With the Jewish holidays in high gear, many of you will be washing down your gefilite fish with a glass or two of Kosher wines. We’re not just talking about Manishevitz, the official “fortified grape juice” of the Jewish people, but rather the growing selection of Cabernet Sauvignons, Chardonnay’s and numerous wines that are being made Kosher style.

With all these Kosher wines on the market, Gothamist was wondering how they’d stack up to their non-kosher counterparts. Could we taste a difference? Would the quality suffer from the extra steps Kosher wines must go through to be Kosher?

So we went in search for answers….

A Quick Trip to Hebrew School: What makes a wine Kosher?
There’s a big misconception that a wine is made Kosher by being blessed by a Rabbi. Actually for a wine to be made Kosher there are strict guidelines that need to be followed from the moment the grapes enter the winery to when the wine is bottled. Since this is a quick trip to Hebrew School, we’ll stick to the highlights.

The main style of Kosher wines is Mevushal, which means cooked in Hebrew. In this style of Kosher wine the slurry of grapes (prior to fermentation) are quickly heated to 185 degrees Fahrenheit usually in a flash pasteurizing unit. It is quickly cooled and then they undergo the fermentation and wine making process.

Cooked grapes? We had to believe that this would affect the taste of the wine. So we grabbed some innocent bystanders and conducted a quick blind tasting.

The Wines
In order to compare apples to apples we selected two 2001 California Cabernet Sauvignon wines each costing $12.99 per bottle.
Kosher Wine: 2001 Weinstock Cabernet Sauvignon, California
Non-Kosher Wine: 2001 De Loach Cabernet Sauvignon, California

The Verdict
While all three testers where able to select the kosher wine from the two unlabeled glasses, the difference was not as profound as we had anticipated. In fact, one taster preferred the Kosher style to the regular. The main difference between the two wines was that the Kosher wine was a little lighter in color and flavor. While there were notes of black fruit in both wines – blackberries and cherries – the flavors were slightly less pronounced in the Kosher wine.

So this Yom Kippur, as you’re sitting around with your family and friends enjoying the holiday meal, pass over the Manishevitz and pair your turkey and kasha varnishkes with a Kosher Pinot Noir, it’s a match made in heaven.

-- L'Chaim (cheers)!