Sorry, Palwin lives to flay your palate another day

By Robyn Rosen, August 27, 2009
An 1955 advertisement for Palwin wine, as it appeared in the JC

An 1955 advertisement for Palwin wine, as it appeared in the JC

Some people always have a “glass is half empty” attitude. So when stocks of the famously sweet kiddush wine, Palwin, appeared to have run low at supermarkets across the country, frantic customers contacted the JC, worried that Palwin had closed down.

More than 100,000 bottles of Palwin wine are produced every year by the Israeli winery, Carmel, solely for the British market, but customers have reported a shortage in recent months.

But before readers dash to stock up on their favourite kiddush tipple, we can reveal that the shmittah year in 2008 meant that Carmel had to cease producing it — temporarily.

Adam Montefiore, wine development director at Carmel, said: “I can categorically deny that Palwin has gone bust.

“A large proportion of Palwin’s customers would not buy a wine from a shmittah year. So the wine was not produced in 2008, but will return with the wine made from the 2009 harvest.”

The Torah states that agricultural activity is prohibited every seventh year to allow the land to rejuvenate, but Mr Montefiore said that shelves will soon be stacked full of the wine.

Palwin wine, Israel’s oldest brand, was first produced by the Palestine Wine and Trading Company which was formed in England in 1898. It is now only sold in the UK.

It is used predominantly as kiddush or communion wine and the difference between the ranges is the alcoholic content: Palwin No 10 is 12.5 per cent alcohol; No 4 is 14.5 per cent.

“Palwin and the British market have been inseparable for 111 years,” Mr Montefiore added. “There is no reason it should not continue.”

NU, it’s a love-hate relationship

Most British Jews have a deeply ambivalent relationship with Palwin wines.

On one hand there are some wonderful associations — Friday nights, family occasions and chicken soup — everything we hold dear. On the other hand there is the inescapable fact that it tastes truly awful.

This clearly has not put us off buying it — in fact if it wasn’t for British Jews, Palwin would not still be in existence. We still make that tantalising choice between Palwin No 4 (sweet and sickly) and Palwin No 10 (sickly and sweet), although its popularity is not what it once was..

However, this is not the reason we do not serve Palwin at the dinner table. Nobody has ever served Palwin at the dinner table, in the same way that nobody would ever serve cough medicine at the dinner table — although to be honest, if you are looking for bouquet, body and subtlety of flavour, you would better off going with the Benylin.

Simon Round

Last updated: 10:49am, August 27 2009