Wine Talk: Easy does it

Though drinking alcohol on Purim is a mitzva, choosing wine and wine-based cocktails may prove to be the best choice.

Wine glasses 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Wine glasses 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Purim is a festival which encourages drunkenness. We are told to drink so much as to forget the phrase: “Blessed be Mordecai; cursed be Haman.”
Every year there are members of the religious community who take this too far, and the result is sometimes scenes of embarrassing drunkenness exhibited by people unused to the power of alcohol.
Unfortunately the new young Israeli does not need the excuse of Purim to drink too much. There are teenagers and young adults every week getting in to fights at clubs. This invariably results in violence.
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 Furthermore, much of the violence within the family is alcohol related.
Slowly we are becoming a violent society.
One of the curses is vodka. Israel has one of the highest consumptions of vodka in the world. It is so cheap, anyone can afford it and there are a prolific number of brands. Drunk in shot glasses, it can give the alcohol rush youngsters seek. Drunk with a mixer, it is easy to gulp it down fast, because you taste the mixer and not the alcohol.
The result of drinking in either fashion is the same. People become drunk too quickly and then they can’t control their behavior.
Wine, on the other hand, is also an alcoholic beverage, but it does not carry the stigma of spirits or the association with binge drinking that beer has. You never glug wine or down it in one. Nor do you drink it. It is a product that is sipped, over time, usually with friends. It is more often than not drunk with a meal.
It is far lower in alcohol than vodka, has fewer calories and is far less dangerous.
It aids digestion and is even considered healthy.
In France a bottle or carafe of wine is on the table as a matter of course, in the same way that ketchup is on the table in Israel. Children will start drinking wine diluted with water from the age of three. Far from causing damage, the cultural association of wine with a meal sticks. Here the wine culture is not inbred and so children don’t grow up with a respect for alcohol.
So my plea this Purim is to enjoy wine instead of hard alcohol.
At the bar, drink wine so the effect of the alcohol is more gradual. A bottle of wine shared between four people will go a long way.
If in this country we drank more wine and less coffee it would be a far more relaxed place. If our youngsters would drink more wine and less vodka it would also be a far less violent place. There are all types of wine to suit every taste. There are even low alcohol wines like Young Selected Carignano and Golan Moscato.
For those for whom straight wine is unfamiliar, an alternative to wine is to enjoy a wine cocktail. Mixing ingredients with wine was always done in ancient times.
Wines used to be drunk with fruit, spices or honey, which were added to make them palatable.
The most common wine cocktail is Kir Royale, which is often served at weddings to disguise a cheap sparkling wine.
It is named after Canon Felix Kir, mayor of Dijon in France, who used this for formal dinners. A straight Kir is the same idea, but using a simple white wine instead of the sparkling wine. A touch of Crème de Cassis, a blackcurrant liqueur, in a flute glass topped up with an Israeli sparkling wine like Selected or Tabor is an option.
A spritzer is frowned upon by wine snobs as something drunk by our grandparents in the 1960s. In those days a spritzer was made using Carmel hock, then the biggest selling white wine.
Don’t knock it, it is a great drink, and is very refreshing and not expensive. All you need is a simple bottle of cold white wine, soda water and a long glass. A bottle of wine in a bar between friends will go a long way if drunk in this way. It is a perfect summer drink.
One of my favorite drinks is Bucks Fizz, which if made correctly has to be made with freshly squeezed orange juice and champagne served in a flute glass.
This is one of the finest of all drinks! An alternative using sparkling wine is a Mimosa in which a small amount of Triple Sec liqueur is added to a sparkling wine like Private Collection Brut or Gamla Brut, and orange juice.
For a party, leave the spirit bottles out of it and instead make a sangria. This is a red wine punch that originated in Spain, but it is also well-known in South America. All you need is a young, dry inexpensive red wine like Vino or Domaine, both available in supermarkets. Add chopped or sliced fruit and a sweetener which may be in the form of honey, a syrup or fruit nectar.
It needs a little brandy to give it a kick – Extra Fine, 777 or Stock 84 will suffice – and cinnamon for spice.
For colder evenings, a mulled wine is a great idea. It is a basically a red wine with spices, served warm. Again, the simplest red wine will suffice. Add cloves, cinnamon and a little water. A kiddush wine could be used in moderation to provide sweetness. This is a popular drink in England during the cold winter months.
Wine culture starts in the home, around a table, but wine itself can be used in so many different ways. I am sure that if wine consumption increased, society would benefit as a result.
Adam Montefiore works for Carmel Winery and regularly writes on wine in Israeli and international publications.