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It’s spring, and Passover and Easter are almost upon us. The first of these holidays is Passover, which begins at sundown on Friday, April 6. Whether you are hosting a Seder or bringing wine as a guest, you may already be thinking about your choices.
Here’s a thought: Why not consider a wine from Israel for your Seder? Israel might not be the first place that comes to mind when you think about classic wine-growing regions, but “the vine” has been cultivated for thousands of years in that ancient land.
The modern wine industry in what is now Israel dates back to an influx of funding in the late 1800s from Baron Edmond de Rothschild of France’s famed Lafite-Rothschild, one of Bordeaux’s most esteemed wines. In more recent decades, many small producers have emerged and a new focus has been placed on high-quality winemaking techniques. Many of the newer Israeli wineries are producing dry international style wines, as opposed to sweet wines.
The climate is conducive to growing grapes, which thrive with the help of irrigation during the hot summers. Wines are being made from the traditional wine grape varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and others.
Not all wines produced in Israel are kosher. In order to be classified as kosher in Israel the wine must be made in accordance with biblical agricultural laws in addition to traditional kosher standards. These laws require that the vine must be in its fourth year, the land must be left fallow every seven years, only vines may be grown on the land, and 1 percent of the wine must be poured away as a symbol of tithing.
More than $24 million of Israeli wine is exported annually to the U.S. Personally, I have enjoyed Yatir’s wines, especially Yatir Forest, the priciest and most prestigious wine from this acclaimed winery, which was founded in 2000. Yatir Forest is a Bordeaux-style blend made with mainly Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot grapes. The winery offers a selection of other reds and whites, including a Cabernet Sauvignon and a Sauvignon Blanc labeled as Yatir.
Next week my family will be hosting Easter dinner. Stay-tuned for my wine pairing dilemmas.
A 25-year veteran of the wine and hospitality industry, George Staikos is known for his role as an educator, sharing his passion for wine appreciation. He is the founder and president of the Educated Grape, a company specializing in interactive education programs and in-home wine entertaining for wine enthusiasts and companies. He is a professor at Fairleigh Dickinson University’s International School of Hospitality Management, where he teaches “Introduction to the Study of Wine.” He is also Vice Echanson or regional wine director for the mid-Atlantic region for the Chaine des Rotisseurs, a worldwide food-and-wine organization.
Staikos is a graduate of Florida International University in Miami with a Bachelor’s degree in Hospitality Management. He is married with three children and lives in Flemington.