Wine talk: Royal selection

Some good new kosher imports make it even more Challenging to choose the best wine for Shabbat dinner.

winery 311 (photo credit: MCT)
winery 311
(photo credit: MCT)
Royal Wine Corporation, owned by the Herzog family, is the largest importer and distributor of kosher wines in the world. If Carmel Winery is the largest producer of kosher wines, Royal is the most international of all producers, producing kosher wines from all over the world. Wineries like Hagafen from California, and Golan Heights from Israel, may each claim to have contributed to the change of habits of the kosher consumer from sweet kiddush wines to dry or semi dry table wines.
However, it is arguably Royal Wine that has played the major role in the kosher revolution in the United States.
The company portfolio covers the full spectrum of kosher wine from the seriously high quality wines produced by California’s Herzog Wine Cellars to the liquid religion wines of Kedem Winery, from Upstate New York.
Now through Zur Agencies, Royal Wine is bringing some of its finest wines to Israel. These include Herzog and Covenant from California. The Herzog wines were the first kosher wines ever to receive 90 or more points from The Wine Spectator magazine. Since the mid-1980s they have been California’s most consistent quality kosher wines. The wines range from the excellent value Baron Herzog to the rare and expensive single vineyard and Special Edition Herzog wines.
Covenant is a tiny producer of hand crafted wines. Owner Jeff Morgan used to write about wine for The Wine Spectator. He started with the premise that if he used the best grape variety from a special vineyard in Napa Valley, then he would be able to make a world-class kosher wine. Well, he certainly achieved that! Zur Agencies is also importing the top French kosher wines like Château Léoville Poyferré from St. Julien and Château Pontet Canet from Pauillac.
These are amongst the finest French kosher wines there have been, and they certainly have most prestigious labels coming from the Grands Crus Classés of Bordeaux.
Kosher wines have a higher profile in America because they are set apart, on the kosher shelf. These are normally at the back of the liquor store, but displayed together. In Israel, kosher is so much part of the culture that wines do not stand out as kosher. In most supermarkets and hotels, all the wines are kosher. In addition, the 20 largest local wineries produce kosher wines and they share at least 95% of the market. Therefore no special effort is needed for the consumer to buy kosher wines in Israel.
The quality of many imported kosher wines in the supermarkets is suspect. People buy on price in the mistaken belief that if Italy or France is on the label, it must be better than the equivalent Israeli wine. However, these latest imports certainly increase the range of quality kosher wines for the Israeli consumer.
Baron Herzog White Zinfandel 2008, California
Salmon pink, semi-dry verging on medium. Refreshing when served cold.
Herzog Selection Merlot 2007, France
Medium bodied and soft with appealing red berry fruit. Serve lightly chilled.
Bartenura Moscato 2009, Italy
Semi sweet and slightly sparkling in its unique blue bottle. A wine to drink for fun, but it has to be served ice cold.
BEST QPR – NIS 50 to NIS 100
Baron Herzog Zinfandel, California 2007, USA
Deep-colored wine, with black cherry and leathery notes. Not so heavy but full of flavor.
Gran Malbec Flechas De Los Andes, Mendoza 2007, Argentina
Joint venture between Baron Benjamin de Rothschild and Château Dessault. Soft, good value with upfront fruit from the Malbec grape.
Goose Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2008, New Zealand
Fresh, fragrant wine with good acidity. One of the best of the kosher white wines from outside Israel. Refreshing.
Herzog Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley 2006, US
Ripe blackcurrant and forest fruits. Spicy sweet vanilla nose from oak aging. This wine will age well, but it is drinkable now.
Red C, Covenant, Napa Valley 2006, US
The little brother of Covenant, but not so little. However it is more approachable to drink now. Ripe, flavors of plums and blackberries.
Covenant Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley 2006, US
Rich, full-bodied and tannic. A big wine with masses of blackcurrant and blackberry fruit, with a spicy sweetness on the nose. This wine needs time. One to buy for later.
Château Léoville Poyferré, St. Julien 2003, France
Delicate blackcurrant fruit, with excellent balancing acidity. Touch of cigar box and tobacco. I am no fan of French kosher wines, but this is really an excellent Bordeaux on any scale. Don’t serve it too warm in Israel.
Adam Montefiore works for Carmel Winery and regularly writes about wine for both Israeli and international publications.