If you grew up in the Jewish faith, you likely have permanent scars from having to suffer through drinking the only real kosher wine available on the market for many years: Manischewitz. The sickly sweet concord grape wine still has a presence and serves a purpose, but let's be honest: There's no reason to drink bad wine during any Jewish holiday, especially Passover. You're gathered around a table with family and friends, eating delicious matzo ball soup, braised brisket and roasted turkey or chicken with potatoes. Any number of wines can get paired with your meal, and with more than 3,000 kosher wines (yes, that many truly exist) from all over the world—Israel, Spain, Italy, California, New Zealand, France and more—your options are pretty robust.
To be certified kosher or kosher for Passover, the wine needs to be made under the supervision of an orthodox Sabbath-observant Jew, oftentimes a rabbi, on equipment certified by a rabbi. Only orthodox Sabbath-observant Jews can handle the grapes from pick to crush to bottle. If any ingredients are added to the wine, they must also be kosher. Kosher-for-Passover wines can't have any leavened ingredients or grains or added yeast that derives from anything leavened. Then there are wines that are mevushal, which is a different designation. Mevushal wines get heated to 185 degrees, or flash-pasteurized, and can be handled by non-Sabbath-observing Jews or even non-Jews. This allows someone who isn't Sabbath-observing to make, bottle and pour wine to people who keep kosher.
Yes, this all can get confusing, but if you're looking for strict kosher for Passover wine, simply look for the symbol: a K or U inside a circle with a P next to it. To make it easier, these are kosher for Passover wines that even the most discerning of wine geeks at your Seder table will happily drink.
Every good dinner should start with some bubbly, and this lovely sparkling wine, made from 100 percent Chardonnay at the 100-year-old carbon-neutral Backsberg Estate in South Africa, really does the trick. Lots of tiny bubbles in the glass tickle your nose while the wine gives off lovely green apple and pear with a bit of yeasty flavor. Definitely pop a few bottles of this.
This is the perfect wine for your mom or aunt who both love a sweet sipper but without too much sugar. The Bartenura Moscato hails from Italy's cool Piemonte region in Asti's Monferrato Hills. This semi-sweet wine gives off hints pear and tangerine with a bit of melon and is overall crisp and refreshing. Bonus: Apparently both Drake and Lil Wayne are big fans of this wine. So when your aunt asks if it's a good Passover wine, tell her it's kosher and hip-hop approved.
Not only is Goose Bay one of the few wineries in New Zealand to produce kosher wine, it also makes some excellent sauvignon blanc. This wine pairs nicely with seafood, so it'll be a great bottle to open during your gefilte fish course. It's a crisp, refreshing light wine with notes of gooseberry (fitting for the name, no?), tropical fruit and a bit of citrus.
This wine from highly respected Berkeley, Calif., urban kosher winery Covenant will fit on any Passover table. Just look at the name: Red C. Say it out loud, and it makes even more sense. Just think of Moses leading the Jews out of Egypt. The red blend primarily features syrah, merlot and zinfandel with a bit of the Covenant cabernet, which comes from Napa. It ferments with native yeast and is aged for 14 months in French oak. It starts out a bit jammy, but as it opens, the tannins show through and the wine offers red plum, blueberry, spice and cacao.
There’s also Covenant’s Dry Creek Valley sauvignon blanc, which ferments in stainless steel with native yeast before aging in oak for five months. It's a refreshingly crisp wine with bright acid, hints of pear and grapefruit and is overall a wine to enjoy throughout your whole meal.
For the chardonnay drinkers in the family, you really can't do better than this beauty. This creamy fuller-bodied wine has nice fruit (pineapple, green apple) and acid—it's almost Burgundian in style despite being made from grapes hailing from the Holy Land.
A blend of syrah (42 percent), petite sirah (42 percent) and mourvèdre (16 percent), it's lush, well-rounded and velvety with fantastic tannic structure and a good amount of acid. It shows red plum, blackberry, chocolate and black pepper spice. If you only want to get one red, this will pair nicely with roasted chicken and brisket.
Psagot also makes a dry rosé, blended from merlot, petite sirah and syrah and offers floral and strawberry notes with nice minerality.
Dark, purple and inky, the blend of syrah (51 percent), barbera (46 percent) and petite verdot (3 percent) gives off a smoky nose with dark fruit. It's a bit tight when it first opens, but let this one breath even a few minutes, and you'll get rewarded nicely with blueberry, clove, ash, leather and smoked meat.
Coming from Golan Heights Winery, which is considered one of Israel's premier wineries, the 2013 comprises 100 percent cabernet sauvignon from the best vineyards in the Golan and Upper Galilee. It was aged in French oak for 18 months and yields a full-bodied wine with blackberry, cherry, tobacco and fresh herbs. Expect a long finish from this, so definitely save it for your meat course.
You can't have a Passover Seder without inviting a Herzog to join you at the table. One of the best kosher wines produced in California, Herzog has a variety of bottles from which to choose. This special-reserve cabernet from Alexander Valley was aged in small new and two-year-old American oak barrels for 16 months. That time produced a full-bodied wine exhibiting black cherry and licorice on the nose and a nice mix of cocoa and vanilla. You'll want to kick back with this one and talk about the Talmud—or maybe just world affairs.
Mixing your cocktail