The famous “4 S’s” of drinking wine are swirl, sniff, sip, and savour. Unfortunately, that is not practical for the arba kosos. That leaves us with a dilemma. We want to have a nice wine l’kavod Yom Tov, and, if you are a wine drinker, you are probably inclined to make it the nicest possible. However, we can’t enjoy those special wines to their fullest and fulfil all of the halachos of arba kosos.
This dilemma is why I like to think of wines for the Seder in two categories- one for arba kosos, and another for the seuda.
For arba kosos, drinkability is key. It is very hard to have rov kos in one or two tilts of your glass if the wine does not go down easily. Look for something light on your pallet. Fruit forward and little to no tannin are good key words to look for. Pinot noir is a great choice for the arba kosos – the lightest that I have found being from a French winery. Wineries from California or Oregon, if available, are also great. Some Israeli Pinot Noirs can be heavy, so double check with your wine merchant.
A couple of years ago I got a great idea from a customer. She did not want white wine for the seder, but she still wanted something very easy to drink, so Rose became her go-to. Rose wines are made from red grapes, but the skins are removed early in the wine making process. This is how Rose gets its signature pink colour. (As with all matters of Halacha, one should consult with one’s own Posek as to the optimal type of wine for the seder). Wine is also lighter on your pallet when it is chilled, and you should do this with Rose, and can also chill Pinot Noir. I recommend opening the wine about 2-2.5 hours before you start your Seder so the wine can start to air out which allows it to mellow slightly.
Many people are concerned that they will not feel well after having wine for the seder because the alcohol content on wines that are not sweet start at about 11% and only go up from there. The trick is to be well prepared. Drinking on an empty stomach will not only allow the alcohol to take much more immediate effect, but it is also not good for your digestion, so eat real food, if not regular meals on erev Yom Tov. This is the reason many people do better at the second seder than the first as they have eaten more over the day leading up to the second seder. Throughout the seder, drink water to keep up with how much wine you are drinking. If you are comfortable drinking some sort of juice or nectar before washing, it is a good idea to have some of that as well. If you can’t guarantee that you can “prepare” yourself for the seder, or that you will not feel well even if you do – do not feel badly drinking grape juice or Matuk Kal and please seek halachic guidance.
I personally have had wine for kiddush from a relatively young age, but only started to drink wine at the seder in the last couple of years. My parents, who let any child who wanted to taste the wine at kiddush, asked and were given a psak that younger children and teenagers should only have grape juice for the seder.
If it is possible, I strongly recommend trying out the wine you plan on using for the seder beforehand to make sure it is a good choice for you. Check with your local wine merchant as many have wine tastings in the weeks before Purim and Pesach. If you cannot do that this year, keep it in mind for next year to be on the lookout for a seder wine throughout the year.
Before you go to buy the wine, take note of the sizes of the kiddush cups that you will be using to ensure you are buying the correct amount.
Now everyone is munching on matzah, and Shulchan Orech is ready to be served. This is when I like to bring out the wine glasses and the ‘sip and savour’ wines. Very often I take out a bottle that I have held onto for a few years so it can mature, but there are many wines that you can buy and drink now. In my house we don’t get to finish this bottle, so I use a wine saver pump to put it away for another seuda.
The following pairing suggestions will work for the other seudos as well.
If you are serving a corned beef, an Israeli Syrah or Shiraz is my pick, either 100%, of either grape or a blend. If you are cooking your meat in wine, I love pairing it with either with a full bodied 100% Cabernet, Israel and California regions, or a Bordeaux Style blend, either from France, or Israel. A 100% Petit Verdot also has the personality to stand up to meat cooked in wine.
For fish, a French or French-style Rose is great, but I am also very partial to white blends of chardonnay and sauvignon blanc.
On a closing note, the price tag does not indicate how much you will like any particular wine. I have had people blind taste wines of all different price points, just to show them that what their taste buds think, should be the most important factor. For many people, satisfying your taste buds can often be accomplished with a wine that cost $20-30 just as well as a $75 bottle.
Chag Kasher V’sameach
Leah Jaroslawicz got her beginnings in the wine industry as an enthusiast and advisor in a popular NYC Kosher wine shop. She now shares her knowledge of all things kitchen and cooking with kallahs in her kitchen coach programme. For more of her wine and kitchen adventures, you can find her on Instagram @geshikt and online at geshikt.com
Leah Jaroslawicz got her beginnings in the wine industry as an enthusiast and advisor in a popular NYC kosher wine shop. She now shares her knowledge of all things kitchen and cooking with kallahs in her ‘kitchen coach’ programme. For more of her wine and kitchen adventures, you can find her on Instagram @geshikt and online at geshikt.com