You know they’re in there. Amongst the row of bottles that you can only see but not taste, in every price category there are the best of the bunch—the corked favorite you’re waiting to discover. This is the unadulterated, objective list of the best wine picks for every budget. I’ve tasted all of these wines and I’m only recommending the picks I’d drink myself.
BARKAN CLASSIC PINOT NOIR. Inexpensive wines are not going to be complex and oaky, but like this one, it will be fruity. The lower alcohol content makes this easy to drink.
WEINSTOCK RED BY W. This is the crowd-pleaser. Another easy to drink fruit-driven wines. I’m recommending it for the Seder because it’s 12% alcohol instead of 14%. That 2% makes a big difference—the wine will take much longer to go to your head. People who don’t usually drink wine try this and say, “This is actually pretty good.” The White by W is also a lovely wine. It has a little hint of sweetness; it’s easy drinking and refreshing—most people don’t think of wine as a refreshing beverage but it is.
BARTENURA ROSSO TOSCANO. Like the Red by W, this is another crowd-pleaser and a crazy value. It sold out when the masses caught on.
BARON HERZOG “OLD VINE” ZINFANDEL This richly flavored zin with ripe fruit characteristics is an award winner and a steal in the low teens.
WEINSTOCK CELLAR SELECT CABERNET SAUVIGNON. The best cab under $20
CHATEUX LE PETIT CHABAN. A nice, French Bordeaux
CHATEUX THENAC. Another lovely French Merlot-based Bordeaux. Unlike the Chaban, this one is earthy, common of French wines. (To compare, California wines are fruitier while Israeli wines have a herbaceous nature which I find interesting).
BINYAMINA RESERVES (SHIRAZ OR CARIGNAN). The Carignan is a brand new wine from Israel. The vine is originally from France, but it was planted in Israel back in the 1960s and 1970s because the vines give off a lot of fruit, making a great grape to use for mass-producing Kiddush wine. As the vines began producing less fruit, they were left alone—but older vines produce grapes with a more concentrated and interesting flavor. So, today, there is a revival of Carignan and great wines are coming out of that grape. The Binyamina Reserves Shiraz was just awarded 90 points by Wine Enthusiast.
GAMLA CABERNET SAUVIGNON RESERVE. This was also awarded 90 points by Wine Enthusiast and it received the Editor’s Choice. That’s the most exciting—it means it’s a wine they would pick to have on their own tables. That’s real value for the money.
PSAGOT MERLOT. An awesome wine under $25
HAGAFEN MERLOT. My “aha” wine. I ordered this in a restaurant last week, and the sommelier said he didn’t think I would like it. He didn’t know what I did for a living. When he tasted it—he nodded his head. He was proven wrong.
ELVI “HERENZA” CRIANZA RIOJA. Rioja wines are made primarily from the Spanish Tempranillo grape. The wines are fruity, spicy & delicious!
HERZOG SPECIAL RESERVE ALEXANDER VALLEY CABERNET SAUVIGNON
SEGAL’S “DISHON” VINEYARD CABERNET SAUVIGNON
SHILOH “SECRET” CABERNET SAUVIGNON. A newer wine I’m very pleased with.
The best of the best—for holiday drinking when there aren’t too many glasses to fill. Save these for a time when you can savor and appreciate them.
$60, CARMEL MEDITERRANEAN
$60, CELLAR DE CAPCANES, PERAJ HA-ABIB
$75, DOMAINE DU CASTEL GRAND VIN
$80, YATIR FOREST
Since the natural sugars in grapes are converted into alcohol during the fermentation process, sweet wine is made by fermenting only some of the grape juice, leaving the wine with some of its natural (AKA “residual”) sugar. Here’s my sweet picks: Ben Ami “Zemora”, Alfasi Mistico,
and the whole Jeunesse line.
THE BEST TEMP
Most people think that room temperature is best for serving dry red wine, but in the “old country” room temperature was much closer to 60°F than today’s 70°F. Served at this temperature, the alcohol taste is hidden a bit, making the wine a more refreshing sipper. When wine comes out of a cellar or wine refrigerator, it’s a cool 55°F to 60°F. In the absence of professional wine storage, pop it into the refrigerator for 30 to 45 minutes for the same effect.
Source: Gary Landsman from Royal Wine Corp. As seen in Joy of Kosher with Jamie Geller Magazine Passover 2012 - Subscribe Now.