It seems only right that the best kosher wines should come out of Israel. Yet it’s only in the past ten years that the country has caught up with the rest of the wine world in terms of quality. And lately—at least in the increasingly competitive kosher field—it seems to have surpassed it.
During the past year, nearly every great kosher wine I’ve tasted has come from Israel. And most of those have been either part or all cabernet sauvignon. The Promised Land seems to have a way with this noble grape. It is the most widely planted red varietal there and the one that culls the most prizes for the country’s winemakers. No wonder. Its best cabs rival anything California has to offer in fruit and drinkability, and tend to trump that state in terms of structure and a sense of terroir. Here are few bottles certain to honor your Passover table. (Note: All are kosher for Passover, but none are mevushal—the stricter form of kosher certification that requires the wine be briefly boiled.)
Bazelet Hagolan Cabernet Sauvignon: Established in 1998 in the Golan Heights, Bazelet Hagolan has quietly been making some of the best cabernet sauvignons in Israel. The area’s high altitude and volcanic soil have doubtless contributed to wines of surprising depth and age-worthiness. In past years, I’ve thought the baseline cab a better buy than the unfiltered reserve, but with the 2004, the $40 reserve is worth every penny. Blackberry, dark fruit, tar, tobacco and green notes linger on in a profoundly long finish in this beautifully balanced and complex wine.
Flegmann Cabernet Sauvignon 2006: The Flegmann family has a long winemaking history, producing in Hungary as far back as the 18th century. The tradition was recently picked up again by a new generation and relocated to Israel’s Judean Hills. This is the first vintage of the new regime and it’s an impressive debut. Purple-black in color, with blueberry and clove on the nose leading to a medium-full, fruit-forward palate of ripe bing cherry, a bit of tar and more blueberry. Smooth, easy and accessible. $32
Shiloh Cabernet Sauvignon 2005: Shiloh is another newcomer to the Israeli wine world—the 2005 is its second vintage—and it’s already doing fine work. The lovely medium-light ruby-colored lines give off scents of currants, vines and green peppercorn. That green theme continues on the tongue as flavors of currant and the blueberry that seems to be a keynote of many Israeli cabs are countered by both red and green plum and vegetal notes. Smooth, but not slick, with tempered tannins and a complex aftertaste. $27
Segal’s Cabernet Sauvignon Special Reserve 2004: Segal’s has been making wine for decades now and recently has scored some high marks with critics. This Galilee Cab is a silky number, with raspberry, ripe currant and mellow cloves on the palate. The flavors are a bit too extracted and overproduced, but it’s an enjoyable wine nonetheless, and good for the price. $17—Robert Simonson
Saturday, April 4, 2009
Some Recommendations for Passover
I contributed this item about good candidates for the seder table to Time Out New York's The Feed blog. Do yourself a favor: find a bottle of the Bazelet Hagolan. You'll never regret buying kosher again.