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Wine & Our Religious Holidays


Oneof the benefits of being involved in an inter-faith marriage is, around the majorholidays, its one non-stop party after another—the complementary benefits ofJudaism and Catholicism not having exactly conjoining holidays.

So,Passover and the Seder is always celebrated in advance of Easter Sunday.

TheSeder is the gathering of family and friends the first two nights of the sevenday Passover holiday.

And,for wine, the Seder ceremony calls for the consumption of four glasses of wine.

Now,this is something I can get behind.


Four Cups

There is a Rabbinicobligation to drink four cups of wine (or pure grape juice) during the Seder.This applies to both men and women. The Mishnah says (Pes. 10:1) that even thepoorest man in Israel has an obligation to drink. Each cup is connected to adifferent part of the Seder: The First Cup is for Kiddush, the Second Cup isconnected with the recounting of the Exodus,the drinking of the Third Cup concludes BirkatHamazon and the Fourth Cup is associated with Hallel.

ThePassover Seder calls for kosher wine. Even non-kosher Jews, at least the ones I am around, drink kosher winefor Seder—or, at the least, have it available. At my in-laws Seder, we also enjoyed an Oliver Blackberry wine, which,as fruit wines go, is pretty tasty.

I’mno expert on this, but there’s a good article on kosher wine here.

Thewine available at the Seder is of the Manischewitz or Mogan David variety—usuallysweet; very sweet and made from Concord Grapes.

Accordingto Kosher law a kosher wine

 1) Equipment used to make thewine must be used exclusively for the production of kosher products.

2)The grapes and wine must be handled, from grape crushing to consumption, onlyby Sabbath-observing Jews, unless the wine is mevushal (pasteurized).

3)Only certified kosher products (yeast, filtering agents, etc.) can be used.

TheKosher laws are a bit of a detriment to serving fine wine when you consider thepasteurization that has to take place—pasteurization occurs at 190 degrees ormore.

Thisis a cruel bit of irony for our friend, Louis Pastuer, the pioneer of themethod and a notable oenophile, as well. He said:

"Winecan be considered with good reason as the most healthful and the most hygienicof all beverages."

Mogan_david_1 Despite the high temperaturesand stringent requirements to make wine kosher, some folks are making finewine.

Anothersecondary and related interest to the Mogan David’s and Manischewitz’s of theworld is Indiana’s aforementioned Oliver Winery.

Oliveris definitely Indiana’s pride and joy in the world of wine and garnered somenotice in Wine Business Monthly in ’04.

#4 on Wine BusinessMonthly’s Hot Brands list in 2004

Olivermakes a concord grape wine called Soft Red that is the #1 selling wine inIndiana—no kidding. It sells by thepallet at Sam’s Club.


OliverWinery’s shotgun approach to making wine includes making easy-to-drink, classicdry red wines such as Zinfandel, Shiraz and barrel-fermented Chardonnays.Oliver Winery has 40 acres of vineyards, a mix of vinifera and hybrids. Itrelies on growers in Washington, Oregon, California and Michigan, oftenshipping grapes in refrigerated containers packed with dry ice. Oliver Wineryalso makes sweet wines from Concord grapes. The hot seller and cash cow, infact, is Oliver Winery’s Soft Red Wine made from Concord grapes. The winerymade 65,000 cases of Soft Red Wine last year, and it retailed for about $8 perbottle.

"There’s an overlooked market segment in sweet wines the big boys aren’tmaking," said Oliver Winery owner and winemaker Bill Oliver,pointing out that some other wineries, such as St. JamesStoneHill of Missouri and St. Julian of Michigan, have found similarsuccess with some of their sweeter offerings.

So,aside from Passover wines, there is a market for sweet and semi-sweet wines—particularlyin the Midwest where the declining sales in White Zinfandel memo hasn’t reachedall of our fair “Red” state brethren.

But,sweet wine or not, anytime food, family, friends and wine can come together isa reason to celebrate to me—Passover, Easter or any other reason.

Now,I’ll just have to pick out another semi-sweet wine, probably a Gewurt, for theham on Easter.



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