. Vite Vinifera De Vino's Blog: Israeli, Kosher and Really Good

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Israeli, Kosher and Really Good

The gem is called Domaine du Castel Gran Vin 2003. The owner and self taught winemaker, Eli G Ben-Zaken, planted a small vineyard in 1988 on a hill top near his house in the Judean Hills. The first vintage of the Gran Vin, a blend of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, was in 1992. The first "experiment" brought very good critics and one in particular by Serena Sutcliffe (Master of Wine and head of the International wine department of Sotheby's). That review backed Eli's belief in the possibility to make a great wine. He decided to turn the old hen house and the stable in a state of the art underground cellar facility and plant more grapes in what he called the Haute de Judee. Now they have 13 Hectares of vineyards at an altitude of 700 meters above the sea level (more or less 2100 feet). They manually pick the grapes and ferment them in temperature controlled Stainless steel vats, maceration on the skin for as long as 30 days depending on the vintage. The wine than is refined for 24 months in new French oak barrels made exclusively for him by Seguin Moreau in Cognac. All Castel wines are unfiltered and meticulously made respecting the highest quality standards in wine making.
I had the wine on three different occasions so far. The first I had it with Tsvika, which actually introduced me to the estate. I remember being so surprised by it that I felt like a little kid after having discovered a hidden treasure. The nose was filled with raspberries, black liquorice and herbal hints of something in between of Rosemary and sage; in the mouth was explosive, warm, but still balanced and elegant. Firm notes of dark berries, sweet hints of vanilla, black licorice and unique notes of Rosemary and time (typical from that area are the balsamic flavors of mint and licorice and the notes of aromatic herbs, other great examples of that are the wines of Chateau Musar and Massaya both from Lebanon).
I was so surprised by the wine that I've decided to invite few wine friends over the shop few days later and blind taste them on it and because I was sure that nobody will have an idea of the origin of it, I asked them to just guess the country were the wine was made. Most of them laughed at me saying that that would be too easy. Now my guest were all acculturated winos, but I was ready to bet on the fact that nobody would be able to tell me the origin of the wine. Sure enough after few saying Perth in Australia some other looking at the eastern Italian border and the north part of California they finally gave up and remained speechless for few minutes after learnig that it was from Israel. Same thing happened on the third occasion, this time the victims are people that work in the wine business here in New York. Again nobody could tell and then believed that the wine was Israeli.
I must say Bravo Eli for the great job he is doing showing the world that also Israel should get some attention.
Buona Bevuta a Tutti


Anonymous said...

sounds good, but what does kosher mean? i though kosher meant that meat and dairy weren't on the same plate. what does it mean for wine?

De Vino said...

For a wine to be kosher, strict regulations must be followed. It really all begins in the fields. Grapes from new vines may not be used for making wine, until after the fourth year. Every seventh year the fields must be left fallow and there is a prohibition on growing other fruits and vegetables between the vines.

All the equipment, tools and winemaking storage facilities must be kosher. During the harvest, only Sabbath observant male Jews are allowed to work on the production of the wines. Since most of the experienced winemakers in Israel are not observant, this means that they can’t touch the wine or the equipment, during the winemaking process.

During the production of kosher wine, no animal products may be used. Gelatin or egg whites are sometimes used by non-kosher wine makers, to clarify the wine, while kosher wine makers use a clay material, called bentonite, which pulls suspended particles to the bottom of the barrel.

For wine to be kosher one percent of the wine must be discarded, a symbolic remnant of the 10% tithe, paid to the Temple in Jerusalem in days gone by. Additionally, barrels must be cleaned three times.

There are really two levels of kosher wine. The first includes the restrictions outlined above, while the second, known as “mevushal” utilizes an additional process. This is important since Kashrut law stipulates that in order for a wine to retain its ‘kosherness’ once opened and poured by a non-Jew, (such as a waiter, for instance) the wine must be "mevushal."

Bringing the liquid to a boiling point makes this type of wine, causing air bubbles to be brought to the surface and the loss of some wine, due to evaporation. A wine that is produced in this manner retains its religious purity, regardless of who opens or pours it. A study at the University of California at Davis, has proven that it is not possible to consistently taste the difference between non- mevushal and mevushal wine.

To ensure wine’s purity, the codification of koshering wine began in the days of Maimonides. Today, a quick glance at the bottle’s label will clearly indicate whether the wine is kosher or not.

Anonymous said...

Don't forget the eucalyptus!


De Vino said...

You are right Terenzio I shouldn't forget the eucalyptus :)

Anonymous said...

Thank you devino for all the information about Kosher wine. I had no idea so much was involved. Though the last part about mevushal wine being heated up is the most puzzling. That sounds like it could harm the flavor, even though the study in California didn't detect it, and the religous reason for heating wine is confusing to me.

De Vino said...

Most of the time the reasons are not religious like the fact that they have to pay 10 percent to the Temple of Jerusalem.
The kosher rules are mostly related to health issues. Back in the days there was no refrigeration so milk pork and other perishable items needed to be handled carefully to avoid dangerous consequences.
Today those rules make no or little sense, but are still in place because all kind of religions are very static and don't change as fast as the humans evolve

kosherwineshop said...

I guess that traditions make sense here. I can't imagine why else Kosher wine would be so different and tastier than other types of wine.