Choosing the Best Wines for Your Seder Celebrations
By Yissachar Stephens
When Jewish families congregated around the seder table in ancient Israel thousands of years ago, they made a blessing over thick wines produced from the lush vineyards and abundant wine cellars, which permeated the Judean Hills and the Galilee/Golan regions.
Since the rebirth of the Israel’s winemaking industry in the late 19th century by scions of the Rothschild family, and the revolution in creating award-winning premium international vintages led by the Golan Heights Winery in the 1990′s, Jewish families all over the world now have an opportunity to choose from a growing number of quality wines and grape juices for the Pesach holiday.
When choosing a proper wine and/or grape juice to celebrate the “Arba Kosot”, there are several halachots which accentuate the purity of the seder ceremony.
Rabbi Shalom Aronzon, kashrus supervisor (mashgiach) at the Golan Heights Winery for the past 21 years, explains that the 4 cups contain a significant spiritual dimension. “From a historical and halachic perspective, renowned ancient and contemporary rabbinical sages from the Rambam to Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, of blessed memory, encouraged Jews all over the world to use non-mevushal red wine because of its inherent purity. The author of the Shulchan Aruch, Rabbi Yosef Caro, did allow for the use of mevushal wine for Kiddush on a few occasions, but even he admitted that the use of non-mevushal wine was preferable. As a result, a majority of today’s rabbinical sages consider non-mevushal wine to be the desirable choice when making Kiddush,” says Rabbi Aronzon.
Rabbi Aronzon reiterated that while the halachic element of using non-mevushal wine is the premium standard, many contemporary sages allow adults and of course children to make Kiddush over grape juice, for both health and practical reasons.
Which types of wine does Rabbi Aronzon prefer using at his seder, so he’ll be able to stay awake throughout the evening? He revealed, “I’ll use a delicious red wine, such as a Gamla Cabernet Sauvignon or Yarden Merlot for the first two glasses. Both wines boast robust flavors and contain significant alcohol content (at least 12%), but then I’ll make a switch during the second half of the seder. For bentching I’ll use a white Golan Moscato wine, which is light, sweet and lively wine. For the last bracha I’ll use a semi-dry Yarden Gewurztraminer, which is also an excellent white wine. Though many sages prefer the usage of red wine throughout the seder, the renowned Ashkenazic sage, Rabbi Moses Isserles permitted the use of non-mevushal white wines.”