Nine Wines for Eight Nights
Courtesy Golan Heights Winery
Wine pairings for your favorite Chanukah foods
Wine pairings for your favorite Chanukah foods
Chanukah is one of the most celebrated Jewish holidays, and even without taking into account any of its substantive religious import, it is easy to see why. It lasts eight nights, is typically celebrated with large, often communal, gatherings of friends and family, has a variety of yummy associated traditional foods, cuts across the Jewish denominational spectrum, and is a fine excuse for often lavish entertaining.
What’s a festive Jewish gathering without too much food? “And not only food,” as an often quoted vintage Woody Allen bit has it, “frequently there must be a beverage.” Indeed, all festive meals—and nearly all family gatherings—are greatly improved by a little social lubrication with choice wines and spirits.
As for pairing booze to food, the traditional Chanukah foods like latkes and sufganiyot and other fried foods tend to go well with bubbles, and also with high acidity. The acid helps cut through the oil, and good vibrant bubbles typically help cleanse the palate. Many beers will work quite nicely as well for similar reasons.
For sweeter items, like jelly donuts, or for sweeter toppings on latkes like applesauce, a little more caution might be in order. One can certainly opt for a straightforward dessert wine with donuts but do make sure your choice will complement, rather than compete with, the filling and powdered sugar. When dessert foods are served more or less contemporaneously with the meal, rather than as a separate and distinct course, additional caution is in order as sweet foods typically make dry wines taste sour and altogether assaulting. So wines with a bit more residual sugar, or natural sugar after fermentation has completed, tend to do much better.
Here are some fine options to consider:
Hagafen, Brut Cuvée, 2015 ($48; mevushal): A delightful blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, this is a lovely, refreshing, and simply delicious bubbly—with fine, concentrated bubbles, enchanting aromas and flavors of bright, clean, citrus, strawberry, guava, and stone fruits, with hints of brioche, beautifully balanced with lively acidity, ending in an enchanting, creamy finish. Hard to put down and dangerously easy to drink. Have additional bottles on hand.
Champagne Drappier, Brut Nature, Zero Dosage, Pinot Noir, NV ($50): This lovely, dry, tingly, medium-bodied bubbly offers aromas of baked apple, citrus, and subtle notes of toasted brioche, followed by flavors on the palate of apple, pear, roasted hazelnuts, and citrus zest; wonderfully creamy texture too. The lively, vibrant acidity keeps this wonderfully refreshing.
De La Rosa, Ur Kasdim, Sweet White Sparkling Muscat Ottonel, 2016 ($28; mevushal; organic): 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 sweet sparkler!
Bartenura, Moscato d’Asti, 2017 ($16-though often on sale for less; mevushal): This is a semi-sweet, lightly bubbly, low-alcohol tropical fruit and citrus flavored wine. Not complex or ever meant to be anything but fun and light, it goes well with sufganiyot or latkes and applesauce.
Golan Heights Winery, Yarden, Gewürztraminer, 2017 ($23): This semi-dry/semi-sweet Mediterranean Gewürztraminer is a balanced, fresh, crisp, clean, lean, and vibrant take on the classic Alsatian style. It offers aromas and flavors of tropical fruits, apricots, lychees, and honey with a distinct Crème Brûlée quality.
Covenant Israel, Blue C, Viognier, 2017 ($28): a lovely, balanced, medium-bodied, oily, aromatic, and fruity wine with notes of peach, clementine, apricot, vanilla, honeysuckle, and stone fruits; a nice saline undercurrent adds some lovely depth too. The finish has just enough sweetness and tartness to work with a Chanukah table no matter how intermingled dessert may be.
Hagafen, Lake County Riesling, 2016 ($24; mevushal): A light, delicious, off-dry Riesling from Napa Valley that offers lovely tropical fruit notes beautifully balanced by soft but refreshing acidity.
Covenant Israel, Blue C, Adom, 2016 ($40): This is a delicious, balanced, aromatic, fruity, easy drinking blend of Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, and also a smidgen of Viognier (not mentioned on the label); the white wine grapes seem to highlight the red fruit here—this is very commonly done in France’s Rhone to similarly great effect. With almost sweet tannins, red and blue fruit notes, and some lovely baking spice hints in the backdrop. Every sip is better than the last.
Ramot Naftaly Winery, Barbera, Kedesh Valley, 2014 ($55): A really lovely and deeply satisfying Israeli Barbera with solid acidity, offering notes of ripe black and red berry fruits, an enchanting hint eucalyptus, an appealing earthy note, a smidge of both anise and bittersweet dark chocolate, and a really alluring gaminess all through. Allow this wonderful wine time to breathe.