There was a time when good Kosher wines could be hard to come by, and only sweet wines made from Concord grapes filled store shelves. The last few decades, however, have seen an increased demand for quality and variety, whether for Sabbath dinners, gifts or Hanukkah, Purim, Passover, Yom Kippur, Rosh Hashanah and Sukkot celebrations. Kosher wines are made from vitis vinifera grapes (think Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Zinfandel, Chardonnay…) like any other fine wine; the only difference is their production follows Jewish dietary laws known as “kashrut.” For a wine to be labelled Kosher, it must be produced by practicing Jewish winery workers from harvest through to bottling; yeasts, fining agents or other additives used must also be Kosher. (Wines labelled Kosher for Passover and Mevushal have additional production requirements.)
Israel is the historical home of Kosher wine. Vineyards were first planted more than 2,000 years ago; the modern wine scene here started in the 19th century when Baron Edmond de Rothschild founded the Carmel winery and introduced French winemaking techniques. Today, Kosher wine is made in top wineries and wine regions around the world, from California to Spain to Bordeaux.