New York…The Royal Wine Corporation’s 2009 Kosher Food & Wine Experience in Manhattan’s Metropolitan Pavilion on February 23rd was a demonstration of just how far kosher food and wine had progressed. It featured many of the best varieties from Israel and across the world. International wine makers and professionals attested to the quality and described the appeal of kosher wines. “Years ago people thought kosher wine had to be sweet and taste like medicine. Now they realize it can be the same quality as other wines,” said renowned critic Daniel Rogov, who has been writing about wine since he was 16 years old and is Israel’s leading wine critic. The winemaker and General Manager of Wine Operations at the Herzog Wine Cellars, in Oxnard CA, Joe Hurliman, described making kosher wine as “a tremendous opportunity, because the entire cellar team must have tremendous understanding of my philosophy of wine making.” At other wineries, part time workers are common during harvest time. Kosher wineries, however, often keep their employees year round, since they know the important laws of Kashrus. “At Herzog, they know exactly what to look for,” said Hurliman.
Timna Shetrit, the Deputy CEO and Chief Marketing and Sales Manager for Binyamina wines, explained that Israeli wines are distinct because, in addition to its sunny climate, Israel boasts a mixture of cultures. Old World influences from France and Italy, New World influences from Australia and California, as well as Israel’s own local identity, all affect the way its wines are made and make them unique. Rogov, who signed copies of his just released 2009 Guide to Israeli Wines at the event, described three other factors in the 1980’s which led to the rise of Israeli wines. The first was the opening of the Golan Heights Winery in 1983, which was the first major Israeli winery with state of the art equipment, up-to-date planning, expert knowledge and the right soil. In addition, it became much more common for Israelis to travel the world at that time, exposing them to other palates and greater possibilities for wine. The third factor was that several sophisticated (non-kosher) restaurants opened in Israel, increasing the national awareness and appreciation of food and culture. Although he has lived in Israel since 1976, Rogov estimates that 90% of the wines he reviews are not kosher. When asked what the difference is between kosher and non-kosher wines, he emphatically responded, “Nothing! And that’s the beauty of it. If you taste a good kosher wine and a good non-kosher wine, there should not be any differences. But,” Rogov continued, “It is different that observant people are able to drink these wines, and that is unique.”