Kosher Wines

The Other Side Of The Cork: A Broken Spirit, But Not A Broken People

Yael E. Geller January 10, 2024

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It has been difficult in the past weeks to quantify the immense loss the Jewish people have suffered in the latest attack on our people. On the one hand, we try to go about our normal daily lives remembering we are a strong, unified nation with unwavering trust in G-d, and, on the other hand, we are trying to process the horrific loss of life and faith in humanity.

Because wine is used at the pinnacle of every celebration of life in Judaism, from the circumcision to the wedding ceremony, it’s really hard to drink wine, connect with friends or family over a glass, or even think about the major loss the Jewish people have suffered while drinking wine. But, contrary to our enemies, we always sanctify and celebrate life.

The yearly grape harvest in Israel does not wait for war to end nor for the rockets to stop raining down. Like other industries, especially the agricultural industry, wineries face incredible challenges. The harvest either ends before the Tishrei holidays or continues after the holidays. Grapes needed to be sorted, crushed, fermented, and aged right now in Israel in order for the wineries to not lose out on the prospects of producing wines from the 2023 harvest season. While the mood is low, and many wineries have lost manpower due to either drafting to the army or the loss of innocent lives, we must support our brothers and sisters in Israel in any way we can.

We have connected with many wineries since the horrific news met our ears, and we are hearing much of the same from all. Harvest and post-harvest activities must continue as usual in any way they can. Wineries are extremely stretched thin due to staffing issues, security issues in the areas where the wineries are located, and in general, the mood is low. Many wineries are closed to visitors since it does not seem appropriate to indulge and enjoy wines during a time of mourning, while others are concentrating efforts on donating wines to internally displaced Israeli families for Shabbat.

Gal from Matar Winery, which is located on the Syrian border, is confident that the products of the harvest will be successful despite their location and lack of manpower. Matar has made efforts to donate wines to families who have been displaced by the war.

At Tura Winery, Erez and Vered Ben Saadon are being challenged since they are the only two people that were not called up to the army that are available to finish the bottling from the harvest.Shiloh Winery has just finished the construction of a new visitor center and winery buildings. It was supposed to be a time of renewal and celebration at Shiloh, however, as elsewhere in Israel, the mood is low. Shiloh’s general manager and head winemaker Amichai Lurie has lost several people who were very dear to him in the war.

As Jews and wine drinkers, we know we have a time and a place for mourning and for supporting our favorite industry. Even if we may not be thinking of celebrating, Shabbat, circumcisions, and weddings are still happening every week. We have an obligation to fulfill these mitzvot even in the most trying times.

Buying Israeli products, and wine in particular, will support our mission to move forward and become stronger. Even if we are not drinking for pleasure right now, it is a good idea to buy wines for Shabbat or later times in quantity in order for the industry to continue to thrive. We are here and we are not forgetting our brothers and sisters in Israel. I would like to highlight a few wines to buy and either save for a Shabbat or celebration.

Shiloh Legend Fiddler has an alcohol content of 14.2% and it is a blend of 45% Shiraz, 40% Petite Sirah, 9% Petit Verdot, and 6% Merlot. The wine, aged 15 months in mixed barrels, is a favorite of many for its juicy, ripe fruit flavors and is a complement to any meal.

Jezreel Argaman is another unique wine from Israel that has been very popular in the last couple of years. Argaman is a cross between Carignan and Souzao that was first created in Israel in 1971. It is a unique wine and truly a testament to the land of Israel’s spirit with bold spicy and fruity flavors. This wine has won many awards from many different critics and competitions, including 94 points from Decanter magazine.

Psâgot homeland was introduced vintage 2020, it is a blend of mostly Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz with a touch of Petit Sirah and Petit Verdot. At 14.5% alcohol by volume, the wine is full-bodied and fruity and is a tribute to winemaker Sam Soroka’s time spent in Australia. This wine pairs well with smoked meats and roasted lamb dishes.

Vitkin’s Israeli Journey series is also a great representation of the wines of the Holy Land. These wines were created to represent a local style of wine. Youthful, hip, and a unique combo of wines from various grapes and vineyards, they represent the actual journey of vineyards in different regions of Israel. These wines are young, unique, accessible, and refreshing. The Israeli Journey clocks in at 12.6% alcohol and is a blend of Cabernet Franc, Carignan, and Syrah. Israeli Journey white is a blend of Viognier, Colombard, and Gewurztraminer at 12.5%. It is refreshing and zesty on the palate.

Tulip Espero is another great wine to represent the Israeli spirit and hope, made from grapes harvested from Kfar Tikva, which literally translates to village of hope. Tulip is 14.5% alcohol and combines an impressive balance of 60% Syrah, 20% Merlot, and 20% Cabernet Franc. It pairs nicely with a long list of foods but especially with shawarma, kebabs, and hummus.

Even if you are not in the mood to sip a glass of wine, life continues to move on. Weddings and circumcisions are taking place, and Shabbat arrives every week. Please consider purchasing Israeli wine for these occasions so that we can remain hopeful and continue as the Jewish people always have, shining bright with hope and rebuilding for the future. L’chaim!