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Lean in to Israeli Wine This Pesach

By Elizabeth Kratz

Many Jewish families are choosing to serve only Israeli wines at their seder tables this year. The war in Israel, which has taken a toll on so many, has made many of us in the states feel stressed and powerless. However, the many missions to Israel to support the troops and buoy the economy have been important, as is our continued support of Israeli products here in the U.S. The good news from my end is that I don’t have to go too far to find well-priced Israeli wines that I like. Here are my favorites.

For the first cup, why not try a pink bubbly wine, that is both light on the palate and not too dry or cloying? I recommend the Dalton Rosé Pét Nat ($35), new this year, or the Jezreel Valley Rosé Pét Nat 2020 ($29, if you can find it!).

Pét Nat is having a bit of a moment in Israel, and the anxiously awaited white Yaffo Pét Nat ($34) should hit shelves in time for Pesach. Pét Nat, short for pétillant naturel, is an ancient winemaking method, with the wine bottled while the yeast is still fermenting, thus trapping the carbon dioxide and creating fizz. The wine is cloudy and unfiltered. It’s approachable, not too sweet, and yeasty like a Belgian ale (but still, kosher for Passover). It’s very refreshing and best served cold.

If pét nat seems too crazy and fun for Pesach, then of course the best two bubbly rosés from Israel are the Yarden Galilee Brut Rose ($52),

and the Razi’el Brut Rose ($140), though the second is certainly on the more expensive side of things.

Moving on to pure reds, which are most traditional for the Pesach table: An incredibly affordable yet excellent cabernet is Dalton Estate M-Series Cabernet Sauvignon 2021 ($21). This ruby red Israeli cab is all that one wishes to find in a red wine, lush with red and blue fruit notes and a smooth finish. It’s not as aged or as viscous as more expensive cabs, but it has beautiful and balanced flavors that stand up well to soups, fish and first courses. Since it’s mevushal, it’s a great option to take to Pesach programs, where there might be rules about which wines one can bring.

Another favorite red wine of mine is the Tabor Tannat Single Vineyard 2016 ($36), which is an earthy, plummy, blueberry-nosed wine that is becoming more difficult to find in the U.S., because vintages after 2016 have not been imported to the U.S. I hope that changes because this tannat is fun and interesting, a slightly lighter bodied red that isn’t as dry or tannic as standard cabernets. This is an enjoyable red wine that refreshes the palate rather than dries it out.

I also recommend the La Forêt Blanche D’vir Estate Blend 2020 ($36), one of Israel’s most aromatic, velvety and balanced red blends. La Forêt Blanche has had no sales from the web, stores or any other channel since the war started besides exports. This is an excellent mealtime pairing with poultry and beef, having enough heft to cut through even the heaviest of red meats.

Finally, I can’t say enough nice things about Psagot Winery in general, but my go-to Psagot wine is the Psagot Malbec 2021 ($38). This wine is bursting with flavors of earthy blue and black fruit and it just gets better and better every time I try it. For me, malbec and marselan are two grapes that I think do very well in Israel's dry terroir, and I consistently enjoy these red wines from Israel; I am always the first in line to try any new kosher marselan or malbec and I look forward to more of these being available to us in Chutz La’Aretz. Or I will just have to move to Israel to gain better access to these wonderful bottles.

Grapes growing at Hasela Winery in southern Gush Etzion, Israel.

For dessert wines, the options are many. Check out dessert wines from Carmel, Ya’acov Oryah (including his astonishingly balanced Late Harvest Skin Macerated Viognier), Teperberg, Psagot and Yarden. Let’s support Israeli wineries aggressively this Pesach, and make sure they benefit from our support. As Alex Haruni from Dalton says so well, “We are not asking for charity but honest support; our wines stand shoulder to shoulder with wines from around the world and our scores attest to that.”


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