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Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Winter has come early this year, with significant snowfalls on the East Coast already in mid-November. As far as wine is concerned, my immediate thought when I see snow is “Time to take out the Port!” This year the snow also reminded me that Chanukah was around the corner.

Every year I’m always asked which wines pair best with doughnuts and latkes. Chanukah, however, isn’t only about deep-fried traditional delicacies.

It is a holiday on which we recite Al Hanissim for eight nights and days. It is a holiday on which we celebrate the extraordinary nissim that Hashem sends us all the time, and in particular those that He sent us over 2000 years ago when the tiny army of the Maccabim defeated the great Greek army of King Antiochus IV Epiphanes.

It is therefore only natural that many parties are organized during Chanukah to celebrate the great chesed Hashem has granted the Jewish people. There are many meals and dishes that are served at such parties, from doughnuts and latkes, of course, to brisket, steaks, salads, sushi, chicken wings and more.

Here are a few wines that will enhance our Chanukah parties tremendously.

Champagne des Barons Rothschild Brut: When someone says “party!” I always respond back saying “Champagne!” The celebratory wine par excellence. The Rothschild Champagne is a luxurious, mineral-driven Champagne with creamy lemon-curd notes as well as hints of white stone fruits and classic notes of freshly baked bread. Sparkling wines in general and Champagne in particular also happen to be, in my humble opinion, the best wines to pair with deep-fried foods such as latkes. The high acidity, lemony notes and vibrant bubbles cut through the oiliness, creating an experience that you won’t forget! Stay tuned as a new Champagne from the Barons de Rothschild is coming out soon!

Ramon Cardova Albariño 2017 is the newest and most exciting comer to the ever-growing selection of great white wines. This one comes from the Rías Baixas region, located on the southwestern coast of Spain. Albariño is a rising star among white grape varieties. This wine is the second kosher wine of its kind to come to the market, following the introduction of the intriguing, innovative Herzog Special Reserve Albariño from California’s Edna Valley this past summer. The Ramon Cardova features a crispier, delightful profile with notes of lime and pear, as well as some herbaceous and saline undertones, showcasing the proximity of the vineyards to the Atlantic Ocean. If you’re planning on serving sushi for your Chanukah party this is a wine you must check out!

Château Malmaison 2016 from the Moulis-en-Médoc appellation from the northern part of Bordeaux’s Left Bank is one of the estates owned and managed by the Rothschild family. The commitment of the Rothschilds to the highest standards of quality has once again been renewed with upgraded vineyards, technology and equipments, and is evident in this excellent wine, which is beautifully balanced, with a velvety, elegant texture as well as notes of ripe red berries and a long, earthy finish. It is a truly great value from Bordeaux. The Malmaison will be great with grilled lamb chops.

Jeff Morgan from Covenant Wines was always a globetrotter. He has lived in different parts of America but also in Europe, with a former career as a musician in France and Switzerland. No surprise there. Making wine is very akin to composing or playing music, as both a composer/musician and a winemaker must achieve balance and harmony in their creations. Jeff’s travels and his reconnecting with his Jewish roots over the past 15 years have lead him to fall in love with Eretz Yisrael. Just a few years ago he started making wine in Israel and launched Covenant Israel, in parallel with his award-winning Covenant wines from California’s Napa Valley and Sonoma, which keep collecting high accolades from the Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast. The Covenant Israel Blue C Adom 2016 is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah grown in the Golan Heights. This wine features Jeff Morgan’s signature of well-rounded, fruit-forward and balanced wines with notes of blackberries and blueberries as well as freshly cracked pepper, Israel’s roasted Mediterranean herbs and aromatic spices. Exactly what you need with a juicy, savory brisket on Shabbos Chanukah.

Last but not least, the aforementioned Port, Porto Cordovero Ruby will warm you up in delight on a cold, snowy day (or night). But its sweet notes of blackberry jam, caramelized pecan nuts and dried figs will also complement scrumptious strawberry jelly or chocolate doughnuts like no other type of wine. And if you want to try something comparable from Israel, then give a try to the Zion Fortissimo or the Or Haganuz Har Sinai.

Chanukah Sameyach, l’chaim!

By Gabriel Geller


Gabriel Geller is a wine consultant for Royal Wines.