Jews around the world will soon kick off the holiday season with two days of Rosh Hashanah prayers, rituals, meals and celebrations. If I have anything to do with it, they’ll also elevate their festive meals with delicious wines — without breaking the bank.
While the Rosh Hashanah holiday is often associated with dipping apples into honey to symbolize a sweet new year, Rosh Hashanah menus typically also feature plenty of fresh fruits, fragrant fish dishes, and hearty fall vegetables — all perfect for pairing with refreshing and nuanced wines.
After sampling dozens of bottles and speaking with winemakers, distributors, retailers and salespersons around the country, below are my favorite picks under $25 to help you bring in the sweet new year on a responsibly frugal note:
This is a classic Napa Valley white that is richer and fuller than what you might expect upon first glance at such a pale white wine. But don’t let your eyes fool you: This bottle is complex, fruity and even a bit “spicy,” with high acidity and notes of green bell pepper. Pairs well with fish and chicken, salads and crudité as well as light Mediterranean fare.
This delicious and refreshing brut rosé made from Italian grapes outshines bottles more than twice the price. Light and slightly fruity with gentle bubbles, it’s great as an aperitif or served with meals of light fish and cream sauces. Best served below 50°F.
This syrupy rosé made from cabernet sauvignon grapes is quite different from the other rosé on the list; it smells like peaches and tastes both heady and floral. Call me sacrilegious, but this wine belongs in a cocktail — a light whiskey and seltzer would be perfect for a hot late summer night, but mixed with gin and a dash of orange bitters, it’d make a delicious imitation Negroni.
If you have an adventurous palate or are a self-described caveperson for whom no meal is complete without a piece of meat, oh have I got a varietal for you. I am on a mission to get my fellow Americans to fall in love with the deliciously funky South African grape pinotage, a 1920s cross between cinsaut and pinot noir. The inky black wine has bold berry flavor, a distinct note of asphalt, and a distinctly gamey flavor akin to an awesome fatty jerky. Pairs well with smoked anything — especially BBQ.
Made by the Arab-Israeli Artul family in the heart of the Judaean hills, this dry, oak-aged red wine with a soul of its own will quickly become your go-to pick for Shabbat meals. It’s fragrant, has super soft tannins, and smells like Havdalah spices. It’s a bit acidic when first opened, so it’s best to decant or open the bottle half an hour or so before you serve it. Pairs well with red meat, hearty stews, or red sauce and sharp cheeses.
Affordable merlot can often be overly fruity, boring and predictable — but this fragrant bottle, with notes of fresh herbs, baking spices, cocoa and tart berries, is different. This bottle is a Wine Enthusiast Editor’s Choice pick, scoring 92 points out of 100 for its “pleasing finish” which provides a “lingering sense of brightness on the palate.” Also, if you’re looking for a great host or hostess gift, this wine comes in an elegant and stately bottle.
If you like the sweet single-noted intensity of Jeunesse, you’ll love this late season cabernet sauvignon. Though technically a semi-sweet wine, this bottle’s jammy flavors will make you feel as if you’ve taken a trip straight to Knott’s Berry Farm. Personally, I’d have it as a late night snack with a crusty sourdough bread and salted butter — or, more adventurously, I’d freeze and turn this bottle into delicious adult popsicles.
Is that waffles you smell? No, it’s this amazing medium-bodied Italian red wine from, believe it or not, Kedem — the same company that makes the most monstrously sweet kosher wines known to man. It has a light acidity and tastes like cherries and overripe strawberries. Pairs very well with salmon or acidic foods like red sauce or salads dressed with vinaigrette.
Laura E. Adkins is the Forward’s deputy opinion editor. Follow her on Twitter, @Laura_E_Adkins
This article was updated on September 18, 2019.
Laura E. Adkins is the Forward’s Deputy Opinion Editor and runs Scribe, the Forward’s Contributor Network. She holds a B.A. in Economics from NYU and grew up in Southwest Missouri. She writes about data, orthodoxy, kosher wine and builds interactive maps — though usually not all at the same time. Contact Laura at email@example.com, like her page on Facebook, or follow her on Twitter.