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This Kosher Bordeaux Was Worth The Wait

Tel Aviv’s Kosher Food and Wine Experience (KFWE) took place last week in a light and airy event space called Trask, overlooking the Mediterranean in the Port of Tel Aviv. As afternoon sun poured into the hall, Royal CEO Nathan Herzog introduced winemakers and winery representatives here to showcase their latest kosher releases.

Zur, the importer for Royal Wine in Israel, hosted about 30 wineries.

French wine was well represented. Michel Drappier came from his family’s Champagne house in the Aube. But the big story was an impressive variety of high-quality kosher wines from Bordeaux. These were introduced by Boris Breau (managing director of Compagnie Viticole Baron Emond de Rothschild), Dominique Befve (director of Chateaux Lascombes, second growth of Margaux) and Olivier Cuvelier for Leoville Poyferre in Saint-Julien. This second growth is one for the cellar, but other wines under the Chateau’s umbrella, Pavillon de Leoville Poyferre (second label), Chateau Moulin Riche and Chateau Le Crock (Saint-Estephe Cru Borgeois) are tempting for the table now. All with differences, they share a style that is dark, masculine and earthy with bold tannins. This release of kosher Bordeaux spans vintages 2013, 2014, and 2015.

Menahem Israelievitch oversees production of all kosher Bordeaux in the Royal Wine portfolio. Image by Sadie Flateman

If you’re one of the people wondering why you don’t already know of these wines, you’re not alone. A scant amount of kosher wine is made at these chateaux, and the vintages are spotty. The Chateau Malartic Lagraviere 2014, for instance, is the first vintage on the market since 2005. Making a kosher Bordeaux is hard work.

Menahem Israelievitch, managing director and winemaker for Royal Wine Europe oversees production of all kosher Bordeaux in the Royal Wine portfolio. At the age of 16 he had his first job working in the kashrut process and has stuck with it. These storied wineries, he explained, do not need to make kosher wine. To make a separate batch of wine, from grapes that are processed and raised aside from their general production by a crew of Sabbath-observant Jews, requires convincing. Meeting the financial requirements for it to be worthwhile is a smaller matter than quality control. For these luxury wine brands, their reputation, and therefore the quality of the wines, is everything. The quality of the kosher bottling must be equivalent.

Israelievitch’s job is to learn the intentions of the winery and to coordinate the logistics of making the wine, a process that takes about two years of planning prior to harvest, and includes assembling a crew of between 40 and 50 skilled, certified shomer shabbat workers — a crew coming mainly from Paris, Leone and Marseille.

After harvest, the crew reduces to under 10 workers year round. Wines are certified kosher by Rabbi Mordechai Seckbach of Strasbourg. Kosher Bordeaux assures quality, though certainly not value when compared with their non-kosher counterparts. A few wines worth seeking out are:

Chateau Grand Puy Ducasse Pauillac 2013
It may be from a week vintage, but this wine is well done. Lighter style, with fresh herbs, earth and balanced red fruits. Shows complexity, elegance and poise. Start drinking this vintage now.

Chateau Greysac Medoc 2015
A very good vintage. Already showing some development, with garnet around the rim and slight mushroom aroma. Delivers quite a range of flavors and complexity with good tannic structure. Very consumable. A useful wine; keeping plenty on hand.

Chateau Le Crock Saint-Estephe 2015
Dry, with notes of earth and fennel seed. Muscularly built with proud, youthful tannins. Needs time to breath. Hold for a few years or consume with meat.

In addition to the Bordeaux, there were other wines of interest: Motty Herzog of Herzog Wine Cellar in California presented Herzog Variations Cabernet American Oak 2015 and spoke about Lake County as a rewarding source for their grapes. Other international guests included Dr. Moises Cohen pouring Elvi Wines’ flagship Clos Mesorah 2013, a deep carignena-garnacha blend from Montsant, Spain, with cigar-box aromas.

Sadie Flateman is a specialist in wines of Israel. She lives in New York and has a big appetite.


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