Looking at two of the most interesting trends emerging in kosher wine in 2017.
Looking at two of the most interesting trends emerging in kosher wine in 2017.
‘Fashions,” observed Marcel Proust, “being themselves begotten of the desire for change, are quick to change also.”
No place does this seem to be truer than in the kosher wine world, where there is always the desire to try something new and different. Fifteen years ago, for instance, Riesling was one of the bestselling kosher white wines, but then almost completely disappeared from the market (and is only just now starting to come back into style). Five years ago, Viogniers were all the rage, and now it is pink rosés. Likewise, 10 years ago nobody in the kosher wine world (except for wine geeks) had ever heard of the Carignan, which is now the grape behind some of the best and trendiest kosher red wines.
Pink is taking over the kosher white wine world. Rosé is a term used to describe wines in the color spectrum between red and white, from faint pink to dark rose. They are made from the juice of red grapes, which was allowed only limited contact with the grape skins after the grapes were crushed. Grape juice is always pale, even when it comes from red grapes. The color of a wine comes from the grape skins, and the less time a juice spends in contact with the skins, the lighter in color will be the wine it produces.
Like white wines, rosés tend to be light- or medium-bodied, are best drunk well-chilled, and when well-made are crisp, dry and refreshing. For over 20 years there have been good kosher rosés available in the U.S. (one of my first “Fruit of the Vine” columns in this paper, in 2005, was on rosés), but until recently they just didn’t sell very well. But times have changed. According to Jay Buchsbaum, executive vice president for marketing and director of wine education for kosher wine giant Royal Wine Corp., “Rosés are hot. … We’re bringing in a lot more rosés.”
In the kosher red wine world, Carignan is another one of the rising stars. Named for the town of Carinena in the Aragon region of Spain, Carignan is a late-ripening, hardy, high-yielding, black grape that grows well in warm climes. While today most of the world’s Carignan is grown in France, and is indeed that country’s most planted black grape, in Israel this has been the dominant variety for more than a century.
As Adam Montefiore, the Jerusalem Post’s wine columnist and the un-official brand ambassador for Israeli wine, explained to me in 2012, “It is true that there are more hectares of Cabernet Sauvignon planted [in Israel], but because of overall higher average yields, Carignan is still the leading variety in terms of tons harvested, with approximately 20 percent of the total wine grape harvest.”
While most Israeli Carignan is used as a blending grape or to make somewhat indifferent red wines (Daniel Rogov, the late Israeli wine critic once told me that he believed that up to a quarter of budget-priced Israeli “Cabernet Sauvignons” were actually made from Carignan), when old Carignan vines are heavily pruned, they can produce remarkable wines. There are now excellent kosher Carignan wines coming from Israel and Spain; and Jonathan Hajdu, one of California’s most talented kosher winemakers, says that he will later this year release an old vine Carignan though his Adventurers’ Guild wine club (see story on page 14). Hajdu says said that he likes his Carignan so much that he plans to start incorporating Carignan into his regular offerings.
For those wanting to keep up with the fashions, below are tasting notes for some kosher rosé and Carignans that are worth seeking out.
Les Lauriers des Rothschild, Rosé, France, 2015: Made of the same cuvée of Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon as used in the red Les Lauriers des Rothschild, this light-peach-colored, light-to-medium-bodied wine has a floral nose with notes of apricots, apples and cream. Look for flavors of peaches, nectarines and oranges, with a touch of honey. Sixty percent of the wine aged in used oak barrels, which gives the wine a very light layer of oak and just a bit more body than found in many rosés. This vintage is nearing the end of its life, and it should be consumed by the end of the summer. However, the next vintage should be out very shortly. Score A-/B+ ($19.99. Available at Crossroads Wines & Spirits, 52 W. 14th St., Manhattan,  924-9463)
Covenant, Red C, Rosé, Sonoma, 2016: Light-bodied and rose colored, this classically Californian rosé is dry and crisp, with flavors and aromas of strawberries, raspberries, sour cherries and honeysuckle. Well-structured and very refreshing, it should be served icy cold, and within the next year. Score A-/B+ ($32.97. Available at Wine Chateau, 85 Central Ave., Metuchen, N.J.,  423-8079)
Don Ernesto, Beret, Rosé, Napa Valley, 2016: Made by Ernie Weir (a.k.a. Don Ernesto) of Hagafen Cellars, this light-bodied, deep-rose-colored Syrah rosé has flavors and aromas of strawberries, watermelon and cantaloupe, with notes of Meyer lemons and honeysuckle, and just a hint of greenness. Dry, crisp and refreshing, this wine should be consumed within the next year. Score B+ ($24. Available direct from winery, www.hagafen.com,  424-2336)
Vitkin Winery, Israeli Journey, Rosé, 2016: This dry, light-bodied, dark-peach-colored rosé was made from a blend of Grenache and Carignan using the Saignée method with the addition of some press wine. The wine has a very floral nose with hints of citrus and honey. Look for flavors of grapefruit and peach, with a touch of honey. Drink within the next year. Score B+ ($25.00. Not yet released)
(For more reviews of recently released rosés, please see the article on French kosher wine on page 25 and the article on Covenant Israel on page 4.)
Capçanes, La Flor del Flor, old vines Samsó, Montsant, 2012 (Barrel Sample):Made from Carignan grapes — known as Samsó in the Catalonia — grown on head-pruned 85-to-105-year-old vines, this wine is meaty, muscular and full-bodied. The nose, which is still tight, is dominated by cherries and cassis, blackberries, cedar, oak and pipe tobacco with a note of violets. Look for flavors of sour cherries, blackberries, cranberries, with notes of cassis, crème de mûre, and cedar, oak and bitter chocolate in the background. Well-structured, with an abundance of powdery tannins, and good mineral extraction, the wine is only now just approachable, but will only start to show its best in a year or two and should be able to cellar until 2028 or longer. Score A/A-. ($64.99. Available online at www.kosherwine.com,  567-4370)
Recanati, Wild Carignan, Reserve, Judean Hills, 2014: This full-bodied, dark-purple-colored wine was made from Carignan grapes grown in a non-irrigated vineyard on vines that were planted more than three decades ago. The nose is complex with notes of cherries, cranberries, blackberries and oak, with an intriguing whiff of Earl Grey tea. Look for flavors of cherries, cassis, blackberries, cranberries, plums, and espresso, with notes of anise, and allspice all built upon an earthy, oaky, background. Well-balanced, with powerful-yet-supple tannins, this wine should drink well until 2022 or 2023. Score A-. ($51.99. Available at Garnet Wines & Liquors, 929 Lexington Ave., Manhattan,  772-3212)
Jezreel Valley Winery, Shomron, 2014: Made from Carignan grapes grown on 45-year-old vine-stock in the Shfeya vineyard, north of Zikron Ya’akov, this garnet-colored wine has a bouquet of cherries, cassis and cranberries, with notes of uncured tobacco and cedar. Fruit-forward, but with surprising depth, the wine’s flavor has elements of cherries, cranberries, red currants, rhubarb and spice. Drink now and for the next four years. Score B+ ($40. Not yet released.)
Carmel, Appellation, Old-Vine Carignan, Shomron, 2009. Dark garnet in color, this full-bodied wine was made from Carignan grapes grown on 30-year-old vines near the winery’s headquarters in Zichron Ya’acov. While nearing the end of its life, this wine is still drinking well. Oak and brier dominate the nose but also look for whiffs of cherries, red currents and cassis. The flavor has elements of cassis, cherries, red currents, raspberries, oak and spice. This wine should be consumed in the next six months. Drink up. Score B+. ($16.99. Available at Suhag Wines & Liquor, 69-30 Main St., Flushing, Queens.  793-6629.)
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 the price at the retailer mentioned.