These aren’t your zayda’s kosher wines


When Barb Sherer and her family go to a friend’s house for Thanksgiving this year, they’ll be carrying kosher red and white wines and both will be dry. They’re bringing a Barkan Chardonnay from Israel because, says Sherer, some people like white wines with their turkey. But they’re also taking a Baron Herzog Zinfandel from California because Sherer wants red.

“I prefer something big, bold and assertive. Something peppery and sassy,” said Sherer, who lives in University City. “I think red wine has so much more complexity.”

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Sherer’s decision to bring two very different wines illustrates what many people do at Thanksgiving. They provide variety to please different palates. After all, there is no one perfect wine to match a feast with foods that range from sweet to savory.

But the meaty-rich preparation of the bird and spiced side dishes, do call for wines with lots of fruit and flavor. In fact, Master Sommelier Andrea Immer writes in her book Great Tastes Made Simple that it’s not so much the body of the wine you need for Thanksgiving, but the depth of flavor. Among the reds she recommends are California Zinfandels and her suggestions for whites include dry Rieslings, Pinot Gris, and fruity French Vouvrays.

All in all, Thanksgiving, upcoming Hanukkah and the secular New Year make for a good opportunity to offer guests a selection of kosher wines that show just how good some of these wines have become.

Not only are there delicious kosher wines from all over the world, but it’s gotten to the point where you can get quality kosher wines at all times of the year. At one time, merchants only expanded their inventory at Passover, but that’s changing with the rising demand for kosher wines that are new to the market.

“Anytime there’s a family gathering we get increased (wine) sales,” said Lenny Kohn of Kohn’s Kosher Market in Creve Coeur.

Wine shops like Provisions in Creve Coeur and Wine Merchant in Clayton, agree saying the heightened interest is tied to the availability of better quality kosher wines.

It’s clear that the message has finally gotten out that wine need not be sweet to be kosher, they said. That misconception stems from the fact that most Jewish immigrants to the United States at the end of the 19th century settled on the East Coast, where only Concord grapes were available for ceremonial wine. The grapes produce a harsh wine that needs lots of sugar to make it palatable.

Kosher wine is made like other wines, although the grapes and wine must be handled only by observant Jews. When there is a possibility that a non-Jew might be pouring the wine, some observant Jews require that their wines be flash-pasteurized, a step called mevushal.

And although the supply of kosher wine in St. Louis remains somewhat limited compared to Chicago or New York, there’s still much more of a selection here than in years past and consumers have a choice of what to serve at Thanksgiving and other times of the year. In addition, and other Web sites offer a large number of choices to online shoppers.

The bigger problem is figuring out what to pair with Thanksgiving and other holiday feasts.

“It can be a little difficult because there are so many flavors,” said Marc Ventus, wine buyer at Provisions. “I try to stick to matching wine with the main dishes. You don’t want to go too heavy, but I look for wines that are very fruit forward and medium bodied.”

He suggests the Weinstock blends from California called W that sell for $11.99. The white is a floral and fruity combination of Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc and Muscat Canelli. The red is also a fruit forward blend that combines Zinfandel, Syrah and Black Muscat.

Ventus also recommended the Dalton Canaan white and red blends from Israel selling for $15.99. The white is a blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Riesling. The red is a medium-bodied wine that combines Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Shiraz.

At the Wine Merchant, Dave Davis recommends the Recanati label from Israel. The store offers a Cabernet Sauvignon for $16.99, a Merlot for $15.99 and a Sauvignon Blanc for $13.99.

The store also sells the Baron Herzog Zinfandel, which Sherer selected, for $14.99.

At Kohn’s, there are several new dry wines including some from Australia’s Altoona Hills label The red is a blend of Shiraz and Merlot and the white is a Chardonnay. They both sell for $10.99.

Other new wines include those sold under Israel’s Binyamina Yogev label. There’s a red blend that’s split between Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon and a white blend of 70 percent Sauvignon Blanc and 30 percent Chardonnay. Both sell for $18.49.

Semi-sweet wines are also big sellers this time of year, said Kohn. Among them are Jeunesse, a California Cabernet Sauvignon from Baron Herzog, selling for $16.49 and a white, the Herzog Chateau Chateneuf from France’s Bordeaux region selling for $14.99. The white is a blend of Semillon and Muscadelle grapes.

Sherer said that while she’s not really into sweeter wines, the most important thing is who she’s with.

“I’ll be with family and friends and that’s what matters,” she said. “Whatever wine we have, it will taste good.”