Wine Talk: Wine them

The drinks you choose for you simha are at least as important as all the other details.

wine 311 (photo credit: courtesy)
wine 311
(photo credit: courtesy)
People spend hours discussing details for a simha: the caterer, the venue, the menu, even the table setting, must be just right. Wine does not normally receive the same attention. However, for me the choice of wine is no less important than the food.
The easiest option is to choose the wine recommended by the caterer or banqueting hall. Check the choice you are offered before finalizing details. The best caterers will offer a good price on a range of wines so you can buy something better than the basic house wine, without a prohibitive increase in costs.
In the caterer’s standard glass you will manage to get six glasses of wine from a 750 ml. bottle. Remember many of your guests and children will not drink wine. Including the wine served before the meal, you should calculate on a maximum half a bottle per person, and order 60% red wine and 40% white.
Many caterers or banqueting halls overestimate the number of bottles needed, not for reasons of dishonesty, but rather to be safe. Sometimes a more conservative and realistic approach will allow you to buy fewer bottles and upgrade the wine.
Many caterers will be flexible and allow you to bring the wine you prefer and today there is so much wine to choose from at every price. Wine will add value to an event and it is worth taking time to make your choice. It is important to select a wine that offends the smallest number of people, one that nobody dislikes. An example is a semi-dry rosé or Emerald Riesling, or a dry sauvignon blanc or lightly oaked chardonnay. If it is to be red it needs to be light and fruity – a merlot or a cabernet merlot blend. Alternatively you may want guests to have a sparkling wine to start with to make a lehaim and add to the festive spirit.
A habit I have seen lately is that some banqueting halls choose only one wine, a red one. If it is light, fruity and easy drinking, it could be served chilled and satisfy those who want red or white.
At the most inexpensive level, there are likely to be wines especially produced for the catering market. In this case, you may not be familiar with the label, but the winery will be known to you. The five largest wineries in Israel are Carmel, Barkan-Segal, Golan Heights, Teperberg and Binyamina. These are the wineries most likely to have wines at every price.
The next level will include better wines from the above wineries plus Tishbi, Galil Mountain, Recanati, Tabor and Dalton.
Alternatively you may decide to upgrade the wines to the level of Carmel Appellation, Barkan Reserve or Gamla.
Caterers may only permit you to select mevushal wines. These are wines which have been flash pasteurized, so they stay kosher even if opened and served by someone who is not Jewish. Most pasteurized things are less good, but some of the larger wineries have wines set aside to satisfy this need.
The fun really starts if you are having a private party where quality is more important than price. Here, at the cost of bringing in special waiters, a caterer may allow you to use non-mevushal wines as long as they are kosher.
Remember the classic banquet is to have a sparkling wine as an aperitif, a white wine with the first course, a red wine with the main course and a dessert wine with the dessert. The rules here are to drink a white wine before red, a young wine before an old one and dry before sweet.
If you have a small select party and want to showcase the very best Israeli wines, the choice of wines could look something like this: Yarden Blanc de Blancs (sparkling wine) – as an aperitif C Blanc du Castel (a chardonnay) – first course Kayoumi Shiraz or Clos de Gat Sycra Syrah (not kosher) – first red Yatir Forest or Margalit Enigma (not kosher) – second red Sha’al Gewurztraminer or Yarden Heights – dessert wine.
After dinner you could offer your guests one of Israel’s award winning brandies, Carmel 120 or Jonathan Tishbi. However, at this sort of gourmet event, assume four glasses to a bottle, as the glasses are likely to be bigger and calculate on everyone drinking.
My final advice for the regular event is don’t automatically select the cheapest wine as these never offer the best value.
Also tell the waiters or kashrut supervisor not to open all the wines in advance, which will reduce wastage and save costs.
The most important thing is to choose wines you like, whatever they are. Remember, life is too short to drink bad wine!
Adam Montefiore works for Carmel Winery and regularly writes about wine in international and Israeli publications. [email protected]