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Kosher wine and spirits are on the up - and we'll drink to that

Central London food and drink experience attracts record crowd and exhibitors

    When Kedem staged its first Kosher Food and Wine Experience in London a dozen years ago, barely 50 people turned up.

    But demand for the event has grown apace with the burgeoning reputation of kosher wines and spirits and 800 people filled the ballroom of the Sheraton Park Lane Hotel on Wednesday evening for the biggest event to date, featuring a record 40-plus exhibitors.

    As well as a number of increasingly well-known Israeli labels, there were wines to sample from America, New Zealand, Argentina, France and Spain, Finnish vodka, Swiss liqueur and gin and whiskies from the US. At least the mountainous and constantly replenished selection of sushi, salads and meats meant patrons had no need to imbibe on an empty stomach.

    Around 100 ticket buyers went for the VIP option, enjoying what Kedem Europe general manager Benjamin Gestetner described as "a nicer dining experience and exclusive wines and whiskies".

    For the rest, the wines being promoted ranged from £10 to approaching £200, with some at the higher end showcasing the 2015 vintage Bordeaux. "It's taken kosher production to a new level," Mr Gestetner said.

    "There has been a 100 per cent change in attitude towards kosher wine. People were used to kiddush wine and we had to push them to try something different."

    Kosher wines are now stocked by most major supermarket chains, in Selfridges and in specialist outlets such as Hedonism in Mayfair. Consumer requests rise each year after the KFWE.

    Mr Gestetner also spoke highly of the Boondocks American whiskies, finished in kosher port casks. Unsurprisingly, the Boondocks stand was particularly popular with guests, as was the adjacent Distillery No 209 display, where a bartender was mixing cocktails - including the Negroni-style Quencher - featuring its kosher for Passover gin.

    "It's made to be a mixable spirit," said Peter Abrahams, president of the San Francisco company and unabashed gin-lover. If only he could find a kosher for Passover tonic water, his cup (or glass) would runneth over.

    Another lengthy queue was for a taste of the kosher Cuvée from Champagne Barons de Rothschild, whose managing director Frederic Mairesse revealed that it will be releasing the first premium kosher Rosé champagne later in 2018.

    Over a moreish glass of Cabernet Sauvignon, Alex Haruni, once of Finchley, talked passionately about the family-run Dalton Winery in the Galil, started at the suggestion of his father.

    From a small first harvest in 1995, it has developed to producing 1.2 million bottles annually, close on ten per cent of which are purchased in the UK.

    "I believe Israeli wineries have everything to be proud of," he said. "We have wines that can compete. They are a little more expensive but then they aren't subsidised.

    "We are ambassadors for the Galil," he added. "We grow most of our own fruit and try to be good employers. We have staff who have been with us virtually from the beginning."

    How did Mr Haruni find the knowledge of KFWE patrons? "At the beginning of the evening when they are sober, they pay far more attention to what they are drinking. By the end, they don't care."

    Browsing the stands, Young Norwood's Anthony Shaw spoke for many guests by suggesting the event stood out for the social aspect, attracting both secular, mainstream and strictly Orthodox Jews. "People have come to network as well as to enjoy a good glass of wine. Actually I prefer the food."

     

     

     

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