Many of us grew up drinking sweet and syrupy kosher wines made of Concord or Carignan grapes, and some still think that to be kosher, wine must be sweet. But while wines hold a special place in the laws of kashrut, and the grape is valued above all other fruits, due to the precious wine that is pressed from its skin, kosher wine does not have to be sweet or syrupy.
A kosher wine is produced through the same process as any other wine, under the condition that the grapes are handled only by the Shabbat observant from the time they arrive at the winery until the bottles are sealed. Furthermore, the equipment and machinery - such as crushers, presses, tanks and casks - must be used exclusively for kosher wine production. No casks used for non-kosher wines may be used in kosher winemaking.
For wine to remain kosher if it is opened and poured by a non-Jew, it must be "mevushal" (cooked).
Mevushal wine goes through a process that brings the liquid to boiling point - defined as heating it until air bubbles are brought to the surface and some wine is lost through evaporation. In such case the wine retains its religious purity no matter who opens or pours.
The laws regarding wine that is mevushal have been refined. Modern winemaking techniques now allow production to proceed so that the "must" (the sticky residue that must be disposed of) can quickly run through a heat flash pasteurizing unit where the wine is quickly heated. The "must" is then cooled down just as quickly and the rest of the fermentation and winemaking process continues.
The quality of the kosher wineries in recent years has dramatically improved as local winemakers use different grape varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Chardonnay.
Overall, kosher and non-kosher quality Israeli wines have earned the appreciation of wine lovers around the globe. Enthusiasts in far-away countries now regularly enjoy well-produced Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc wines, carefully crafted right here in the Holy Hills. - O.Z.