We are instructed to drink four glasses of wine at the Seder meal — so why not make them good ones?
Seder Night is nothing if not a classic banquet. In a banquet there may be a number of wines served. A sparkling wine will be the aperitif, a white wine will be served with fish, a red wine with the meat course and a dessert wine with the pudding. My recommendation is to follow the same idea with the four glasses for Passover. Though tradition holds that the finest red wine should fill the ritual four cups, if the white is good enough an exception may be made.
Yarden Blanc de Blancs is a sparkling wine made by the Champagne method, with a toasty aroma and a clean, refreshing finish. It makes the perfect aperitif. If a dry sparkling wine is too much for you on an empty stomach, I suggest one of the fresh, grapey Moscatos produced by Carmel or Golan wineries. They are light, slightly sparkling with a touch of sweetness and are also low in alcohol.
‘C’ Blanc du Castel 2006 is arguably Israel’s finest white wine. Its quality is reminiscent of a classic white Burgundy. A buttery wine with delicate notes of tropical fruit, roasted almonds and an exquisite balance between fruit and acidity. Dalton Sauvignon Blanc, Barkan Classic Chardonnay or Vineyard’s Selected White Zinfandel, a semi dry rose, are less expensive alternatives.
Yatir Forest 2003. It is a full bodied Bordeaux blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, grown in the heart of Israel’s largest planted forest, in the southern Judean Hills. Rich, velvety with great depth, it has a classic aroma of blackcurrant and blackberries, with hints of Mediterranean herbs. The world’s most influential wine critic, Robert Parker, judged the best Israeli wines to be as follows in his Wine Advocate magazine: Yatir Forest 2003 (93 points); Castel Grand Vin 2004 (92); Yarden Katzrin 2003 (91); Carmel Limited Edition 2004 (90); Yatir Cabernet Shiraz Merlot 2003 (90). Each of these, according to Parker’s rating, is “an outstanding wine” and among the finest kosher wines in the world. Any of them will elevate your Seder. If these are too expensive, I recommend the Galil Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon, Private Collection Cabernet Merlot, or if you want something more unusual, the Appellation Old Vines Carignan.
Carmel Sha’al Gewurztraminer Late Harvest 2006. This award-winning dessert wine, with aromas of lychees, apricots and citrus fruit, has a refreshing acidity and it is a wonderful, sweet way to finish any meal. An alternative would be Binyamina Muscat. For children I recommend either following the French custom of diluting the wine with water, or purchasing a low alcohol Moscato. Both these options are more in keeping with the spirit of Passover than grape juice. For those who insist on Kiddush wines, note they will taste far better when served chilled from the fridge.
Followers of Palwin should be aware that it is still one of the very few Kiddush wines produced without any additional sugar. I would fill Elijah’s Cup with Palwin, rather than using the rare and expensive Yatir Forest! You will have noticed a distinct bias for Israel in my choice of wines. Master of Wine Tim Atkin recently wrote in The Observer: “In such a climate,” (referring to ‘the situation’ in Israel, not to the weather!) “tending vineyards and producing wine is an act of courage and optimism. I have admiration for the majority of Israel’s winemakers.” I agree with him. Passover is the Festival of Freedom. We are now free to make wines in our own land. What is more, after experimenting for a few thousand years, Israeli wines are turning out to be rather good.
Adam Montefiore works for Carmel Winery in Israel. He regularly writes about wine both in Israel and for international publications