Wine and Passover
Wine for use during Passover, in addition to meeting the year round requirements must also meet special strict Passover dietary laws which include the prohibition of chometz or leavened products.
The vast majority of kosher wines are produced as “Kosher for Passover” all year round but nothing will replace checking the label for a symbol or consulting a reliable Passover guide to food and beverage.
Some wines are great for desert, others for a quiet evening of sipping, and others are especially food-friendly with meat, fish or cheese. In general white wines are typically younger, fresher and fruity with hints of apple, pineapple, pear and the like. Red wines can be full-bodied with notes of black current, plum, tobacco, leather and wild berries, with months or years of aging in charred oak barrels and a big finish. They can be silky and smooth, or tart and astringent, or even perhaps both at the same time. Wines can be cool, sparkling, light and refreshing for everyday or special occasions.
Two thousand years ago, a Talmudic sage said: "The best kind of wine is that which you enjoy." This rabbi might also have been the first known wine critic, as having rated a 200-year-old vintage "of the highest excellence."
For Passover each person is going to need their own wine cup, each large enough to hold a more than a “revyis”, or about 4-5 oz. of wine. You should estimate, based on five glasses per bottle, that
you will need four bottles for every five people, or approximately one bottle per person. Most authorities hold you can use “lite” wine and that you can dilute it with grape juice if you have difficulty
drinking wine. Please check with your Rabbi for individual questions.
I am aware of no obligation to use the same wine for all four cups. You can definitely mix varieties during the course of Seder, or not, and that freedom of choice, is very much the point. I recommend
diversity. If you choose this pathway, I recommend that you consider starting with the bigger dryer wines at the beginning, and move to the sweeter wines after the meal. Offer options. Consider those
who do not like dry wine and have choices for them. Most hold that red wine is preferable. I offer the following guide for sequence. Remember this is a guide!
It is early and your taste buds are fresh. If you are going to have a big dry wine this is the time to do it. It is when you can most enjoy and appreciate them. There are world glass big, full bodied, dry red varietals available from all over the world. Cabernet, Sauvignon, Merlot, Bordeaux blends are the classics.
You might consider a Pinot Noir or Burgundy if you want to move to something more silky and less tannic. For those who have not developed an appreciation for dry wine, you might consider, a wine series called Jeunesse. It has the unmistakable nose of a classic varietal with just enough natural sweetness to introduce the novice to the complex character of a varietal which is typically the choice of a more seasoned palate.
It’s time for a nice dessert wine. Try a Black Muscat, Muscatini, Malvasia, Valflore, Late Harvest wine or Muscat Hamburg. Sweetness is a welcome help with digestion here. Serve it chilled.
Take the party wine out from the refrigerator. Try something economical, refreshing, light, sweet, effervescent and cold. You might consider Moscato, Joyvan Red, Vino Sweet Red, Roso, Spumante
or Zinfantini. A reduced alcohol level might be quite welcome for many by this point in the evening.
On Passover, the mitzvah (Hebrew for commandment) requires us to drink a minimum of most of four glasses of wine at one sitting in order to properly conduct the Passover Seder. That is a
significant volume of wine. I know a Rabbi who says, “Who else but Jews would actually complain about how much they have to drink?”
Our sages tell us in the Talmud Mishna Pesachim 101 that the four cups of wine consumed at the Passover Seder correspond to four expressions of redemption mentioned in the Torah (Exodus
V’hotzaiti -- “and I removed you”
V’hitzalti-- “and I rescued you”
V’go’alti -- “and I redeemed you”
V’lakachti -- “and I took you”
Yes, each of the four glasses is associated with a different part of the Seder and represents an expression of our redemption. We are free to exercise our free will, but within limits. Isn’t that the heart of the story? We’re free to choose, but with a purpose, meaning, and context. What purpose? It may well be the core question for the Seder table. We tell the story and ask the questions. We learn, grow and strive to improve our character. It’s a mitzvah d’orisa (obligation from the Torah).
Wine is special blessing and a wonderful metaphor for this process.