Why do I love wine? One of its special characteristics is that it reflects culture. Distinctive soil, specific topography and climate notwithstanding, wine from a particular country or area mirrors tradition, complements regional cuisine, and offers a palate profile that is usually a combination of all of the above. For me, enjoying a glass of wine prompts a desire to learn about or travel to the country of its origin and to have a conversation with the people who live there. Recently I was sent a few bottles of kosher wine (as samples) from Israel…just in time for tasting before the High Holidays of the Jewish religion.
Naturally, I was intrigued. I haven’t had many wines of Israel, although those I had were outstanding. Receiving the selection of wines presented a perfect opportunity to discover a bit about Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, explore (virtually, of course) the country of Israel, and remember the scores of my dear friends who continue to observe these holidays.
Rosh Hashana, (September 22), marks the beginning of the Days of Awe, a period of introspection and repentance that ends in Yom Kippur (September 30), also known as the Day of Atonement. As I understand it, tradition states that “God judges all creatures during the Days of Awe between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, deciding whether they will live or die in the coming year; Jewish law teaches that God inscribes the names of the righteous in the “book of life” and condemns the wicked to death on Rosh Hashanah. Those who fall between the two categories have until Yom Kippur to perform “teshuvah” or repentance”.
Jewish traditions during this time include attending synagogue with services that include specific texts, songs, and customs. The sounding of the shofar, a trumpet crafted from a ram’s horn, signifies a call to repentence and a reminder that God is their king. Celebratory meals are served; many feature traditional apples dipped in honey (the apples have healing properties and the honey suggests that the new year will be sweet) and traditional braided bread (challah) baked in a round shape to indicate the circle of life.
The people of Israel have practiced viticulture since Biblical times, but only recently have the wines met international recognition – I look forward to learning more. The three kosher wines I tasted were beautiful red blends that deserve notice not only during the High Holidays, but from every wine lover at any time of the year.
Tabor Special Edition 2012 ($35) – From prime vineyards located at 700 meters in Upper Galilee, Cabernet Sauvignon (50%), Merlot (30%), and Petit Verdot (20%), grapes were handpicked and de-stemmed by hand. The blend was aged for 18 months in French oak barrels and after bottling, was aged another year in the cellar. Rich, intense aromas of blueberries, sweet spice, and cherries burst from the glass. Balanced with vibrant acidity and velvet-like tannins, notes of blackberries, butterscotch, cloves, and herbs led to a lasting fruit and spice driven finish on this full-bodied wine. Just lovely.
L’Chaim! ~ Cindy
NOTE: I’d love to hear from readers who have observed Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah. Please share your traditions, wines, and more in the comment section below.