These Wines Are Kosher -- and Tops

By Downer, Elizabeth | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA), January 19, 2012 | Go to article overview

These Wines Are Kosher -- and Tops


Downer, Elizabeth, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)


Thanks to Pinsker's Judaica store in Squirrel Hill, Pittsburghers now have access to a long list of kosher wines.

Today's bear little resemblance to the sticky, cough-syrup-like sacramental wines of old. Those sweet wines still are available but the exciting news for drinkers is that modern versions taste much like wine made in a particular region from a particular grape variety. You can have a kosher Bordeaux from the Medoc or a kosher Chianti from Tuscany. More than 200 labels of such wines now are available at Pinsker's newly enlarged wine rooms.

Last week I enjoyed an open-house tasting with Jay Buchsbaum, vice president of Royal Wine Corp., the largest kosher wine distributor outside of Israel. He was introducing a sampling variety of top-quality Israeli varietals.

Israeli wines are an exciting story. This year, the Golan Heights Winery was declared "best winery in the world" at the Vinitaly competition. Yarden's Cabernet Sauvignon from this winery was listed in Wine Spectator's 100 best wines of 2010.

Wines have been made in Israel for 5,000 years but in the last 20 years, there has been a sea-change in the quality. Today, Israel has 15,000 acres planted in wine grapes and produces 36 million bottles, with an export market valued at $27 million.

Mr. Buchsbaum led the group through a tasting of Israeli and French kosher wines from a fresh and lively Pinot Grigio from Herzog to a full-bodied Binyamina Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon aged in a combination of French and American oak.

There was an interesting Sauvignon Blanc that reminded one taster more of an Aligote grape and two Chardonnays, one oaked and one un- oaked.

Two of the more impressive reds were Bordeaux-style blends from boutique wineries Alexander Sandro and Shilo Mosaic. Prices ranged from $9 to $40.

Passover is April 6 this year and if your Seder will include premium table wines, you will find a great selection at Pinskers, 2028 Murray Ave., 412-421-3033.

* * *

My previous column looked at the Dec. 31-Jan. 15 issue of Wine Spectator's list of the top 100 wines of 2011 and pointed out those available locally in our state wine stores. Another useful list in that issue is of wines scoring 90 points or above but costing $18 or less.

That list sheds light on what regions are producing the top "value" wines. Most wine consumers know that France produces most of the highest-priced wines. So it may surprise you to learn that France also is the largest producer of outstanding values. You might expect Chile or Argentina to win that distinction but in fact, they are minor players in this year's choices.

Of the 100 wines, 27 are from France, followed by 18 from Italy, 13 from Australia and 11 from Washington state. California appeared with only two wines, Chile three, while Argentina. Spain and Portugal each had four, and New Zealand five.

You can find these wines from the list in the state stores:

Tommsi Cabernet Sauvignon Maremma Toscana 2008, Tuscany, Italy

PLCB No. 20047, $16.99, 91 points

An intense wine, 100 percent Cabernet Sauvignon that will benefit from decanting and also will improve for another year or two.

Chateau Ste. …

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