We’ve put together the ultimate wine guide for your Rosh Hashanah meals — no matter your preference (White or red? Dry or sweet? Bubbly or smooth?), we’ve got you covered.
Best Holiday Sparklers
In the spirit of the season, I have a confession to make: I actually like Moscato wine — that low-alcohol, bubbly, sweet wine that causes many oenophiles to turn up their noses (and their palates).
Here’s how my family started drinking Moscato: We would always pick out a semi-splurge bottle of dry wine for Shabbat that I would look forward to all week. My husband would make kiddush on it, and by the time everyone had some, it was gone, leaving us with nothing to drink with the meal.
So we started making the blessing on Moscato, and saving the more expensive bottle for the meal itself.
For Rosh Hashanah, we put a handful of pomegranate seeds in the Moscato, which makes it look beautiful and very fancy. It’s even nicer in champagne flutes, but wine glasses work as well.
My Moscato of choice is Teperberg White Moscato, which is less sweet than other brands. It’s only about 5 percent alcohol, and it retails for about $10. Carmel Winery also makes several varieties of Moscato, including the one my kids prefer called “Buzz,” that comes in even cheaper at around $8.
However, if you’re afraid of losing your wine-snob status, the pomegranate trick works just as well with Yarden’s Blanc de Blancs, a dry sparkling wine from the Golan Heights winery. It tastes just like good champagne, with lemon, apple and floral notes. The bubbles last a long time, with a nice taste of toast on the finish. It retails for $28 - $32 and can be aged.
Until recently, Israeli winemakers focused on red wines, which still make up about three quarters of wines sold in Israel and exported. But recently, some wineries have begun making new varietals and blends. One of these, Barkan, has just released a Special Reserve Winemaker’s Choice Viognier. If you haven’t tried the type, viognier is a heavier-bodied white, with great aromatics and a long finish. This viognier gives you a taste of oak as well as vanilla, nutmeg and clove. Retails for $18 - $25.
Best Wine To Impress Your Mother In Law
Consider going upscale with a unique wine called Gva’ot Gofna Reserve Chardonnay-Cabernet. The 2016 is made of 80 percent chardonnay and 20 percent cabernet sauvignon (the popular red grape). It’s aged for eight months in oak barrels, and the cabernet gives it a deeper, rounder taste. It’s also a little pricy, retailing for around $40 but as the saying goes, “life is too short to drink bad wine.” Gva’ot by the way, located in Givat Har’el near the Jewish settlement of Shilo in the West Bank is one of Israel’s up and coming wineries, and all of their wines are worth trying. The winemaker, Shivi Drori, is also making experimental wines out of ancient grapes including marawi and jandali.
Best Holiday Whites
Check out the Israeli white wine that’s newly available in the US, the Jezreel Valley Levanim 2016. It’s a light fruity blend of 50% Gewürztraminer, 30 Sauvignon Blanc and 20% French Colombard, and has aromas of lychee and fresh-cut grass. It sells for $18 in the US.
Best Holiday Reds
I suggest the Dalton Alma 2013 Scarlet, a traditional Mediterranean-style blend of 75 percent Shiraz, with 15 percent mourvedre, and ten percent Grenache. It’s high alcohol at 15 percent, but nicely balanced so you don’t feel the alcohol. I think the Dalton winery offers great value for money. The Alma series, which includes other blends as well, retails for $20 - $25.
I also loved the Recanati Cabernet Sauvignon, a great deal at $17. The grapes are hand-picked and aged for just five months in oak barrels. The wine is full bodied with typical flavors of plum and blackberry.
For the last red, I recommend the Yarden Malbec, aged for 18 months in French oak barrels. Malbec is the famous grape of Argentina, a relatively recent import to Israel. This wine is juicy and delicious and my husband and I polished off almost the entire bottle. We tasted berry, blueberry and plum, along with the oak. Simply delicious.
Best For The Last Buzz
I love sweet port-style dessert wines, and one of my favorite is Netofa Fine Ruby, a port-style wine made of Touriga Nacional and Tempranillo grapes, traditional Portuguese grapes. They spend two years in wooden casks, and the result is a dark, sweet and spicy dessert wine. I tasted chocolate and marzipan, and kept sipping away, until the glass was empty. A bottle costs $75 but a little goes a long way.
Linda Gradstein is a wine and alcohol enthusiast. When she’s not drinking, she is the Mideast Bureau Chief of The Media Line, a US news agency. She lives in Jerusalem with her husband and four children.