When I was a young lad, my favourite part of the Seder meal was — I am not kidding — the karpas. In our house it was crinkly parsley (flat-leaf hadn’t appeared on the gastronomic horizon then) and I can still remember swirling it around vigorously in the salt water.
Looking back, I realise that my enthusiasm came mostly from hunger — I knew it would be the last sustenance I’d see for a good long while. So I ate it with relish.
My tastes have progressed — I no longer dip parsley in salt water for the pleasure of eating. But I have one friend whose taste in wine has not moved on from the ultra-sweet kiddush wines of his youth. “Forget that French junk! Give me Manischewitz”, he declares. His taste buds have simply never developed a tolerance for anything drier than old-style kiddush wine.
On the whole I am not a great stickler for wine at a Seder. There’s so much else to do that the quality of the wine is almost a secondary consideration. That Covenant Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon I wrote about a few weeks ago? Great, but not necessary. For me, something lower down the price scale will do just fine. Especially if it’s cabernet sauvignon.
There may be people who don’t eat lamb at Pesach, but I have yet to meet them. And cab sav is the ideal lamby choice. Alfasi Cabernet Sauvignon 2009/10 (around £10 from Tesco as well as the kosher specialists) is a fat and fleshy example; an extremely likeable wine.
I’ve always found Barkan’s cabs to be pretty consistent, and would be more than happy with their basic Barkan Classic Cabernet Sauvignon (Waitrose and specialists, around £9).
But of course, it doesn’t have to be cabernet. One of the most delicious lamb dishes I’ve ever had was cutlets grilled on a wood fire in the Catalan wine region of Priorato, just before a visit to the exemplary Cellers de Capçanes winery. I’ve recommended their non-mevushal Peraj Petita before, but I can’t help doing it again — £15.49 from www.kosherwineuk.com. Spicey, sweet with gorgeous red fruits, it’s a worthy adornment of anyone’s Seder table. And probably good even with karpas.