Food & Drink

There’s more to Kosher wine than sweet Manischewitz

Wine is a part of Passover, but it doesn’t have to be sweet wine.
Wine is a part of Passover, but it doesn’t have to be sweet wine. CHICAGO TRIBUNE

When Passover begins Friday night, wine will play a central part in the rituals. Traditionally, four glasses of wine are served during the Passover Seder meal, while the biblical story of the Jewish people’s exodus from Egypt is told aloud. In part, the wine symbolizes freedom from bondage.

The holiday requires that observant Jews refrain from drinking wine that is not certified kosher-for-Passover. That means it doesn’t contain any leavened food or grains or other non-kosher ingredients, and is produced in a location that does not contain any of those products. The wine also is handled only by Sabbath-observant Jews.

For many, the iconic brand is Manischewitz, produced from Concord grapes. Manischewitz is the first wine I ever tasted. As a high school student, I was permitted a small sip at my friend’s family Passover Seder, and I still love its grapey sweetness.

In rural Ohio, not exactly a hotbed of wine-drinking at the time, Manischewitz seemed exotic and luscious. It still brings back good memories.

But if you’re seeking a drier wine with the Seder meal, you’re in luck. Perhaps no other segment of specialty wines has evolved so much in the last decade as kosher-for-Passover wines.

Great winemakers around the globe are producing wines that meet the kosher requirements from an array of grape varieties, using state-of-the-art wine-making techniques. And the results are delicious.

Covenant Wines is one of the top U.S. producers, offering a number of styles from several grape varieties made by Jeff Morgan in California. Many of his wines have repeatedly received high scores in the trade magazines and are worth seeking out. Covenant’s Cabernet Sauvignon produced from Napa Valley fruit is a standout.

Also from California, Herzog Wine Cellars makes terrific wines in a large selection of styles. A reader named Jacob, who is a local food and wine lover, wrote that the Herzog Wine Cellars Baron Herzog Cabernet Sauvignon, available at Whole Foods, is his pick for the Seder meal.

For those who feel like branching out, a tip came from another reader, Rachel, who recommends the Terrenal brand. Terrenal wines are very affordable, less than $5, and are available at Trader Joe’s.

Rachel recommends the Terrenal Tempranillo, but wines from Chile and Argentina are available from the same producer.