As the sun begins to set on the evening of Friday, April 6, 2012, Jews all over the world will gather together for the first night of Passover. Throughout the narrative retelling the Exodus from Egypt, we drink four cups of wine to celebrate our freedom from slavery. There was a time, not so long ago, when sipping the syrupy sweet Concord grape wine at the Seder was a form of cruel ancient punishment – symbolic, but not satisfying. Now, we have so many amazing choices of wines to enjoy at Seder it can seem almost overwhelming. Freedom has its challenges.
Let me try to make things a little easier this year with four tips on how to choose the perfect kosher wine for Passover and a few recommendations for your Seder.
1. Pair with care. A great wine pairing can bring out the best of food and make a good wine even better. If you plan to bring wine, find out what your host is serving and make a perfect pairing. Think red wine like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Shiraz or Zinfandel with red meats like brisket, roasts, and steaks. White makes right with chicken or fish dishes, so go for Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio or Chenin Blanc to lighten things up.
2. Prove Uncle Max wrong. Everyone has someone at the table who thinks kosher wine is just terrible. Although Passover may not be the best time to break out your very best selections from your cellar, start off the first cup with a special occasion wine that you’ve been saving. Some wines do get better with age, until they don’t and then it’s downhill fast. Wine is meant to be shared with family and friends. What better time than right now? Next year we’ll be in Jerusalem and we won’t be bringing our bottles along for the ride.
3. Dare to be different. When you’re at a restaurant ordering wine, it’s easy to stick to varietals you know well. Cabernet and Chardonnay are reliable standards -- like a comfortable sweater, you know what to expect. But when was the last time you marveled over a Malbec, giggled over a Gewurtzraminer or were tempted by Tempranillo? With four glasses to try over the course of the evening, this is a great time to experiment and discover something new.
4.Go global. During the year, we tend to enjoy the same wines over and over (and over) again. It is great to have a favorite. But on Passover, think different. Choose a wine from an exotic location, like Chile, Hungary, or South Africa. Since we’re always looking for ways to get kids more involved on Passover night, ask your school age guests to share a little Jewish history from the wine’s country of origin.
I hope I’ve given you some new ideas for making a splash at your Seder table, here are four Passover wine selections that will make you the next Kiddush star…
2009 Carmel Appellation Cabernet Franc (Galilee); $23. This red wine was produced from grapes grown in the mild climate of the Judean Hills. The wine was matured in French oak for 14 months. Earthy, with an aroma of wild berries, tobacco and fresh herbs, it is full bodied with a long, well balanced finish.
2009 Alexander Sandro Cabernet-Merlot (Galilee); $22. The grapes are grown in the Kerem Ben Zimra vineyards in the upper Galilee. The wine aged in oak barrels for 14 months. Deep burgundy in color with a hint of black, this wine tastes of forest berries, ripe cherries and plums.
2010 Vignobles David Cotes du Rhone Le Mourre de l'Isle Kosher (Rhone); $18. A blend of 60% Syrah, 30% Grenache and 10% Mourvedre. This wine displays wild fruits and notes of coffee and tobacco with a long satisfying finish.
2008 Herzog Special Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa); $35. Complex and rich Cab will be the star of your Seder table with smoke, oak, ripe plum, black cherry, wild berry, and spice leading to a long, lingering finish.