Yom Kippur Wine Pairings | The Jewish Week | Food & Wine

Yom Kippur Wine Pairings


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While there are myriad traditions, customs, and halachic guidelines surrounding Yom Kippur, there is very little that regulates how one chooses to break the fast.

At one time, it was very common to break the fast with a modest collation of maybe a glass of tea and  some dry honey cake.

These days, something a bit more substantial and filling tends to be on offer. It seems very common now for such meals to be dairy or pareve (neither meat nor milk), of the breakfast or brunch variety—with bagels, egg dishes, and assorted fishes, often also with plentiful assorted desserts and sweeter foods.  

While some families end the Yom Kippur fast with a shot of sweet liqueur such as Sabra or Cointreau, many can’t stomach anything alcoholic after fasting. Arguably, such breakfast-type foods don’t demand a wine or spirits accompaniment, yet the fast traditionally ends with a havdalah benediction said over wine. So, what does one provide to wash down breakfast or brunch fare served at night? In other contexts, sangria (a wine-based punch of Spanish origin) by the carafe, or Bloody Marys, Bellinis, and Mimosas would seem to do the trick—yet somehow they seem a touch ‘too much’ after a day of fasting. While Belgian style beers, nut-brown ales, some ambers, and softer pale ales—malty, not-too-hoppy brews—can go brilliantly well with pancakes and waffles, here too beer seems more than required. Instead of mixed drinks, consider more straightforward still and sparkling wines.

It is very hard to go wrong with bubbly. Indeed, sparkling wines, especially dry ones, are an ideal match to egg dishes. Champagne and other sparkling wines also add to the festiveness of the occasion. In a real pinch, you can even offer an old-fashioned wine spritzer—grab any old bottle of red or white and dilute in a 3:1 ratio with seltzer. That said, a proper chilled bubbly is, obviously, an overall nicer approach.

Consider, for example, the positively delightful Champagne Drappier, Brut Nature, Zero Dosage, Pinot Noir, Non-Vintage ($50; mevushal): a dry, medium-bodied, 100% pinot noir, Champagne has an inviting and complex mineral-rich nose that includes baked apples, citrus fruits, apricots, melons, apples, and flowers, all of which carries through to the delicious palate, offering additional notes of pear, roasted hazelnuts, and a dollop of crème fraîche on the finish.

For a budget-friendly option, consider the Pavolino Prosecco, Extra Dry, DOC Prosecco, Veneto, non-vintage  ($15; mevushal): nicely balanced; dry, crisp, clean, and refreshing sparkling wine with a savory-sweet nose of earthy, floral, fruity notes, almonds, a touch of ginger, lemon acidity and a lovely, energizing finish.

For those wanting something sweet to match sweeter foods like syrupy pancakes, consider a nice Moscato d’Asti. After all, one of the rules-of-thumb for wine pairing is that sweet dishes need a wine that is equal in sweetness, or even slightly sweeter, since the sweetness of the dish can easily make a dry wine seem especially bitter. Besides being sweetish and fruity, Moscato d’Asti is also lightly effervescent and naturally low in alcohol. A great option here is the ubiquitous Bartenura, Moscato d’Asti, Italy, 2017 ($15; mevushal)—it is semi-sweet, slightly fizzy, fun, light, uncomplicated, low-alcohol,  tropical, citrus, and stone fruit flavored wine.

Another nice option is the Israeli Golan Heights Winery, Hermon Moscato, Galilee, 2017 ($12-15): Lightly sparking and pleasantly aromatic (white peach, green apple, honeysuckle), with enjoyably bright, clean and sweet flavors of stone and tropical fruits, crushed almonds and a touch of spice. Sweet, but balanced and fresh.

Besides sparkling wines, consider serving young, crisp, dry white wines that are un-oaked or that have very little oak influence. Some great options are Sancerre, Chablis, dry Riesling, dry Sauvignon Blanc provided it isn’t too herbaceous, un-oaked Chardonnay, and many dry rosés (especially from Provence).

Consider, for example, the new, budget-friendly Hayotzer Winery, H, Vintner’s Select, Sauvignon Blanc, Galilee, Israel, 2017 ($13-15; mevushal):  an easy drinking, uncomplicated style, but fresh, clean, light, dry, well made, and overall tasty, with lemon, grapefruit,  and some tropical fruit notes.

Or, for something very new, consider the Herzog, Special Reserve, Albariño, Edna Valley, 2017 ($29.99): A California expression of a relatively obscure Spanish grape (pronounced “alba-reen-yo”; this is the very first kosher Albariño to hit the market), this light-bodied slightly peach-colored wine offers notes of citrus fruit, lime zest, stone fruit, guava, a little apple, heather, and tart, under-ripe plum all amidst a lightly herbaceous backdrop. Due to slightly underperforming acidity—it is not flabby, but it is not zippy either— this is perhaps more of an aperitif than a fully satisfying table wine, but should do nicely here with lox, whitefish, and milder herrings, and should do fine with omelets or frittatas.

As for reds, my always beloved lightly chilled Beaujolais—fresh, fruity, low-to-non-tannic, and typically very gulpable red wines made from the Gamay grape in the Beaujolais region of France—are excellent brunch wines.  

Consider the Louis Blanc, Juliénas, (Beaujolais), 2015 ($20): This is lovely, fun, delicious, and, well, imbued with a sense of joy. Generously aromatic with beautiful fruity and floral notes—strawberries, peaches, red currants, violets, peonies, mild cinnamon, perhaps a touch of muted bubblegum, and an endearing earthy richness. With mild but silky tannins and solid balancing acidity, this is simply delightful.


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