation Riesling that included a tasting on some of the lesser known German wines like Lemberger, Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir), Sauvignon Blanc, and of course a handful of Rieslings from various regions. When asked if anyone had ever tasted a German Sauvignon Blanc before, I admittedly was proud to have been the only one to raise my hand (little did they know I had lived in Rheinhessen just a few months prior…).

However, the fun didn’t stop there. There were still twenty wines to taste and I wasn’t leaving until I had tried every one of them. The group representing the DWI at the show was definitely a fun bunch and I had the tremendous pleasure of having my tasting guided by the DWI’s Director of Marketing, Steffen Schindler. As one would hope, he was extremely passionate about the wines being presented. Furthermore, he also lives in the Rheinhessen region so we had quite a like to talk about. The wines sampled ranged from sparkling to red, as well as both dry and sweet whites. The highlight though was the chance to taste the sole Eiswein at the booth, which I’ll get to in a moment.

Wines to remember

Best of Show: Late Harvest Tannat

I can’t recall how many wines I tried, but there were many. However, below are the wines that made a lasting impression—all sweet, which is quite surprising given I rarely ever consume this style of wine:

Catamayor Tardío ’07 Liqueur De Tannat, Bodegas Castillo Viejo (San Jose, Uruguay): This was hands-down the coolest wine I tasted at Vinexpo. It is a sweet “late harvest” wine made from 100% Tannat. OMG—think Mexican hot chocolate with a kick: velvety texture, luscious cacao flavor and a touch of cayenne pepper.

2008 Cabernet France Icewine, Pelee Island Winery (Pelee Island, Ontario, Canada): Okay, I’ll admit the wine is very interesting, but what grabbed me most was the winery itself. Pelee Island Winery is literally located on an island in the middle of Lake Erie. It is the only winery within the Pelee Island appellation and also represents Canada’s southern most winery. As for the wine, it too was quite enjoyable: light on the palate with both herbaceous and red fruit flavors, most notably that of strawberry rhubarb.

Bechtheimer Hasensprung ’09 Riesling Eiswein, Johann Geil (Rheinhessen, Germany): I usually don’t gravitate towards the noble sweet German wines, but this one was sublime. Completely in harmony, it achieved the perfect balance between sweetness and acidity and frankly, did not taste that sweet at all. It was very light on the palate and coated your mouth ever so softly. There were flavors of honey, peaches and Cheerios (lightly roasted oats) and a finish that would not stop lingering—as Steffen put it best, “it just doesn’t finish!”

Written by L. duVin

June 28, 2011 at 23:21

Fun Fact #8: Rhode Island is the only U.S. state to not ratify the 18th Amendment (Prohibition)

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Thomas Tew Rum, named after the Newport, Rhode Island pirate

The 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution banned the manufacture, sale, and transportation of alcoholic beverages within the U.S. and its territories, including the import/export thereof (though contrary to popular belief, it did not prohibit the purchase or consumption of alcohol).

It was proposed by Congress on December 18, 1917 and ratified on January 16, 1919. Both Rhode Island and Connecticut would reject this amendment (though Connecticut did eventually ratify it on May 16, 1919 after it had already been added to the Constitution).

Rhode Island however never ratified the 18th Amendment. With its 400 miles of open coastline, rum running was a thriving industry for its residents. Furthermore, Rhode Island’s large Catholic population composed mostly of Irish and Italian immigrants viewed the 18th Amendment as a WASP (white Anglo-Saxon Protestant) initiative to impose their values on them.

Sources: The Society of Wine Educators;; SUNY Potsdam

Written by L. duVin

May 21, 2011 at 10:56

Ortswein: Establishing a Sense of Place in Rheinhessen

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Terroir to the max: red-lying soils from Nierstein's distinguished Roter Hang

This morning I came across a very interesting article on Rheinhessen wine with the following opening sentence:

Ein neuer Begriff beginnt sich in Deutschlands Weinwelt langsam zu etablieren.  [A new term is slowly beginning to establish itself on the German wine scene].

At first blush, I said to myself, “the last thing the German wine scene needs is yet another new term.” However, from the months I spent in Nierstein last fall, I instantly recognized the phrase in question: “Ortswein”—a word that directly translates to “place wine” or better put, a wine with a sense of place.

Fortunately for the non-German speaking population, it is also a term that need not be memorized to understand what’s inside the bottle. Instead, the focus is on establishing wine characteristics and nuances from individual villages. In other words, what is a Riesling from Nierstein expected to taste like vs. a Riesling from neighboring Oppenheim? How about a Pinot Blanc from Nackenheim or a Silvaner from Worms? It is very much a terroir-driven initiative, which should do much justice for the Rheinhessen region given its diverse range of soil types and microclimates.

Ortswein is actually the 2nd level within a 3-tier classification created by the VDP (Verband der Prädikatsweingüter = the marketing association representing the “Grand Cru” wines of Germany). Unlike the notorious 1971 classification, where top level German wines (now referred to as Qualitätswein mit Prädikat  or QmP wines) were categorized based on must weights = the amount of sugar in the grape juice pre-fermentation, the VDP classification focuses on where the wine is from. (To learn more about this classification system you may visit the VDP website).

Germany’s Rheinhessen region is now taking the lead in promoting the term Ortswein to help raise its regional profile. Rheinhessen is the most experimental wine region in Germany, where new grape varieties seem to be popping up almost daily resulting in some pretty esoteric stuff (see my article on Rheinhessen’s annual Wine Forum to learn more on that subject). However, the Ortswein term is just to be applied to the standard grape varieties as determined by the VDP for each region. In the case of Rheinhessen, these varieties include Riesling (naturally!), but also the main Pinot varieties (Pinot Noir, -Blanc, and –Gris), as well as Silvaner.

Additionally, Ortswein should be dry to relatively dry and feature an attractive price-quality ratio. If you happen to read a little German (or master the Google Translate function) you can access the full article here.

Written by L. duVin

May 2, 2011 at 10:07

Kosher for Passover

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One of the hottest selling categories at the store right now is Kosher wine. Passover begins this evening and many of our customers are stocking up. I’ve received so many requests lately for kosher wine that I’ve become quite intrigued by the subject and decided to do some personal research¹, as well as a little sampling.

Kosher wine has less to do with the product’s ingredients since alcohol, sugars, acidity, phenols—and of course, grapes—are naturally regarded as kosher items. Instead, it has more to do with the actual winemaking process. Kosher wine can be produced worldwide in any style using any kind of grape. However, to be considered kosher, the wine must be handled solely by Orthodox (or “Sabbath observing”) Jews throughout the entire winemaking process—from grape crush to bottling (though it is permitted for a Non-Orthodox Jewish winemaker to instruct observant Jews in the winery).

In addition, all wine fining agents must be kosher. Forbidden agents include gelatin (an animal derivative), casein (a dairy derivative) and isinglass (from non-kosher fish).

Kosher for Passover

Not all kosher wines can be regarded as “kosher for Passover”. During the entire week of Passover, Jews are prohibited from eating leavened bread, as well as foods made with wheat, barley, rye, spelt or oats that have not otherwise been specially prepared (known as the forbidden grains and collectively referred to as chametz). You may wonder what wine has to do with this, but the key ingredient which makes food rise (or leaven) is yeast—and of course, yeast plays a very important role in the winemaking process.

Therefore, ‘kosher for Passover’ wine must be fermented using yeast that has not come into contact with bread, dough or grain.

This wine is certified "kosher for Passover" by OK Kosher

To ensure a wine is kosher, it must feature a hechsher (or “seal of approval”) on the label. The most common hechsher symbols I’ve noticed on the kosher wines we carry feature either the capital letter U or letter K within a circle. Both these symbols represent two well-known kosher supervision agencies in the U.S.

  • K in a circle: OK Kosher Certification based in Brooklyn, NY
  • U in a circle: Orthodox Union based in New York, NY
  • P to the right of the circle: stands for ‘Passover’ (and signifies that the wine is ‘kosher for passover’ (though most labels often state that, as well)
  • Mevushal: literally translates to ‘boiled ’. A kosher wine that is mevushal has been flash pasteurized, which enables it to maintain its kosher status even when served by a non-Jew (especially important if the wine’s to be served on-premise in restaurants, etc.).

[Not so] sweet reputation

Kosher wine in the U.S. has a reputation for being sticky sweet because it has become synonymous with the widely distributed Manischevitz brand that for the most part produces sweet and syrupy wines made from berries, cherries, and concord grapes. However, in truth, kosher wine became sweet in the U.S. because it was originally produced in the New York area using the Concord grape (the principle variety available in the region).

The Concord grape is a North American grape species that is best used for making grape juice as oppose to wine. Since it is highly acidic, the resulting wine needed to be sweetened to become palatable. Though not a highly-revered beverage, Concord wine still has its following (as Manischevitz can tell you).

However, kosher wine, like all wine, comes in a variety of styles—not just sweet.

Barkan 2009 Pinot Noir---dry kosher wine from Israel

Though kosher wine can be produced anywhere in the world, viniculture is far more restrained when produced in Israel in that growers must adhere to the following biblical agricultural laws:

  1. No wine may be produced from a vine until its fourth year.
  2. The vineyard, if within the biblical lands, must be left fallow every seven years (though in practice vineyards are symbolically sold to a non-Jew to allow production to continue).
  3. Only vines may be grown in vineyards: no other fruits or vegetables are allowed.
  4. There must be a symbolic ceremony in which just over 1% of production is poured away in remembrance of the 10% tithe set aside for Levites and priests in the days of the Jerusalem Temple.

Famous kosher wine producers

At our store we sell kosher wine from Italy, Chile, the U.S., Australia… and of course, Israel. Based on how fast if flies off the shelf, I would say the most popular brand among our customers is Baron Herzog from California. Otherwise, Barkan from Israel is another favored label (see below).

What I also found interesting was to read that some famous Bordeaux producers also make “kosher cuvées” of their namesake wine, including Château Pontet-Canet* (Pauillac), Château Léoville Poyferré (St-Julien), Château Malartic Lagravière (Pessac-Léognan) and Château Valandraud* (St-Émilion—best known as Bordeaux’s original garagiste).

*Though both Pontet-Canet and Valandraud have ceased making kosher wine as of the 2005 vintage.

Barkan ’09 Pinot Noir

All this research got me curious, so I decided to give kosher wine a try. The one I selected was a Barkan 2009 Pinot Noir from Negev, Israel. I was honestly very impressed—especially since it’s selling for just $13.49. What struck me right away was how fresh and light the wine tasted. It also has a real lively cherry flavor, with a slight tartness on the finish. Since this wine is mevushal (meaning it’s been pasteurized) I would say you may notice a slight bit of concentration, but nothing really to upset the balance. Overall, a very good value and something I would buy again.

My yogurt is also kosher (certified by Orthodox Union---the D stands for dairy

Kosher elsewhere…

Now that I’ve familiarized myself with the Kosher certification symbols, my eye is picking up on such symbols located on other food products—like my cup of siggi’s Icelandic style yogurt.


¹I attribute the majority of my research to Jancis Robinson’s highly resourceful Oxford Companion to Wine.

Written by L. duVin

April 18, 2011 at 15:10


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