Wine Talk: Wine banquet

Passover is an opportunity to celebrate with the best wine possible, often one saved for a special occasion.

wine banquet [DO NOT REPUBLISH] 370 (photo credit: MCT)
wine banquet [DO NOT REPUBLISH] 370
(photo credit: MCT)
Seder night for me is the ultimate wine banquet. As my wife is sweating over the stove – cooking enough for a whole battalion – I am getting out wine decanters and my finest Riedel glasses, and carefully choosing the best and most interesting wines possible. I see it as an opportunity to celebrate with the best wine possible, often with one saved for a special occasion.
Many relate the four cups of wine to God’s four expressions about how the Exodus would come about: “I will bring out... deliver… redeem… take…” However, I am told that in the Mishna the drinking of four cups is mentioned as fitting in with different stages of a meal, as in any banquet. This fits in with my theory. The wine connection has its historical roots in the Greek symposium, which was a glorified wine tasting, and the Roman banquet, in which food and wine were celebrated without restraint.
A classic banquet may start with sparkling wine as the aperitif, then a white wine will be used with the first courses, a red wine with the main courses and a dessert wine with the desserts. These could well make up the four glasses, as with us the second and third glass also accompany the meal.
Following this guideline, you may start with the Yarden Blanc de Blancs, followed by the “C” Blanc du Castel.
The red wine might be the Yatir Forest, and the dessert wine may be the Carmel Sha’al Gewurztraminer Late Harvest. This choice would show off the best in Israeli wines.
Obviously, in a small Seder, it is not an extravagance to use expensive wines. However, in large Seders, when the wider family and guests come to visit, value for money is a more important criterion. In this instance, be careful not to choose wines that are too prestigious. They might not be appreciated and you might not appreciate the costs involved.
Carmel Ridge, Dalton Canaan, Recanati Yasmin and Yarden Mount Hermon are brands with both red and white wines that are reasonably priced, full of fruit, and easy drinking.
They are ideal for the budget Seder.
Also for the larger gathering, a simple Paris goblet will be more suitable than expensive glassware.
Customs differ depending on the family. Some will only use red wines believing they are more appropriate.
Others may use whites, because red wines remind them of the blood libel.
Many use a sweet kiddush wine for the first glass, because of tradition, or because guests will be drinking on an empty stomach.
If this is your choice, I recommend a kiddush wine like King David or Hallel, both of which also have low-alcohol versions. If you do insist on a kiddush wine, my advice is to serve it chilled from the fridge. It will make it more palatable.
Better and more innovative might be a low-alcohol white Moscato (Dalton) or red Carignano (Young Selected). These wines are semi-sweet, low alcohol and slightly sparkling. Perfect family wines, as even the great-aunt who does not like wine will like these. Low-alcohol wines are a good solution for young families, a better option than mixing grape juice and a kiddush wine, as some do.
Some will use the first glass for the very best wine, because this is the most important. They might choose a prestigious wine like Carmel Limited Edition, Castel Grand Vin, Galil Mountain Yiron, Yarden Katzrin or Yatir Forest, to start proceedings. These are some of Israel’s finest Bordeaux- style blended wines, which are all based on Cabernet Sauvignon, the “king of grapes.”
I certainly believe this is a time for patriotism. I will drink only Israeli wines, whether the Seder is in Jerusalem, London, Paris or New York. I believe not only that Israeli wines are the finest kosher wines in the world, but that they also provide more variety in different styles and at varying prices than anywhere else.
Some believe that Chateau Something at a cut price offers better value, because it may be from France. I disagree. For those who constantly moan Israeli wines are too expensive, visit any supermarket in the weeks before Passover. You will find an enormous choice of wines on promotion, at very attractive prices.
Most of the talk about pricing is because the media, wine critics and special tastings focus on trophy or medal-winning wines. However, while these may be the wines people talk about, they are not always the wines people actually drink!
Finally, remember the mitzva in the Mishna that even the poorest in Israel must be given not fewer than four cups of wine to drink. The beauty of Passover is that Jews all over the world – whether religious, traditional or secular – will celebrate the Seder with four glasses of wine. To assist with your choice, I list on the opposite page various alternatives at different price points.
Four glasses:Choose your wine list for the Seder
Selected Sparkling Rosé Delicate colored salmon-pink sparkling.
Barkan Emerald Riesling Aromatic, spicy semi-dry white.
Recanati Yasmin Red, Soft, very fruity and easy drinking, or Teva Merlot Round, soft and appealing.
Young Selected Carignano Low-alcohol, red, grapey and a delicate sweetness.
Carmel Appellation Sauvignon Blanc Aromatic Dry white from the Upper Galilee.
Tzuba Chardonnay Generous, smooth and well-rounded Chardonnay.
Dalton Petite Sirah Mouth-filling flavor of black fruits with a hint of spice, or Tel Arza Malbec Fruity, well defined Malbec. Good value.
Private Collection Muscat Sweet fortified dessert wine made from Muscat grapes.
Tabor 562 Red Be original. A red sparkling wine. If not, choose the 562 white.
White Tulip Fresh, fragrant and aromatic white from Tulip Winery.
Carmel Appellation Cabernet Sauvignon Classic Cabernet from the Upper Galilee. Good value, or Barkan Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Full-bodied Cabernet aged 20 months in oak.
Binyamina Reserve Gewurztraminer Late Harvest Sweet, aromatic, luscious dessert wine with good balance
Gamla Brut Bone dry, great acidity.
Refreshing champagnemethod sparkling wine.
Yatir Viognier Delicate apricot and peach aroma from Yatir Forest.
Psagot Cabernet Sauvignon Well-balanced varietal Cabernet Sauvignon from the Jerusalem hills, or Adir A quality blend made from Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc.
Yarden Heights Complex, sweet and delicious.
Adam Montefiore works for Carmel Winery and regularly writes about wine for Israeli and international publications.