Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Celebrating Birthday with a Moscato

Yesterday was my daughter’s 3rd birthday.  She’s going to have a big party on Sunday so we had a small dinner for her at my mom’s house with just the immediate family.  At my mom’s house every occasion is celebrated with wine.  Since this was a weekday and she is so young I felt like having something different, something we don’t’ usually drink.   I found a perfect bottle of wine for that, Bartenura Moscato Rose sparkling.  This is the new wine from the makers of the regular Bartenura Moscato, or as some people call it, the pretty blue bottle Moscato.

In general I don’t like Moscato wines.  They are too sweet and too little in alcohol level.  Their alcohol level is anywhere from 5%-7.5%, which in some cases is less than beer.  The taste is very fruity and sweet, and it also has carbonation to it (or bubbles as some people say).  Some people say it tastes like fruit punch, others say it reminds them of ginger ale.  It is also known as “the lady’s wine.”  I guess who ever thinks that doesn’t know my friends who can drink as hard as any man.  One of the most famous Moscato wines on the market right now is the Bartenura Moscato.  People love it’s taste and how the bottle looks.

Now this Moscato that I drank was different.  First it’s not regular wine, it’s sparkling, which means it’s like champagne but since it’s not from France it can’t be called that.  Second it’s rose and not white.  Here is a description in wine connoisseur lingo, “Harvested at the peak of ripeness, the grapes are pressed and the juice is then filtered in specially designed centrifuges. This liquid is stored in thermally insulated containers at extremely low temperatures. The secondary fermentation takes place in pressure tanks following the charmat method. Moscato wines go great with fruit, cheese and desserts. The sparkling element makes this a perfect festive wine to complete your meal.”  

I liked that fact that the wine was very light, fruity and refreshing.  It went down very easily, in fact I drank more than half the bottle.  The only disclaimer is that since it’s sparkling it does make you drunk more easily, even though it’s so low in alcohol level.  I definitely had a nice buzz going on, and then got very sleepy.  All in all it was a perfect wine to celebrate my daughter’s birthday.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

What Is a Kosher Wine?

A few days ago someone asked me what kosher wines were.  I guess my first post should have been explained what that is.

A kosher wine begins like every other – as grapes on a vine. These grapes may be grown and picked by any one (kosher or non-kosher). But once grapes reach the winery for crushing, the process is under strict rabbinal supervision.
-       From crushing through bottling, the wine must be handled and processed by Sabbath-observing Jews.
-        Barrels and tanks must be deemed kosher for use.
-       The rabbi or Kashrut trained supervisor must observe all of the winemaking process.
-       No work can be done on the Sabbath. 
-       During the production of kosher wine, no animal products may be used. Gelatin or egg whites are sometimes used by non-kosher wine makers, to clarify the wine, while kosher wine makers use a clay material, called bentonite, which pulls suspended particles to the bottom of the barrel.

Wines produced in Israel also have other requirements.
For a wine to be kosher, strict regulations must be followed. It really all begins in the fields.
-       Grapes from new vines may not be used for making wine, until after the fourth year.
-       Every seventh year the fields must be left fallow and there is a prohibition on growing other fruits and vegetables between the vines.
-       For wine to be kosher one percent of the wine must be discarded, a symbolic remnant of the 10% tithe, paid to the Temple in Jerusalem in days gone by.
-       Additionally, barrels must be cleaned three times.

There are two levels of kosher wine. The first includes the restrictions outlined above, while the second, known as “mevushal” utilizes an additional process. This is important since Kashrut law stipulates that in order for a wine to retain its ‘kosherness’ once opened and poured by a non-Jew or Jew who does not observe Sabbath, (such as a waiter, for instance) the wine must be "mevushal."

Bringing the liquid to a boiling point makes this type of wine, causing air bubbles to be brought to the surface and the loss of some wine, due to evaporation. A wine that is produced in this manner retains its religious purity, regardless of who opens or pours it. A study at the University of California at Davis, has proven that it is not possible to consistently taste the difference between non- mevushal and mevushal wine.”

For many years kosher wines in the US had a bad reputation because most of them were made in New York using concord grapes, which are not good for making wine because it’s very acid.  In order to balance out the acid sugar was added to the wine.   However, in the recent years great kosher wines have emerged from all over the world, not only in Israel but also in California, Argentina, Chile, France, Italy, Spain, New Zealand and Australia, among others.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Happy Purim

This week has been so busy for me with all the pre-Purim tastings, I’ve been working every night past 10pm.  Purim is time to celebrate with friends and family and to drink lots and lots of alcohol.  Customers who come into wine stores are usually in a good mood, but this week everyone has been extra happy.  People are buying wines by the cases, so I guess it’s a good week to be an owner of liquor store.  I love watching the women come into the liquor store trying to match the little bottles with their theme.  One was dressing her daughter in a panda costume, giving out black & white cookies and needed black and white bottles.  Another had a red/strawberry or raspberry theme.  Another was putting bottles into a rubber ducky and needed orange bottles.    

I guess I should explain Purim to those who don’t really know about it.  The short explanation is that it’s the Jewish Halloween.  The historical explanation is that an evil man named Haman who was the advisor to the King of Persia hated the Jewish people and conspired to kill them all.  The king’s wife, Esther was secretly Jewish and came to him to safe him.  The king loved her and ended up killing Haman instead.  It is now the Jewish tradition on Purim to dress up in costumes, hold carnivals, eat, drink and be merry. According to the Talmud, a person is required to drink until he cannot tell the difference between "cursed be Haman" and "blessed be Mordecai(Esther’s uncle)," and send out gifts of food or drink.  Here is a link with a longer explanation,

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

My Favorite Kosher Wine

My first post should be about one of my favorite wines, which is Baron Herzog Cabernet Sauvignon "Jeunesse".  This is a Californian wine.  The funny thing is that I’m not really a red wine drinker, but I really love this wine.  Jeunesse is French for youthful, vibrant, flavorful and fun.  This wine is made out of young grapes, which gives it a taste of sweetness.  This Cabernet has a hint of fresh berry, cherry, and floral aromas.  When I do tastings in stores this is one of the most popular wines, it’s very easy to sell.  One of my friends tried it once in my house and said it was the first red wine she was able to drink that didn’t burn going down.