Top 5 kosher wines

Not all kosher wine is syrupy gunk. We've rounded up an international mix of top-notch varietals.

1. Gonzalez Byass Tio Pepe Palomino Fino (nonvintage)

(About $20)

Kosher sherry isn't an oxymoron. Gonzalez Byass, the great sherry bodega in Jerez de la Frontera, Andalucia, broadens the spectrum of modern Jewish wines with this rabbinically supervised extra-dry fino; it offers woody, olivelike aroma and flavors just like the regular version. While fino can be used for kiddush, the prayer over wine at a sabbath or seder dinner, it can simultaneously do double duty as an incomparable aperitif. Afterward it may accompany chicken and fish dishes.

Meaty Recipe Pairing:

Chicken with Lemons, Green Olives, and Capers
Mediterranean flavors, embodied by olives, make for an ideal fino mate--lemons and capers add zing. For best results: Sip the high-alcohol fino slowly.

Meatless Recipe Pairing:

Smoked Fish with Fennel and Arugula Salad
In Spain , tapas and fino are a classic combination. This recipe's thinly cut morsels are stand-ins for tapas.

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2. Goose Bay 2006 Marlborough Chardonnay ( New Zealand )


Building on its reputation for producing savory kosher Sauvignon Blanc, the Goose Bay wines, produced by Spencer Hill Estate--New Zealand 's sole kosher-wine producer--offers this palate-whetting dry sibling. Its herbal and applelike notes, touch of oak, and viscous texture meld and bring pep to the table, especially to a first-course fish dish.

Meaty Recipe Pairing:

A '90s Twist to a Grandmother's Roast Chicken
Unlike California Chardonnays that overwhelm mild poultry, this one's zippy acidity lets the delicate white-meat flavor come through.

Meatless Recipe Pairing:

Salmon Trout Poached in White Wine
The Chardonnay's weight and delicacy, reflecting the fish's lightness, does not trounce the salmon.

3. Segal 2002 Dovev Merlot ( Israel )


A single-vineyard wine, this soft, succulent red brings to mind a dish of macerated cherries, perhaps accompanied by a sprinkle of herbs. The technically astute Avi Feldstein may be one of Israel 's finest winemakers. Though owned by Barkan, one of Israel 's major producers, Segal has its own artful style.

Meaty Recipe Pairing:

Beef Brisket with Dried Fruit, Yams, and Carrots
The red's enticing fruitiness flirts--and marries perfectly--with the sweetness of the apricots, prunes, and yams in the recipe.

Meatless Recipe Pairing:

Zingerman's Ann Arbor Mushroom and Barley Soup
Talk about heartiness! What is more reviving than the forest-and-field earthiness in a warming, ingratiating red?

4. Herzog Wine Cellars 2006 Late-Harvest Chenin Blanc ( California )


Herzog Chenin Blanc has been a nosher's darling and a bargain for years. It alternates on the palate in a yin-and-yang way: one moment near-sweet, the next seemingly dry. The long finish extends the pleasures.

Fruity Dessert Pairing:

Strawberry Compote with Blood-Orange Juice
Although this light white wine is a self-contained dessert, it becomes a playmate when fresh-fruit dishes reach the table.

Baked Dessert Pairing:

Honey Apple Cake
In the Jewish culinary idiom, a honey-and-apple combo symbolizes hoped-for happiness. Chenin enhances this desire.

5. Domaine du Castel 2005 Grand Vin ( Israel )


This flavorsome, full-bodied blend (70 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 25 percent Merlot, 5 percent Petit Verdot) beautifully evokes its Bordeaux models. The blackcurrant vein is teasing; the pool of herbal and woody nuances is provocative. Eli Ben Zaken, the owner, has earned his soaring reputation for winemaking. The winery is based in a moshav (semi-cooperative farm), Ramat Raziel, in the Jerusalem mountains.

Meaty Recipe Pairing:

Roast Goose with Caramelized Apples
This classic dish is French and, when washed down by a quasi-Bordeaux, transforms into a treat worthy of holiday festivities.

Meatless Recipe Pairing:

Potato and Green Olive Stew
The spicily-scented melange of potatoes, tomatoes, onions and olives--standard ingredients in stews--is hearty enough to pair with this Bordeaux blend.

Howard G. Goldberg, former senior editor of the Op-Ed page of The New York Times, where he worked 34 years, writes that newspaper's "Wine Under $20" and "Long Island Vines" features, which appear on Sundays. He is American auction correspondent of Decanter magazine in London and East Coast correspondent of, and a columnist for Wine News, a bimonthly magazine published in Coral Gables , Florida .


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