On Rosh Hashanah, I believe that most of the focus shouldn’t be just a retrospective of the year that just ended, with its successes and mistakes on both spiritual and material levels, but on the new year that just begins. This year, rather than simply discuss the merits of new and sweet wines, I would like instead to suggest having a bit of fun (it’s Yom Tov, not Tisha B’Av) with the traditional symbols, the simanim.
The simanim vary significantly among the communities within the Jewish people, and even more so from one family to the next. There are people who dip the challah in honey, those who dip it in sugar and those who use salt as usual. Some Ashkenazi Jews eat the head of a fish while some Sephardi eat the head of a sheep.
Whichever minhagim (customs) you have, why not elevate them further with some adequate wines? I recommend checking out the Herzog Lineage Sauvignon Blanc 2018. Its citrus aromas and bright profile would be a really nice match to the fish head. For those who roast a sheep or lamb head, a full-bodied and earthy Les Roches de Yon-Figeac Saint-Émilion Grand Cru 2016 would complement and further enhance the experience. My favorite siman is the pomegranate. Prior to eating the crunchy, juicy, bittersweet seeds we traditionally recite this request: “May (God) multiply (the weight and number of) our merits as the (many seeds of the) pomegranate.” I would pair pomegranate, one of the seven species of Eretz Yisrael, with the Shiloh Privilege 2017. While many of the Shiloh wines are best matched with rich, well-grilled cuts of meat, the Privilege is a lighter and flavorful blend that would highlight the tartness of the pomegranate without overwhelming it.
A rather popular siman is the date. 1848 is a winery, which besides being arguably the first to have been established in Israel, produces some interesting wines, as well. The 1848 Fifth Generation Cabernet Franc 2016 with its ripe black fruit notes and spiciness, while sipped alongside dates, will make you nod while thinking “this really does make sense!”
There is a siman that while not part of my family’s minhagim, is part of my wife’s: leeks. This coming Rosh Hashanah, I would love to open a bottle of Netofa Latour White 2017, a dry Chenin Blanc aged in French oak barrels. The vibrant, medium body of this wine as well as its slightly viscous, oily mouthfeel will marry the green, herbaceous nature of leeks amazingly well.
No holiday meal is complete without a decadently sweet dessert. I might bake an old favorite of mine, a Poire Belle-Hélène pie. It’s a pear pie with a shortbread crust topped with a creamy chocolate custard and toasted almonds. This is the type of dessert that calls for a Port-style wine such as the Teperberg Essence Fortesse 2013, a surprising wine with rich notes of plums compote, caramelized pecan and cinnamon. After that, it can only be a sweet new year! Shana Tovah U’m’suka! L’chaim!
Gabriel Geller is a wine consultant for Royal Wines.