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Sunday, September 24, 2017

Since the kosher wine world tends to lag only a couple of years now behind non-kosher wine trends, it’s only this year that more interesting vintages for rosé wines have started to come into their own. These are wines generally made by experienced winemakers known for other types of wines, who have been asked to make a rosé due to its trendiness and marketability.

Red wine may be your choice at the Seder for the following reasons: Not only is it a minhag (tradition), those who say yotzrot (liturgical poems recited on special occasions) on Shabbat Hagadol (the Shabbat before Pesach) say “Yayin ki yitadem l’mitzvah hu mukdam (wine that is red is for the mitzvah ahead).” This is based on a phrase by King Solomon in Mishlei (Proverbs), which sources interpret as meaning that red wine is special and therefore preferable for Kiddush. Also, the Rambam says you are not yotze (fulfilling your obligation) using white wine for Kiddush (though some may not hold by this), and the Mishnah Berurah adds that on Pesach there is another reason for red wine: to remind us of the blood of the Jewish children Pharaoh used to bathe in.

However, while sticking to their concept of a red wine for the Seder, many people tend to turn to pink, or rosé, wines as a lighter option for the first cup, particularly as drinking a full cup on an empty stomach might incur the negative effects of imbibing too much too soon. Still others might pour a rosé for all four cups and then splash it with a red wine or grape juice to make it darker in color. For Yom Tov lunches, rosé is a perfect light choice, particularly with fish or those serving decadent dairy meals.

Rosé wines can be made from any type of red grape; the pink hue is simply indicative of the short amount of time the skins spend macerating with the liquid. Some skins only stay with the fermenting juice for 12 to 24 hours, while others stay a bit longer, creating darker pigmentation. Higher-quality rosés are often said to be lightest in color, particularly French vintages. Since rosé wines are not my personal preference, I gathered a posse of non-professional yet discriminating tasters (Rachel, Michelle, Chana and Eliana) to sample the rosé wines most talked about this season, and we came out with some clear preferences and opinions.

The favorite of the evening was clearly the Psagot Rosé. This was a balanced wine, smoother than many we had tried, and with a noticeable effervescence we found pleasant. The wine is a blend of many red grape varietals culled from the vineyards north of Jerusalem. It was clean and fresh, dry, with only a slight bitter aftertaste that we find more typical of a red wine. Because of its similarity to a red wine, this bottle would pair well with any type of food, including beef. “It was the reputation of Psagot’s red wines, and the fact that I really like two of those, that made this rosé more interesting to me,” said Michelle.

In second place were Château Roubine Cru Classé and, we ranked Covenant’s Red C Rosé just a hair behind, but these wines could not be more different from one another.

Château Roubine was a wine that had a clear construction, and was light, airy and extremely drinkable. This was the most complex wine of our tasting, likely due to the blend of three Provencal varietals generally unfamiliar to us as kosher wine drinkers (cinsault, grenache and mourvedre). This was seen by our group as a summertime party or special occasion wine, which goes down easy. It was the lightest in color in our tasting, very typical of Provence rosé wines of high quality, and therefore drew the most comparisons to white wines. “This is a great entry-level rosé. It’s not cloying; the sugar will not go to your head. I’ll take this one home,” said Chana, who did indeed take the rest home.

Conversely, the Covenant Red C had a fruity, decisive flavor and tone and is a blend of grenache, syrah, zinfandel, merlot and cabernet. This is a typical Napa Valley wine with strong floral scents that didn’t come through on the tongue. It was the strongest-flavored and darkest-colored rosé in our tasting, with the most viscosity. “When I think of a rosé, I want that dryness with a touch of sweetness. This was my favorite of the tasting,” said Eliana, who like me, primarily drinks red wines, and had tried few, if any, of the wines at the tasting. It was also more full-bodied, even while being a little bit fizzy, than the others we tried. Surprisingly, this was the most expensive wine of our tasting.

Also noteworthy in the tasting was the Twin Suns Reserve Rosé 2016. “It has a personality, with some acid, but finished with creaminess,” said Rachel. The sharp acid turned to sweet, with a strong scent of strawberry that lingered. This is the first vintage of Twin Suns Rosé, made by cult legends Shimon and Gabriel Weiss in their joint project with Ami and Larissa Nahari of The River. It is made from a blend of grapes from California’s Central Coast.

The two honorable mentions of our tasting were the Italian Terra Di Seta Meshi 2015, a Tuscano Rosato, made of 100 percent sangiovese. It was salmon-colored, with little to no depth, but still refreshing, with a little bit of fizz. There was a strongly astringent flavor that lingered on the palate, particularly noted by Chana. Finally, the Spanish Casa Alta 2015, from La Mancha, made of 100 percent syrah, had a surprisingly pleasant minerality, with woodsiness that we didn’t experience with the other rosés. It was very sweet on the front of the tongue, but on the whole did not linger.

Wine Country has all these wines and more for your Seder, at 89 New Bridge Road in Bergenfield.

By Elizabeth Kratz