What’s it like biking through the Penedes wine region of Spain? How can you find great Georgian wines without leaving North America? What makes a wine kosher, and why should you try kosher wines even if you’re not of the Jewish faith?
In this episode of the Unreserved Wine Talk podcast, I’m chatting with Kate Dingwall, who writes about food and wine for Forbes, Toronto Life, The Toronto Star, Wine Enthusiast, among others.
You can find the wines we discussed here.
Join me for the debut Watch Party of the video of this conversation that I’ll be live-streaming for the very first time on Zoom on Wednesday, September 22nd at 7 pm eastern.
You can save your spot for free right here. I’ll be jumping into the comments as we watch it together so that I can answer your questions in real-time.
I want to hear from you! What’s your opinion of what we’re discussing? What takeaways or tips do you love most from this chat? What questions do you have that we didn’t answer?
- What’s it like to spend a week biking through the Penedes region in Spain?
- What were some of Kate’s favourite Cava finds from her trip to Spain?
- Which important wine lesson did Kate learn in the Languedoc region of France?
- Which producer should you visit on a trip to the South of France?
- What types of Georgian dishes did Kate discover that pair well with amber wine?
- How can you try Georgian wine without leaving North America?
- Why has orange wine become so popular?
- How did Kate’s passion for wine and spirits organically start her food and drink writing career?
- Are there commonalities between the fashion and wine industries?
- What’s Kate’s take on failure?
- What would Kate do differently if she were to start over her wine career?
- How have restaurant patrons’ tastes changed since the pandemic?
- I loved listening to Kate’s adventures biking through the Penedes wine region of Spain, as well as her tips on favourite Cavas, such amazingly great sparkling wines for the price.
- She also had some great tips on finding Georgian wines in North America. These wines are experiencing such a huge revival. It’s worth seeking them out and pairing them with her suggestions.
- Kate also had some great insights from her trip to southern France as well as a great producer to visit, Gerard Bertrand.
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The best way to learn is to just enjoy the wine and enjoy the region. - Kate Dingwall Click to tweet
In the realm of high fashion, you’re dealing with wonderfully creative people who really want to express themselves and you see that with wine as well. - Kate Dingwall Click to tweet
We’ve seen a big shift in consumer education over the pandemic because restaurants weren’t open. - Kate Dingwall Click to tweet
About Kate Dingwall
By day, Kate Dingwall is a seasoned writer and editor covering the intersection between spirits, business, culture and sustainability. By night Kate is a working wine professional. She’s a food and beverage business contributor at Forbes.com, the drinks writer at Toronto Life and The Toronto Star, a columnist at The Whiskey Wash, wine writer at MAXIM, and a regular contributor to Liquor.com and The Spruce. Her work also appears in Elle InsideHook, The Spruce, Liquor.com, Toronto Life (print + online), Eater, MAXIM, Canada’s 100 Best Restaurants (print + online), Porter Magazine, Wine Enthusiast, Foodism (print + online), VinePair, DuJour, CultureTrip, and The Bourbon Review (print).
Outside of writing, she finished her Masters of Brand Management program with a thesis on innovation in the American wine world. She spent a large chunk of her career working in New York City and consulting with a variety of beverage and hospitality powerhouses in the realm of brand development. She is currently based in Toronto and is a wine server at one of Canada’s top restaurants.
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Kate Dingwall 0:00
The wines of Georgia are so incredibly fascinating, just the processes. They’re so historic like the amphorae clay vessels; clay vessels buried underground. And it was just such a fascinating experience for me to be like, wow, I know nothing about this. How cool!
Natalie MacLean 0:15
Is that where orange wines originate?
Kate Dingwall 0:18
It is; they call them amber wines, but yeah, the extended skin contact with the white wines. It dates back thousands of years in the country.
Natalie MacLean 0:27
Wow. Wow. Did you discover any unique food and wine pairings with Georgian wines?
Kate Dingwall 0:33
Yes, they have some really beautiful dishes that I had also never experienced, like beautiful cheesy egg breads that just pair so interesting with it. Lots of eggplant, lots of walnut sauces. Just really, really beautiful kind of veggie forward dishes that paired beautifully with these amber wines.
Natalie MacLean 0:56
Do you have a thirst to learn about wine? Do you love stories about wonderfully obsessive people, hauntingly beautiful places and amusingly awkward social situations? Well that’s the blend here on the Unreserved Wine Talk podcast. I’m your host, Natalie MacLean. And each week, I share with you unfiltered conversations with celebrities in the wine world, as well as confessions from my own tipsy journey as I write my third book on this subject. I’m so glad you’re here. Now pass me that bottle please. And let’s get started.
Welcome to Episode 146. What’s it like biking through the Penedès wine region of Spain? How do you find great Georgian wines from the country, not the state, without leaving North America? What makes a wine kosher? And why should you try kosher wines even if you’re not of the Jewish faith? You’ll get those answers or more wine tips in this chat with Kate Dingwall, who writes about food and wine for Forbes, Toronto Life, the Toronto Star, Wine Enthusiast, and others.
The interview portion today is a bit shorter than usual. So I’m including some bonus content on kosher wines at the end of this episode. In the show notes, you’ll find a full transcript of our conversation, links to both of my books, how you can join me in a free online wine and food pairing class and where you can find me on Zoom, Instagram, Facebook and YouTube Live video every Wednesday at 7pm. That’s all in the show notes at Nataliemaclean.com/146. And just a side note, I will be hosting two very special wine tastings coming up. One’s on October 21st and it’s going to be on scary good pairings for Halloween. It’s going to be a mix of red, white, Rosé and sparkling wines and desserts of course, so that you get lots of great pairings for those Halloween treats but also for savoury snacks like pretzels and chips, and so on; lots of fun. And then on December 2nd, I’ll be talking about holiday wines, whether it’s for gift giving, entertaining, or pairing wines with different courses, your turkey dinner, your cranberry sauce, and so on. It’s going to be a lot of fun, it’s free, it’s on Zoom and you’ll find the links for those tastings as well in the show notes at nataliemaclean.com/146.
Now on a personal note, before we dive into the show, I’m a rebel through and through, but not the way you might think. I’ll jaywalk when there aren’t any cars in sight, even if there’s a red light pedestrian hand. I’ll hide my unfastened seat belt n an airplane under a blanket. For take-off sure, but why a half an hour beforehand? And I’ll ask for a red wine that’s too warm in a restaurant to be put in an ice bucket despite the weird looks from the server. When something doesn’t make sense to me, my inner seven year old crosses her arms and says that’s just stupid. I suppose I should grow up and comply with rules that have been made for a reason. But then my seven year old says “You’re not the boss of me.” What about you? Do you rebel in some situations? Okay, on with the show.
Natalie MacLean 4:36
Kate Dingwall writes about sustainability and trends in the food and drink world. And she contributes to forbes.com Toronto life Toronto Star, the wine enthusiast and a lot of other magazines and websites. She’s also a sommelier at one of Canada’s top restaurants in Toronto, Dreyfus, she completed her master’s of brand management at the Savannah College of Art and Design focused on the innovation in the American wine industry. And she did spend years in New York City consulting as a brand development consultant for some of the biggest powerhouse companies in the beverage and hospitality industries. And she joins us here now from her home in Toronto. Hello, Kate.
Kate Dingwall 5:20
Natalie, it’s an absolute pleasure to be here.
Natalie MacLean 5:23
I’m so excited. It’s gonna be such a great conversation. So let’s kick things off Kate, with some stories from your own career. And I mentioned it at the top. But I’d love to hear about that biking trip you did through the Penedès region of Spain.
Kate Dingwall 5:38
Yes, this was probably summer 2019, I had a really exciting opportunity to write a story out of the region. And they asked me “Do I want to drive around or do I want to bike around?” And I decided, you know what, let’s get fit, let’s push myself a little bit. And I spent an entire week biking from location to location. I had my suitcase on the back of the bike. It was an absolute adventure. I’m not particularly fit. I run a little bit, but this was definitely out of my comfort zone. Yeah, it was a big feat. And I did spend a lot of time doing nice pitstops at Cava producers along the way.
Natalie MacLean 6:17
Lovely. How long and total was your trip? Like? How many miles did you bike?
Kate Dingwall 6:22
I think somewhere around 166. Like 30 miles a day over the course of the week
Natalie MacLean 6:29
Oh, wow. And so we know you’re a professional and you’re spitting but oh my gosh, how did keep the bike from wobbling near the end of the day?
Kate Dingwall 6:39
Yes, I definitely took very long lunch breaks. I was very strategic about my route. I stopped for a wine at the end of the day when I only had a mile or two left. And I was on back roads so it was relatively safe. Don’t drink and drive
Natalie MacLean 6:55
No, that’s right. A PSA for everyone. And so did you have some favourite wineries or Cava producers that come to mind now?
Kate Dingwall 7:05
One of my favourites and this was just a bit of a personal moment for me is, Parès Baltà, a really fantastic biodynamic Cava producer, they produce still wines as well. The first day I was absolutely exhausted, I had four miles to go, I had gotten lost through the day. And all of a sudden, out of the distance, I see this winery, that’s a place I can ask for directions. And I was very flustered, I was very confused. Not a big biker, so I was definitely out of my element. And I stopped in and it turns out there were a bunch of people working there from Montreal. So I immediately ran into Canadians. They sat me down, they’re like, okay, let’s get some food in you. We got my map sorted. Let’s get some Cava in you; this place is wonderful.
Natalie MacLean 7:48
How nice; that warm hospitality and Canadians to boot, that’s great, great pairing. And is there any travel tips you give for people wanting to go to that region of Spain? Like, is there something you point out whether or not they’re going to bike or not?
Kate Dingwall 8:07
So many I know when you’re travelling to that region, we’re right by Barcelona, so it may seem obvious to go stay in a large hotel or a big resort or chain, but I really enjoyed my time staying in smaller B&Bs, just family owned, maybe three guests a night. They cook for you, the hosts would always have fantastic wine pairings and were happy to recommend itinerary options that you would never think of, just wonderful local recommended spots for dinner, places to go wineries that you would never think of visiting if you ended up at a large hotel. So I very much would definitely recommend getting out of your comfort zone a little bit, and speaking with locals and hanging out in these little Air BnBs; it was wonderful.
Natalie MacLean 8:49
Oh, that’s awesome. That is great. So you have another story where you’re travelling in the south of France, in the Languedoc region. What happened there?
Kate Dingwall 8:58
Yeah. This was one of my first wine trips many years back. And I was very excited. I was doing lots of studying. So I could kind of come in and get very nerdy about the region and the different terroirs and really learn, but I got there and my friend who is touring around is like, hey, let’s just drink wine. We’ll go to the beach, we’ll drink wine. Okay, what about like, I was very flustered, I’m like, okay, I want to learn. She’s like, the best way to learn is just enjoy the wine, enjoy the region and that’s how you’re going to learn and it kind of gave me a moment to remember that wine doesn’t need to be overly thought out.
Natalie MacLean 9:35
Right. So it was more of that pleasure. You know, that’s good to hear Kate, because I know I’ve been on wine trips before and you’re scheduled from eight in the morning till 11 at night and it’s just, it’s almost gruelling, although I get no pity from anyone. Oh, poor, you have to drink all that wine. But that’s nice that you were able to kind of marry that with some living, you know how a normal person would visit the region. Go to the beach, enjoy the water and so on. Did that help you with writing the article? Like, did it give you a more holistic kind of approach?
Kate Dingwall 10:09
Absolutely. I had enjoyed myself so much that I really had nothing but glowing things to say about the region and the producers there.
Natalie MacLean 10:16
Yeah. And did you have some favourite producers there?
Kate Dingwall 10:20
I was primarily working with Gérard Bertrand, a major kind of Languedoc producer, they’re so focused on just what they’re producing. But I’m very excited.
Natalie MacLean 10:31
They’re a great producer.
Kate Dingwall 10:33
A great producer and a very lovely family.
Natalie MacLean 10:35
And they have different spots and vineyards. It’s not just one winery, one spot. They have a number of different vineyards throughout the south of France, right?
Kate Dingwall 10:44
Which is a great introductory learning experience for me coming to that region for the first time and being able to kind of understand all the different spots that he has. So I’m very excited to get back and kind of explore more, one day when travel reopens.
Natalie MacLean 10:58
Let’s hope, yes, absolutely. Now you have a friend who helped spark or renew your interest in Georgian wines, that is the wines from the country of Georgia, not the state. Tell us about that wine.
Kate Dingwall 11:10
Yes, I actually went to school in the state of Georgia, which is always very funny, but so help me I would never drink wine made there.
Natalie MacLean 11:19
Okay, duly warned.
Kate Dingwall 11:22
Georgian wine, oh, boy. But one of my close childhood friends, also in the wine sphere, spent several years working in the Republic of Georgia, which is one of the most historic wine regions in the world and something which was never really on my radar until he came back and just regaled me with all these very interesting stories about the region. He spent time working at one of the major, well known producers there quite a small family operation, but just the wines of Georgia are so incredibly fascinating, just the processes. They’re so historic, like the amphora and quevri
Natalie MacLean 11:56
The clay vessels
Kate Dingwall 11:59
Yeah, the clay vessels buried underground and it was just such a fascinating experience for me to be like, wow, I know nothing about this. How cool.
Natalie MacLean 12:08
Wow. And is that where orange wines kind of originate?
Kate Dingwall 12:11
It is, they call them amber wines. But yeah, the extended skin contact with the white wines. It dates back thousands of years in the country.
Natalie MacLean 12:21
Wow. Wow. Did you discover any unique food and wine pairings with Georgian wines?
Kate Dingwall 12:28
Yes, I’d say they have some really beautiful dishes that I had also never experienced, like beautiful, like cheesy egg breads that just pair so interesting. With lots of eggplant, lots of walnut sauces. Just really, really beautiful kind of veggie for dishes that pair beautifully with these amber wines.
Natalie MacLean 12:46
Hmm, that sounds good. And back here in North America, are there any particular Georgian wineries that you’d recommend that might be available to us here?
Kate Dingwall 12:56
I have seen a few producers popping around, they’re less common these days. If you can find Pheasant’s Tears, that’s where my friend worked. And a really fantastic kind of natural process, family run. You’ll see one or two pop up these days at major stores. But if you can get them, go for it. It’s a really interesting experience.
Natalie MacLean 13:17
Yeah, absolutely. They’ve kind of made the whole skin fermented orange wine trendy, I mean, for North American wineries to make that style as well. It’s just I don’t know what started it, like why now? Did you ever get any sense of why this has come back again after eight thousand years?
Kate Dingwall 13:36
Yeah, I think it’s kind of tied into the natural wine movement that popped up by maybe back 15 years ago. It really started moving through the mainstreams and Amber wine and skin contact extended skin contact wine is really tied to that, really showcasing the grapes in new ways and in the ways they were historically made. Showcased in things like amber wines, it’s kind of coming back around, these very beautiful traditional processes.
Natalie MacLean 14:02
Right, what’s old is new. So let’s talk more about you specifically Kate. Could you remember the moment when you decided you wanted to write about food and drink?
Kate Dingwall 14:13
Yeah, I almost fell into it. During my undergrad and my master’s I always worked in restaurants and bars. As bartending and serving wine was a huge portion of that and it was something that at that moment was to pay the bills, it’s where it got me. It paid for my housing, it paid for my tuition, etc. And after graduating, I started working at a fashion magazine. First as an intern and then I moved into an editorial role. And I still was just obsessed with wine and spirits. I loved it. And my I was writing about fashion at the time, but my editor knew this. And she was very smart, in which she started assigning me food and beverage content, and she could see how excited I was about it. And I still had that mentality that my wine and spirits career was just to pay my way through school. But as I started getting more of these articles, I was just fascinated and started digging into it. Like, I just want to learn more. So as I kind of eventually left the magazine and went freelance, I started finding really cool stories and pitching them to wine and spirits publications, and it just took off from there. This is probably six, seven years ago now. But I just continued to write really exciting stories. And it’s still a bit odd to me that I never really made that decision to be a wine and spirits writer, it was just something I was so excited about that it took off and became its own career.
Natalie MacLean 15:42
Oh, that’s fabulous. And do you see any overlap between the worlds of fashion and wine? Or did your training in any way help you? Well, you did study innovation in the American wine industry. But do you see any commonalities between the two categories?
Kate Dingwall 15:57
Definitely, I think in the realm of high fashion, you’re dealing with people, wonderfully creative people, who really want to express themselves and they really want to express kind of their culture and their background. And you see that with wine as well. Some of my favourite producers or smaller producers are just very excited. They’re very passionate about their craft. And there’s so many similarities, and that very creative mentality.
Natalie MacLean 16:19
That’s true. And I love when I’ve seen collaborations between some wine brands, and designers like there was Dolce and Gabbana partnered with Donnafugata, in Sicily, Southern Italy, and they just produce these beautiful labels, because I think labels themselves are little artwork sometimes, you know, or often.
Kate Dingwall 16:38
Absolutely. And it’s just a way to express yourself and what the wines about; it’s a way to sell that to the customer and help them a bit of a story if you don’t have the opportunity to do so in person.
Natalie MacLean 16:48
Yeah, absolutely. So do you have a worst moment or unusual moment in your history so far of writing about food and drink?
Kate Dingwall 16:58
I am very much an optimist in the mentality that I’ve definitely had some unsavoury moments where I’ve kind of was late on a deadline, or, oh, boy, some of my earlier stories were not great. When I was still kind of learning the craft, but all of those I believe, like made me a better writer. So I don’t even like to look back on it as something that’s negative. It brought me to where I am today.
Natalie MacLean 17:23
Yeah, I like to call them my favourite failures. Actually, it’s only by doing that you learn. But when you do at the beginning, yeah, you’re prone to making a lot of mistakes, so
Kate Dingwall 17:34
Especially in the freelance realm, where I’m pitching stories to editors. So right when I first started my career, I’d be emailing like Wine enthusiast, or Bon Appetit with just the silliest ideas that I was really excited about, but I’m like, looking back on it, I’m like, whatever, that’s a terrible idea.
Natalie MacLean 17:53
Well, you’ve learned, obviously, since then. Do you have a favourite moment or a career highlights so far as it relates to food and drink?
Kate Dingwall 18:01
I think just realising recently that I’ve actually made a career out of it. It really did take until probably this year, where we’re kind of doing all my taxes. I’m like, Well, I’m actually like, I’ve made a real career out of this, about talking about wine.
Natalie MacLean 18:17
Yeah, excellent. That is tough to these days, especially with diminished outlets that actually pay. Everyone wants everything for free online. But yeah, that is kudos to you for actually making a living out of it and not being paid just in bottles.
Kate Dingwall 18:33
Yes, exactly. I’m able to like pay my rent, etc. And I’ve kind of like an actual career out of it. It’s quite exciting. My parents are very excited. I think, when I first started doing this, they’re like, I don’t know what she’s doing. She’s just drinking. Now all my friends and family and kind of my interest, or my circle, or like, Wow, you’ve actually, this is a career, we can see your name in the newspaper all the time. So having that kind of, not that I need that validation, but realising this is a really cool career and I’m doing what I love was very exciting.
Natalie MacLean 19:06
Absolutely. Fantastic. And is there anything looking back now on the wine and food portion of your career that you would have done differently starting out?
Kate Dingwall 19:18
I’m not quite sure because I’m still in that mentality that these that random career in fashion I had for a moment kind of bartending. That all got me to having a career about writing in wine and spirits. And I think coming from that fashion realm, set me up for success here. I wish I got into wine a little earlier and started getting nerdy about it a little earlier, because as you probably know, there’s so much to learn all the time. Why wine is so exciting. There’s so much to learn. You can never stop learning. So always happy for that opportunity.
Natalie MacLean 19:53
That’s great, good attitude. Now you’re in the heart of it in the restaurant business working at Dreyfus. COVID might have been good for wineries in that they sort of pivoted and did more direct to consumer wine sales. But tell us about the impact for restaurants. What happened there? I mean, I know the economic impact was severe when they had to be closed down. But what’s happened since, especially as it impacts restaurant wine lists,
Kate Dingwall 20:22
We’ve definitely, I can speak to this reporting. I’ve reported this at Forbes as well. We’ve seen a big shift in consumer education over the pandemic. Because restaurants weren’t open guests didn’t have that sommelier connection to help them pick their wines for them. So we saw customers and guests and wine drinkers going out of their way to learn more, they had to be their own sommeliers over the pandemic. So people really, they started researching regions, they started researching producers they like they started looking into why they like that wine, was if it’s a Grenache; Why do they like that heavier body? What’s or do they like a medium body? What is similar? So we saw this huge jump in kind of education. I’ve seen it among friends as well, friends who weren’t really interested in wine before all of a sudden kind of asking, reaching out and asking me for advice. What should they try? Or saying, hey, I’ve tried this really cool, Pet Nat or skin contact thing? What is it? How do I try more? So we’ve had a really interesting kind of jump in education among kind of the entry level wine drinker. And above entry level as well, which is really interesting. Coming back into the world reopening we’re seeing people all of a sudden know what like a Trousseau is or Bastarda is (100% Merenzao known as Bastarda in Portugal and Trousseau in the Jura) and how that connection is, they know what they like to drink. They are very excited to learn more about that. Which as someone who recommends wine, it’s very exciting for me to be able to have these fun educational conversations.
Natalie MacLean 21:48
Absolutely. I’ve seen that same jump in my online wine food pairing courses. I mean, just what people had to take online courses if they wanted to take any courses at all, but there’s a real thirst for knowledge.
Natalie MacLean 22:06
Well, there you have it. I hope you enjoyed our chat with Kate Dingwall. Here are my top takeaways.
Number one, I love listening to Kate’s adventures biking through the Penedès wine region of Spain, as well as her tips on her favourite Cavas, which is such an amazingly great sparkling wine for the price
Two, she also had some great tips on finding Georgian wines in North America. These wines are experiencing such a huge revival. It’s worth seeking them out and pairing them with her suggestions.
And three, Kate also had some great insights from her trip to southern France as well as a great producer to visit, Gérard Bertrand.
Since this was a shorter interview than usual, I’m going to chat about kosher wines, especially since the September holy days of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, and Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, are among the most important on the Jewish religious calendar.
Many ancient traditions of Jewish holidays involve eating and drinking. Food and wine not only celebrate the sacred, they also bring people together in community. Wine and religion are entwined for Jewish people, as they are for many religions. In fact, the fruit of the vine is mentioned more than 500 times in the Bible. Wine is a symbol of joy that “cheereth God and man”.
Ten years ago, kosher wine was considered the cough syrup of the wine world:
The kosher wine used to celebrate these holidays has been notoriously sweet and characterless; a cross between cough syrup and cold liver oil. They were mostly made from nasty Concord grapes and often sweeter than Buckley’s—but without as much nuance. Today, it’s no longer the wine of affliction: many kosher wines, made from classic grapes, are complex and full of character.
However, many people don’t know about the quality revolution in kosher wines over the past five years. Even if you’re not Jewish, and even if you don’t keep kosher, you should try these wines simply because they’re good wines.
The improved quality of all wine, kosher and non-kosher, has helped. This, in turn, was driven by savvy wine consumers, many of whom were Baby Boomers. For those of Jewish faith, the dilemma was one of keeping kosher while drinking something palatable. Today, there is a range of premium kosher wines from which to choose.
Kosher wines are now made in Israel, Hungary, Italy, France, Luxembourg, Chile, Australia, California, Canada and New York. They are made from all the classic grapes such as Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Noir, Barbera, Chenin Blanc, Shiraz, Merlot and Riesling. They also encompass a full range of styles including red, white and rosé, sweet and dry, still and sparkling.
From traditional labels such as Manischewitz and Mogen David to newer producers such as Hagafen Cellars in California and Rodrigues Markland Cottage Winery in Newfoundland, kosher wines cover the spectrum. Classified Bordeaux such as Château Rothschild, Château Giscours and Château La Gaffelière are represented as well as champagne houses such as Laurent-Perrier and Beaujolais vintner Georges Duboeuf. Yarden, Israel’s premium kosher wine, has won medals at Vinexpo, the annual wine Olympics held in France.
I also recommend Nava from Tzafona Cellars, a lovely floral VQA white wine from Niagara-on-the-Lake that’s a blend of Vidal and Riesling grapes. It would be perfect with seafood or chicken.
Tzafona winery’s Cabernet Sauvignon has attractive notes of dark cherries, mocha and smoke. It would be great with grilled meats or brisket.
This next one I suggest is a popular label from Baron Herzog in California, made from the Chenin Blanc grape. It’s a light-bodied wine with aromas of lilies. I’d pair with the field greens.
You can also try two full-bodied red wines from Chile, the Vina Luis Felipe Edwards Terra Vega Carmenere or the Royal Wines Don Alfonso Cabernet Sauvignon. Both have lots of fleshy ripe dark plums and berries – and would go well with grilled meats.
You can also find kosher ciders, like Domaine Pinnacle from Quebec.
Kosher wine is one of the fastest growing wine markets. For example, volume sales were up 17 percent year over year, while dollar sales increased 23 percent, indicating wine consumers are buying finer, more expensive kosher wines. Much of the wine is sold during the holy days and many liquor stores add to their already wide selection during this time.
While no one has tracked the demographics of those purchasing kosher wines, several producers claim that 40 to 50 percent of their buyers are not Jewish. In addition to the quality of the wine, these buyers are attracted to the kosher preparation that stands for purity. Many kosher producers also avoid pesticides and other chemicals. Kosher wines seem to be on the same fashionable trajectory as organic wines, also popular for their purity.
Kosher, from the Hebrew meaning good, fit or proper, is based on biblical dietary laws, or kashrut, that define which foods are permitted. Food falls into one of three categories: 1) naturally kosher such as fruit and vegetables; 2) naturally not kosher but can be certified as such with approved processing under rabbinical supervision such as wine; or 3) naturally not kosher and cannot made be so such as pork. Food and drink that is kosher certified usually bears the package symbol of a circle with a U (Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations) or a K (Organized Kashrut Laboratories). There also could be the symbol of COR in a circle plus a P which means it’s kosher for Passover.
These rules have been followed for centuries to maintain separate religious and social identity. They have nothing to do with monitoring non-religious quality aspects of winemaking such as varietal, yields, fermentation or aging. In fact, kosher wine is made like other fine wine except that no leavens, wheat or animal products may be used. For example, gelatin or egg whites are used to filter non-kosher wines of their suspended particles before bottling. For kosher wine, non-animal filters such as the agent bentonite or kosher fish gelatin are substituted. Instead of commercial yeasts that may come from risen grain, kosher vintners use either wild yeast or specially-produced kosher yeast. Kosher wine barrels must be washed with clear water three times, even though chemicals may be more effective.
Above all, only Sabbath-observing Jews can handle the wine from picking the grapes to crushing them and putting the juice into barrels for aging if desired. The entire process must be supervised by a rabbi who specializes in such services and cannot be done on the Sabbath or other holy days. The misconception is that a rabbi is present to bless the wine when in fact he is there to supervise correct kosher practices. The wine is blessed when it is consumed at table. After the wine is barreled and receives its rabbinical seal, a “shomer” or wine watchman is hired to ensure that nothing is improperly touched.
There are two categories of kosher wine: The first can be consumed at all religious ceremonies but must only be handled and served only by Sabbath-observing Jews. The second, “mevushal” meaning boiled wine, can be handled by those who aren’t Jewish and still maintain its purity. This is because the wine is flash-pasteurized; the temperature is turned up from 15 oC to 90oC and back down again in about ten seconds. This is believed to alter the wine’s spiritual essence to make it impervious to those who aren’t Jewish. Originally, this process made kosher wines undrinkable for pagan consumption to discourage inter-marriage between the groups. Done incorrectly, the heating process can damage the wine, creating an unwanted cooked character. However, with modern technology and correct technique, some winemakers believe it enhances the aromatics of the wine while stabilizing the tannins, fruit and colour.
Kosher wine has finally come into its own, and it’s worth trying whether or not you keep kosher. Raise a glass of this wonderful wine this fall with the traditional Jewish toast “To life!”
Natalie MacLean 31:56
in the show notes, you’ll find a full transcript of our conversation, links to the kosher wines that I mentioned, how you can join me in a free online wine and food pairing class and where you can find me on Zoom, Instagram, Facebook and YouTube Live video every Wednesday at 7pm. That’s all in the show notes at Nataliemaclean.com/146. You won’t want to miss next week when we continue our chat with Kate Dingwall.
In the meantime, if you missed Episode 31 go back and take a listen. I chat about pairing wine and charcuterie with author Jennifer McLagan. I’ll share a short clip with you now to whet your appetite.
Jennifer McLagan 32:37
I always say with the fat book, if you eat fat, you stay thin. Because it’s true. You know people always said to me, they said well you know how come you don’t weigh you know 500 pounds; I said because I eat fat, I don’t eat a lot of sugar, I don’t eat a lot of snack food and fat is very satisfying. And the other important thing about fat to remember is that’s where the flavour is. A lot of flavours are only carried through fat, you can’t get the flavour out of a lot of food without fat. And that’s why if you eat fat free food, it’s really not satisfying at all and you eat twice as much.
Natalie MacLean 33:10
Right; sounds like the alcohol in wine; it’s the carrier of flavour. People try to make dealcoholized wines and it’s like ugh
Jennifer McLagan 33:19
Well, exactly it’s not that thing. I mean, you don’t probably want a super high alcoholic wine but alcohol, fat, they carry the flavour, they add to the whole deliciousness of the product.
Natalie MacLean 33:35
If you liked this episode, please tell one friend about it this week, especially someone you know who be interested in the tips that Kate shared, or someone who wants to learn more about kosher wines. Thank you for taking the time to join me here. I hope something great is in your glass, perhaps Cava, a Georgian wine or kosher wine?
Natalie MacLean 34:03
You don’t want to miss one juicy episode of this podcast, especially the secret full body bonus episodes that I don’t announce on social media. So subscribe for free now at nataliemaclean.com/subscribe. Meet me here next week. Cheers