August 2010

Kosher Renaissance

By: Meridith May
Photos by Maria Schriber

Defined by terroir, style and character, the "new" kosher portfolio from Royal Wine may adhere to 3,000-year-old biblical rules, but these modern contenders are world-class in anyone's book.


Let's begin with France and names such as Rothschild and Château Léoville-Poyferré, one of only 15 second growths from the Médoc's St. Julien district, or perhaps Puligny-Montrachet, one of the most famous white Burgundies. Included in Royal Wines's Fabuleux portfolio are Sancerres from the Loire, Côtes-du-Rhônes and even cognacs from producer Louis Royer. What they have in common is that these specific bottlings are kosher.

Pierre Miodovnick brings in the best of the best, from Bordeaux to Burgundy and in-between. Royal Wine is working in tandem with SOPEXA, the organization that promotes the wines of France.
Born and raised in the Languedoc in Southwest France, Pierre Miodovnick—who now resides in Israel—heads up the French wine division for Royal. He has scoured the cellars of France and reserved special barrels for this collection, bringing in a rabbinical team to certify a specific amount of each wine as kosher under Jewish law.

"It's a combination of tradition, savoir-faire and developing a portfolio that covers some of the best that France has to offer," says Miodovnick. "It also takes a good organization behind us."

Miodovnick, who has worked for Royal since 1985, also coordinates his team with the help of renowned enologist/consultant Michel Rolland. "There is no difference in taste between our Corton Charlemagne and the non-kosher version," he attests.


The mistaken idea that all kosher wines hail from Israel is being set right today, along with the myth that all kosher wines from Israel are low end. Israel has not only emerged as a welcome player in the world fine wine arena, its winemakers are talented, educated and sport experience from working at wineries in both New and Old World cellars.


Between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv is Kabbutz Hulda, the home of Barkan wines, featuring the largest contiguous vineyard in Israel.

"We experiment here at Barkan," Irit Boxer-Shank tells THE TASTING PANEL. The young woman winemaker, who earned a Master of Enology degree from the University of Adelaide in Australia, works with yeasts, soils, barrels and blends for the varying tiers under the Barkan (and sister company Segal's) label.

Barkan's reserve line of varietals includes a Pinotage, the only one of its kind in Israel. "Our climate is similar to that of South Africa," she explains, pointing to the warmth of the Jerusalem sun. "I really wanted to find that special red that shows itself well from our terroir, apart from the Bordeaux varietals."

Playing around with varietals led Boxer-Shank to work with Tempranillo in 2005 and a soon-to-be released Carignane from the 2007 vintage.

Irit Boxer-Shank is the winemaker for Barkan.

The 2007 Barkan Altitude Series "720" Cabernet Sauvignon is as bold as the steep climb up to the 720-meter-high vineyards in the mountains of the Galilee.
Barkan's Altitude Series reaches new heights in our esteem, a clue to the elevation of the mountainous terroir in the Upper Galilee. "Again, an experiment," notes Boxer-Shank, who was curious to taste the influence that vineyards as high as 412, 624 and 720 meters might have on the wines.

"These three Cabs [named after the heights of their respective vineyards] are made in similar winemaking styles," she attests. We tasted all three, and miracle of miracles, the wines went from medium-bodied lush to dense and aromatic to big and dusty. Height matters.


Named after Benjamin Rothschild, the French wine magnate, Binyamina lies on the northern coastal plain of Israel. The winery's vineyards are spread throughout the country-from the Golan Heights in the north, through the finest Upper Galilee and Lower Galilee vineyards, down to the Jerusalem Hills and Karmei Yosef, a communal settlement in central Israel.

"Rothschild helped Jewish farmers establish a new line of work: grape growing," points out Asaf Paz, the associate winemaker who works in tandem with head winemaker Sasson Ben Aharon. Paz was the first Israeli to receive the Diplôme National d'Oenologie from Bordeaux University's Faculty of Enology.

Paz talks about the philosophy behind Binyamina. "Binyamina Winery strives to promote a wine culture in Israel and is regarded as a daring pioneer in the wide range of varieties it offers."

Binyamina's tiers range from the high-end "Chosen" series, each of its six wines named for one of the precious biblical Hoshen Stones, to the flagship Binyamina Reserve varietals, to the Yogev wines. The Yogev─Hebrew for farmer─ is a tribute to the winegrowers whose names appear on the back labels.


Asaf Paz is the associate winemaker at Israel's Binyamina Winery.

From Binyamina, The Cave is a proprietary name; the wine is actually aged in 300-year-old caves for two years. "This is our 'garagiste israeli' wine," Paz tells THE TASTING PANEL. "It is important that in all our wines, Israeli character of terroir shows through."

Jürgen Wagner, winemaker for Capçanes in Montsant, in the southern portion of Spain's Priorat region.

More than 80 farmers form the cooperative known as Capçanes, started in 1933 in the southern portion of the Priorat (in the DO now known as Montsant). It was only in the mid-1990s that the region was noticed on a global scale as its production, once de-classified as bulk, was transformed into fine wine and quality rocketed through the influence of modern winemaking technology.

One of the winery's most important catalysts was the demand by the Jewish community in Barcelona for a high-quality kosher wine. Capçane's reponse was Flor de Primavera, kosher wines produced primarily from old vine Garnarcha and Carignane.

Although Capçanes was born from the desire for kosher wine, more than 95% of its portfolio today is non-kosher.

Capçanes Flor de Primavera 2005 is a blue-fruited, mineral-rich old-vine garnarcha- based wine with spice and vivid red fruit.


THE TASTING PANEL, 6345 Balboa Blvd, Ste. 111, Encino, CA 91316
Content ©2016 THE TASTING PANEL magazine. All rights reserved