Four Cups, Many Wine Choices
Consider these wines depending on your taste and custom
Options for the 4 cups of the Seder
Options for the 4 cups of the Seder
With Passover around the corner, it’s time to think about which wines to serve for your seder. If you tend to drink only grape juice for all four cups of the seder… why are you reading this?
Seriously though, I generally dislike grape juice. To my palate, it is nearly all too sweet, too grapey, and, well, a little sad to contemplate such wasted potential. Grape juice may, perhaps, satisfy your halachic obligations for the four cups—though check with your local rabbinic authority as plenty of brilliant rabbis disagree on this point. Regardless, however, it simply doesn’t “gladden the heart of man,” as the Psalmist put it (Psalm 104, verse 15). For that, only wine will do.
When it comes to the four cups, there are also various customs and halachic rulings that should be factored in. For instance, some people only use red wines, some use only non-mevushal wines, while others will only use mevushal wines due to their diverse backgrounds of their guests. Some will only drink low-alcohol wines, and some aim to consume as many different high-end, stunning wines as possible. seder drinking customs likewise vary, with some people gulping down each glass as quickly as possible, while others sip slowly, savoring each drop. While some favor dry wines, many prefer sweet wines — whether out of genuine taste preference, or simple nostalgia.
Here is one approach to the four cups of the Pesach Seder.
Options for Cup 1: Kiddush
Flam Rosé 2017 ($33): The seders require focus and patience, and staying alert is fairly important. I usually like to start with something lighter yet hugely pleasurable. So for Kiddush, I recommend this aromatic, fresh, fruity yet subtle and elegant rosé; it has enough lively acidity, spice, and minerality to keep it all sunny, dry, crisp, and refreshing.
Adir, Kerem Ben Zimra, Barbera Rosé, 2017 ($30): This is tasty, zingy, and refreshing with balanced acidity and fruity aromas and flavors of red cherry, raspberry, strawberry, and pleasing hints of under-ripe plum.
Gito, Lavan, Judean Hills, Israel, 2016 ($37.99): This hugely impressive brand new U.S. import is not to be missed. This exceptional chardonnay is focused and restrained, with great balance between fruit and acidity, and lovely depth, and deftly integrated oak. The oak here makes it creamy, rather than buttery, and subtly heightens the minerlaity and fruit. A stunning release.
Options for Cup 2: Maggid
Gush Etzion Winery, Spring River, GSM, 2014 ($28): The Maggid or narrative cup should be not only tasty and of high quality, but also charming with a slightly serious side. So for the Maggid cup, I recommend this engaging and thoroughly enjoyable blend of 54% syrah, 36% mourvedre, and 10% grenache; it is less Rhône and more Eastern Mediterranean—light, bright, fresh, and refreshing. Medium-bodied with forward and generous dark fruit notes, decent spice, a touch of oak, and a hint of earth, balanced by soft tannins and nice acidity; offers a deeply pleasing finish. This is very yummy, with a very subtle but enjoyable brooding edge.
Galil Mountain, Yiron, 2014 ($31.99): This delicious, supple, almost beefy, deep, medium-to-full- bodied blend of 56% cabernet sauvignon, 32% merlot, 7% syrah, and 5% petit verdot—is seriously good, with enough complexity and elegance to command sustained attention. This is munificent with aromas and flavors of plum, black cherry, dark chocolate, dried herbs, against a general background of vanilla and oak, with nicely integrated generous but not overpowering tannins, and a subtle but distinctive earthy quality. Nice finish too.
Shiran, The Trio, Israel, 2016 ($39.99): This is a really yummy red blend of carignan (from the Binyamina area), petite sirah (from Kerem Ben Zimrah in the Galilee), and petit verdot (from the Gush Etzion Hills). This is fresh, vibrant, fruity, and refreshing, with terrific balance. A brand new U.S. import, this shiran is a great example of an Israeli wine that embraces its Eastern Mediterranean region, and that should wonderfully wash down Israeli cuisine—works a treat on meaty Ashkenazi fare also. Delightful and very easy to drink—would go nicely for all 4 cups, actually.
Options for Cup 3: Barech
Shiloh Shor Barbera 2016 ($34; mevushal): For the cup of Barech, or blessing, to be recited at the end of the meal, I seek refreshment, pleasure, and flavor—something that will nicely complement the feast I’m concluding and add agreeably to the happy flavors of the night. This enjoyable, balanced, fruit-forward, medium-bodied barbera offers an Eastern Mediterranean twist on an Italian classic—with aromas and flavors of plum, blackberry, strawberry, violets, Mediterranean herbs, dark cocoa, a bit of spice, and a touch of espresso. There is a nice earthy note dancing in the background; pleasing finish too.
Duc de Pagny Beaujolais Nouveau (Beaujolais, France) 2017 ($12): This is a lovely example – and as it happens the only kosher option in the U.S. – of this style of beaujolais; it is fresh, fruity, light, crisp, and meant for joyously glugging. This lovely, magenta-colored wine contains notes of cranberries, red plums, and raspberries, and some macerated cherry as well, as notes of pears and blueberries. Serve lightly chilled. This would also actually work well for all four cups as it is meant for joyously glugging.
The Abarbanel, 25th Anniversary, Special Reserve, Rouge, 2016 ($18): Value-priced, light-to-medium-bodied, and light in tannins, this is an all-around inviting and enjoyable single vineyard blend of cabernet sauvignon (65%) and merlot (35%) from the Aude River Valley in the South of France. This is easy drinking and food-friendly, offering aromas and flavors of cherry, plum, and cassis with some subtle herbs and light tobacco, and perhaps a whiff of coffee.. Let it breathe in the glass a little first.
Options for Cup 4:
Golan Heights Winery, Yarden Rosé, Brut, 2011 ($40): To accompany Hallel, praise, I want a fourth cup that is festive, delicious, and energizing. This lightly-pinkish delightful blend of 70% chardonnay and 30% pinot noir, offers aromas of citrus (lemon and perhaps grapefruit), strawberries, stone fruits, and brioche, all draped in flowers. Most of this reappears on the fine, brisk, and effervescent palate along with sour cherries, baked apple, ripe pears, almonds, and lemon peel. The bubbles are nicely sharp and concentrated, and the acidity is zippy and zingy, keeping it all fresh, refreshing, and nicely balanced. A great way to conclude a seder.
Hagafen, Brut Rose, Napa Valley, California, 2015 ($48; mevushal): This is such a lovely, refreshing, delicious bubbly—with fine, concentrated bubbles, enchanting aromas and flavors of bright, clean, strawberry, watermelon, and stone fruits, with hints of brioche, beautifully balanced with lively acidity. Hard to put down.
Golan Heights Winery, Yarden Blanc de Blancs, Brut, Chardonnay, 2009 ($35): With delicate but enticing aromas and flavors of toasted brioche, baked apple, citrus zest, and tropical fruits, this is crisp, brisk, effervescent, balanced, and refreshing. A fun and flavorful bubbly.
De La Rosa, Ur Kasdim, Sweet White Sparkling Muscat Ottonel, 2016 ($27; mevushal): This fun, supple, enjoyable, frizzante-style sparkler made from late harvest muscat ottonel (part of the muscat grape family) is flowery and fruity, with distinct muscat characteristics. Makes for a great alternative sweet sparkler.