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kosher wine

The enjoyment of wine has always played an important, ritual role in Jewish life at all festivals, with many examples in the Old Testament of the Bible. Moderate consumption is recommended to the faithful as beneficial to health. On the Sabbath, wine is drunk at the beginning (Kiddush) and at the end (Havdala). At the beginning of the Sabbath (Friday evening) a cup of wine (Kiddush cup) is filled four times during the celebration. First the Father gives the blessing on the wine: Blessed art thou, O Lord God, Lord of heaven and earth, to whom thou hast created the fruit of the vine. Then he takes a sip and passes it on to everyone. The wine is a symbol of the joy that God has given the Jewish people the Sabbath.

At the end of the Sabbath (Saturday evening), the ritual includes pouring a cup of wine so full that it overflows. This is to symbolize or make clear the overflowing blessing of God for the Sabbath and the coming week. In this context the term "Kiddush wine" (blessing wine) is often used. Kosher wine also has a very special meaning at the Passover celebrated from the 15th to the 21st Nisan (first month according to the "religious" calendar), which is celebrated in memory of the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and thus liberation from slavery.

Laws for food and wine

The Jewish laws for the preparation of food and drink (Hebrew kashrut) are laid down in the Tanach (normative biblical texts, part of which is the Torah), in the Talmud (interpretation of rules in everyday life) and in rabbinical literature. Food and the dishes made from it are either "kosher" (Hebrew for "pure", "fit" or "suitable") and thus edible or "trefe" (also "tame") and thus unclean and therefore not allowed. The production of "Jájin kaschér" (kosher wine) is of course also subject to strict conditions compared to "Jájin stam" (normal wine). However, these do not only apply to wines or sparkling wines, but also to vinegar and all products made from wine, such as spirits.

koscher auf hebräisch / koscherer Weingarten

Vinification

The entire winemaking process, from harvesting to bottling, is supervised by a rabbi. Only when the rabbi is sure that all the regulations mentioned below have been complied with, can he sign the Kashrut certificate required for certification as a kosher wine. All activities may only be carried out by strictly religious male Jews who observe the Sabbath. In individual cases, this even goes so far that no unauthorized person may enter the wine cellar and/or touch any cellar equipment. But since, as a rule, men who do not keep the Sabbath are also involved, there are exceptions.

The grapes may not be pressed for the first time until four years after the planting of the vines; the harvests before then are destroyed. All vineyards in the biblical land must lie fallow (Schmittah) every seventh year (Sabbatical year). This is also circumvented by selling or leasing the vineyard to a non-believer in that year and buying it back afterwards. Two months before the grape harvest no more organic fertilization is allowed. Mixed cultivation is prohibited, neither fruit nor vegetables may grow between the vines. Only materials used exclusively for kosher wines are allowed. These must be cleaned according to special rites before use. This applies to mash trolleys, grape presses, hoses and containers. Cleaning is done either by several baths in "living water" such as a river or stream, or by several decoction processes. This does not have a hygienic function, but is a matter of ritual purity.

The addition of yeasts is prohibited. The fermentation takes place exclusively spontaneously using the yeasts from the vineyard contained on the berries. All substances of animal origin such as gelatine, casein and bovine blood are not permitted. Only bentonite is permitted for Schönen. Only paper filters may be used for filtration. All agents used, including corks, must come from Israel. A bottle may not be filled twice with wine. After the kosher wine is finished, the ceremony of "Maaser" is performed. One percent of the wine is poured away as a symbol of tithing for the high priests during the time of the First and Second Temples. Another percent is given free of charge to the poor.

Rules for drinking wine

There are also strict regulations for the enjoyment of wine. An opened wine that is touched or poured out by a Jew who does not keep the Sabbath or a person of a different faith loses its kosher quality and is considered "contaminated". For this reason, kosher wine is heated to 80 to 90°Celsius for only a few minutes until steam is released and then rapidly cooled. The kosher property is "preserved" by this flash pasteurisation, so to speak. A kosher wine with the additional designation "Jájin Mewuschal" (boiled wine) can therefore no longer become "impure".

With these wines treated in this way, it is not possible for a presumed malicious person to deliberately and improperly contaminate the wine before serving. This regulation plays an essential role, especially for serving establishments. It is intended to guarantee Jewish guests that kosher wine is served, regardless of the religion of the host or his staff. As a strict believing Jew you can be sure of this. By heating the wine for only a short time, the effect of cooking on the original taste of the wine is kept to a minimum. However, it does contain a little less aroma, tannins and colourings, the colour is slightly darker and there are also slight changes in taste.

Wine types & producers

Until the 1980s, kosher wine was generally sweet, but then, in line with the international trend, there was a shift towards dry wines. In Israel, the larger wineries generally produce kosher wines. This is too costly for the smaller wineries. One of the most famous producers is the Carmel Winery founded by Baron Edmond de Rothschild (1845-1934). Kosher wine is also produced outside Israel. In Europe, this is done in Germany, France (e.g. Château Valandraud), Italy, Austria (e.g. by Gerhard Wohlmuth in southern Styria) and Hungary, as well as overseas in South Africa and in large quantities in the USA with the two leading companies Manischewitz and the Royal Wine Corporation with the "Herzog" brand. Outside Israel, however, "only" the regulations described from the grape harvest onwards apply. Wine also plays an important role in the Christian religion; see Eucharist and Mass Wine.

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