Chanukah, By The Glass
The perfect wines to pair with those heimishe holiday delights.
The perfect wines to pair with those heimishe holiday delights.
Trying to match foods with wines can be a daunting task. The wine should neither overpower nor be overpowered by the food, and the flavors of the food and wine should complement and even enhance each other. Indeed, a good food and wine pairing is greater than the sum of its parts. So in preparation for Chanukah, the editors of The Jewish Week asked me to come up with a few wine suggestions to go with the holiday recipes printed nearby. Here, then, is a selection of pairings I hope will satisfy even the most discerning palates.
Sparkling wine (a pairing for latkes, particularly when served with sour cream or avocado):
Reims and Bialystok would seemingly have very little in common: one is a cathedral town in Burgundy, the other an industrial city in northeast Poland. Yet the sparkling wine of the one — Champagne — seems a perfect match for the starchy, fatty, heimishe foods of the other.
Champagne is indisputably the king of sparkling wine, and if you can afford the expense it will make any holiday gathering seem luxurious.
One of the best kosher Champagnes on the market is also the newest, Champagne Brut Barons de Rothschild. While the Rothschild family has been making wine in Bordeaux for more than a century, it was only in 2007 that the family ventured into Champagne and established a new winery in Reims. Made from a blend of Pinot Noir and chardonnay, this dark straw-to-gold-colored sparkler has a rich mousse with a seemingly endless supply of fine bubbles. The heady bouquet has elements of peaches, apricots, apples, hay and toasted bread and butter, with just a hint of chalk in the background. Look for flavors of peaches, apricots and quince at the front of the palate, moving towards a creamy mid-palate with a hint of cantaloupe and a crisp grapefruit note on the finish. Score A/A- ($66.49. Available online from
www.Kosherwine.com,  567-4370)
Also excellent is Bonnet-Ponson’s Brut Primer Cru, Champagne, Kosher Edition, Non-Vintage. Made from a blend of 60 percent Pinot Noir and 40 percent Chardonnay, all grown organically on 45-year-old vines in the Bonnet family’s vineyards in the north of Champagne, this full-bodied dry sparkling wine has a dark-straw color and a thick mousse of tiny bubbles. The bouquet is redolent of apricots, apples, lemons, mangos, cream and hot croissants. Look for flavors of mango, apples and Meyer lemons at the front of the palate, moving towards a creamy, nutty middle and notes of spice and freshly baked bread on the finish. Score A/A- ($61.99. Available online directly from the importer, www.liquidkosher.com)
If Champagne busts your budget, there are some less-expensive alternatives that are also very enjoyable. One of the best budget bubblies I tasted was Freixenet’s Excelencia Kosher Cava Brut. This dark straw-colored Spanish sparkler has a rich mousse of large bubbles and a bouquet of apples, Meyer lemons, kiwi and orange blossoms, with a lovely yeasty earthiness. Look for flavors of apples, citrus and peaches, a yeasty overtone and a nice hint of Seville oranges on the finish. Score B+ ($16.95. Available at Sherry-Lehmann Wine and Spirits, 505 Park Ave., Manhattan,  838-7500)
A bit on the lighter side is Borgo Reale’s Prosecco Brut. This light-straw-colored, light-bodied Italian sparkling wine has flavors and aromas of melons, oranges and pears, with lively earthy notes and an abundance of medium-sized bubbles. Perhaps a tad too sweet to be classified as a brut, this wine is nevertheless quite enjoyable. Score B/B+ ($16.99. Available at Heights Chateau, 123 Atlantic Ave., Brooklyn,  330-0963)
Pinot Noir (a pairing for latkes, particularly when served with deli meats):
Those who would prefer a red wine to serve with their latkes may wish to seek out a good bottle of Pinot Noir, the great black grape of Burgundy. Pinot Noir’s medium body and earthy undertones pair well with savory latkes, particularly when topped by even more savory deli meats.
One of the best kosher pinot noirs currently available is the 2014 Domaine d’Ardhuy, Grand Vin de Bourgogne, Ladoix. With a medium to full body and ruby color, this delightful Burgundy has a lot to offer. Look for an herbal, flowery bouquet with notes of cherries, currants and rhubarb. Flavors of cherries and currants play against an earthy backbone, with a mild bit of spice on the finish. Well structured, with an abundance of powdery tannins, this wine is ready to drink from release until at least the end of the decade. One of the best kosher Burgundies I’ve ever tasted. Score A/A- ($58.97. Available online, in very small quantities, directly from the importer, www.liquidkosher.com)
Another delightful, and far more affordable Pinot Noir is the 2016 Pacifica, Evan’s Collection Oregon Pinot Noir. Made by Phillip Jones, the winemaker behind New Zealand’s Goose Bay kosher wines, this dark ruby, medium-bodied wine should prove a great pairing for latkes. Look for flavors and aromas of cherries, cranberries, currants and bramble with forest-like aromatics in the background, and a nice layer of supple tannins. Drink within the next three years. Score B+ ($16.99. Available at Suhag Wines & Liquor, 69-30 Main St., Flushing, Queens,  793-6629)
Port (for krokerle and similar chocolaty confections):
Port is a fortified wine produced in the Douro Valley in the northern provinces of Portugal. During production, aguardente, a clear grape-based spirit, is added in order to stop the fermentation, leaving residual sugar in the wine while also increasing the wine’s alcohol content. Port tends to have complex, sweet flavors with notes of stewed or dried fruits, along with a rich, velvety texture, making for a very good match with chocolate.
One of the best kosher ports is Porto Quevedo’s Non-vintage Ruby Port. This was the bargain of the tasting. With an inky dark ruby-to-garnet color and a full body, this richly sweet wine has a bouquet of cherries, stewed prunes and chocolate, with a hint of menthol and an underlying earthy layer. Look for flavors of plums, stewed cherries and prunes, with hints of cherry brandy and chocolate. Score B+ ($16.99. Available at Suhag Wines & Liquor, 69-30 Main St., Flushing, Queens,  793-6629)
Equally good is Porto Cordovero’s Non-vintage Ruby Port. Made in Porto by the noted port lodge of Taylor, Fladgate & Yeatman, this rich, sweet, full-bodied, ruby-to-garnet-colored wine has flavors and aromas of black plums, Bing cherries, cassis, stewed prunes, chocolate and candied violets. Look for a touch of allspice on the finish. Score B+ ($32.99. Available at Skyview Wine and Liquor, 5681 Riverdale Ave., Riverdale,  601-8222)
Amaro (a liqueur to pair with krokerle and similar chocolaty confections):
I’ve recently discovered that amari, a type of Italian bittersweet digestive liqueurs, make for a very nice pairing with chocolate. Luxardo’s tasty Amaro Abano is the only kosher-certified Amaro available in the U.S. This viscous, dark garnet-colored, medium-sweet liqueur has flavors and aromas of key limes, mint, eucalyptus, cardamom and chocolate, all playing against a tonic-water-like bitterness. Rich and smooth, with an almost-syrupy body, this liqueur can be enjoyed either neat or on the rocks. Score B+ ($22.09. Available at Garnet Wines & Liquors, 929 Lexington Ave., Manhattan,  772-3212)
Please Note: Wines are scored on an “A”–“F” scale where “A” is excellent, “B” is good, “C” is flawed, “D” is very flawed and “F” is undrinkable. Prices listed reflect either the price at the retailer mentioned or the likely retail price upon release.