Plenty of kosher wines are available to complement the latkes, sufganiyot (jelly doughnuts) and other fried foods that are traditional for Chanukah to commemorate the miracle of the long-lasting menorah oil.
Israel has excellent wines from the Galilee and the Judean Hills, and wineries in Italy, Spain, California, and New Zealand also are shipping out kosher bottles.
“From potato latkes to the round jelly doughnuts, there’s a kosher wine for everything,” said Gabe Geller, a wine critic, blogger, and director of public relations and client services for the Royal Wine Co., which owns and operates the Kedem Winery in upstate New York and the Herzog Wine Cellars in Oxnard, Calif., and imports and distributes wines from Israel, France, Italy, Spain, New Zealand and Argentina.
Geller’s pairing suggestions:
- Latkes — It may sound challenging to pair wine with latkes, but it is easy, Geller said. A dry, crisp white wine or a sparkling wine will work wonders with almost anything deep-fried, and latkes are no exception.
Koenig, a producer from France’s Alsace region, has just released its delicious and affordable Crémant d’Alsace Brut. Produced with the méthode Champenoise, it showcases medium bubbles, delightful aromas, and flavors of green apples, toasted bread and sour cream.
A tart, flavorful white blend from Israel, such as the Tabor Adama II Zohar, is an excellent alternative for those who do not appreciate bubbles in their wine. The blend includes such unusual varietals as French Colombard, Roussanne and Viognier and is fascinating because of its mix of floral and exotic aromas.
- Sufganiyot — With doughnuts, especially those filled with jelly or chocolate, Geller suggests sticking with a sweet wine.
An original option is the Zion Mihamartef. While it is not cheap (a bottle costs upward of $100 at retail), it is worth experiencing, especially because it can be recorked and sipped over many months like liquor. The Mihamartef is a sweet dessert wine that was aged for 35 years in oak barrels in the cellars of Israeli winery. It has a thick, almost syrupy texture with notes of caramelized walnuts, dried figs, cinnamon and candied orange peels.
A few experts say it has some characteristics similar to old, sweet German Rieslings, which do not exist in a kosher version.
Because Chanukah runs eight days, it always includes Shabbat. That means cholent, the slow-cooked, hearty stew traditionally made with potatoes, beans and onions and eaten for Shabbat lunch, is a possibility during the Festival of Lights.
While red Bordeaux wines are not ideal to pair with the traditional dishes of Chanukah, they do work well with a traditional cholent and other savory dishes. Geller’s suggestion for those who would like to indulge during the double celebration of Chanukah and Shabbat is Château Le Crock.
It is now available now in a mevushal version, allowing it to remain kosher even when handled by non-Jews, which makes it more accessible and a wine worthy of any fine-dining kosher restaurant. Château Le Crock features notes of crushed blackberries, tobacco and menthol with a rich, velvety texture and caressing tannins, plus enough of a bite to cut through a juicy steak.
“The year 2015 produced an exceptional vintage in Bordeaux,” Geller said. “There have been some other great vintages over the past 20 years, specifically in 2000, 2005, 2009, 2010 as well as 2014. There were, however, very few kosher Bordeaux wines from those vintages. With 2015, we are blessed to have an impressive and extensive selection of wines and at all price points. The new releases make great gifts for wine lovers.”
So, this Chanukah, don’t just open any old bottle when celebrating. If you’re careful to pair your wine with your meal the rest of the year, there’s no reason not to do the same during these eight nights of celebration.