August 26, 2013

25 Years of Kosher Ñ Kosher Wines Led Dramatic Expansion of Kosher

Third in a Series Marking the 25th Anniversary of Kosherfest, October 28-30, 2013

NEW YORK — It is impossible to speak of the dramatic growth of kosher over these last 25 years without including kosher wines. Back then, the common perception was still to a great extend that kosher wine meant the sacramental wines and for most Jews, it was Manischewitz on the holidays. Even Kedem, which without a doubt led the kosher wine “revolution,” was still to an extent touting its sacramental wines from Concord grapes grown in upstate New York. But the change has been so extraordinary that kosher wines have taken their place amongst some of the finest wines in the world, even winning awards at prestigious international competitions and receiving recognition from the wine media. 

Much of this change has been due to demographics as younger Jews who covet kosher appreciate the fine nuances of good wine, including differences between grapes and the climates in which they are grown. So much so, that those quality, even expensive wines are an integral part of any upscale kosher restaurant.

Nowhere was this dramatic change more in evidence than at Kosherfest as Kedem became not only a major producer such as its California wines produced in its state-of-the-art winery in Oxnard, California but as a major importer of some of the finest wines from all over the world. Some of the best winemakers were suddenly producing kosher wines and the vision of a new age for kosher foods and wines was not only seen at Kosherfest but at Kedem’s annual event pairing the best in wines with foods from some of the finest kosher restaurants. Younger wine consumers appreciated the quality wines as wine tastings and kosher wine groups expanded in many countries. 

It was at Kosherfest that one could clearly see the expansion and sophistication of wines, including the development of a robust wine industry in Israel. The Israeli wines emerged amongst the world leaders as the wine industry, particularly in the Golan Heights took advantage of their exceptional terrain for growing grapes and the use of technology. Smaller boutique wineries in Israel were also making their mark. One had only to compare photos of Kosherfest pasts with recent shows to appreciate the changes that have taken place in kosher wines. 

We may well be experiencing a renaissance of kosher wines that would have been embraced by the Talmud but took a hiatus for many years in Jewish communities in the Diaspora, particularly in the US, only to make a huge comeback nowadays.