Whether your family celebrates Easter or Passover or simply basks in the secular joy of Spring, for many of us the seasonal holiday events call for something special in the way of wine on the table.
Indeed, wine is so central to the Passover service that participants in the holiday Seder drink four small cups of it during the feast. (By tradition, a fifth cup is left untouched for the Prophet Elijah.) According to Jewish custom, this commandment is so important that even a poor person who depends on charity should sell his clothing if necessary to buy the Seder wine.
Chances are that this difficult choice is rarely taken literally in modern times, but the strict rule makes a point for us all, regardless of our holiday tradition: Wine has its place as an integral part of any festive meal. It enhances our enjoyment of the meal and of those with whom we share it.
Here are some suggestions about wines to accompany spring holiday meals of every tradition:
WINE WITH LAMB: Roast lamb is an important symbol of Passover and deeply associated with Easter as well. Lamb on any bill of fare calls for a fine, dry red wine. This is an occasion for your best Cabernet Sauvignons, Merlots or Pinot Noirs and their Old World counterparts from Bordeaux and Burgundy, or for a full-bodied Syrah or Shiraz or hearty Italian red. We're likely to open a Cabernet-based Bordeaux with our Easter lamb, most likely one of the more affordable choices from the excellent 2000 vintage that's now reaching the worldwide market.
KOSHER WINE: Traditional kosher wines in the U.S. are inexpensive, sweet and grapey; but this is not a matter of religious requirement but only of custom. In fact, "Kosher" simply means "fit and proper." Any food or drink that conforms to Jewish dietary laws and is made under the supervision of a rabbi may be certified and labeled as kosher. Many modern kosher wines are indistinguishable from other table wines and, in some cases, have won awards in international competition. Several first-rate California producers make certified kosher wines of real quality, including Gan Eden, Weinstock and Hagafen. Kosher wines come from Italy, France and just about every other wine-producing nation. Today's tasting report features a Merlot from Galilee in Israel ... a wine that's fully kosher for Passover, but like the famous Levy's rye bread, you don't have to be Jewish to enjoy it.
ON THE LIGHTER SIDE: If you or your family and guests prefer something more light and sweet, you'll find plenty of alternatives that significantly raise the bar from White Zinfandel for holiday enjoyment. Wines made from the Riesling and Chenin Blanc grape are fruity and may be light and sweet, and go well with a variety of dishes, not excluding Easter ham. Another fine match with ham: Beaujolais. For springtime quaffing, look for a fruity, frothy and low-alcohol Moscato d'Asti from Italy; or grace your holiday table with the effervescent Principessa Perlante from Vigne Regali that's featured below.
Here's a look at the previously mentioned kosher wine from Israel, an appealing Merlot that's fully competitive with other Merlots in its price range from around the world. Golan Heights is a large producer that makes wines under several labels including Gamla, Yarden and Golan. Its vineyards grow on land that Israel took from Syria in the 1967 war; the producers reportedly had to remove scores of demolished tanks and battlefield debris from the property before vines could be planted there.
Golan Heights 2000 "Gamla" Galilee Merlot ($14.99)
This wine from Israel is kosher for Passover, but you'll find no hint of the traditional Manischewitz style in it. Very dark garnet in color, black at the center, it offers pleasant aromas of ripe cherries with distinct herbal notes, showing a bit of the "green" aspect of Merlot. Ripe and juicy fruit flavors are fresh and tart, with light astringent tannins adding texture. (The wine contains a bit of Cabernet Sauvignon in the blend.) Fresh, not overly complex but well balanced, it's an approachable Merlot, particularly good at the table. U.S. importer: Royal Wine Co., NYC. (April 12, 2003)
FOOD MATCH: A natural partner with medium-rare lamb chops.
VALUE: Competitive with Merlots at this price point.
WHEN TO DRINK: Palatable tannins should help hold it for a year or two on the wine rack, but it's ready to enjoy now.
WEB LINK: The importer has a Gamla wines page at:
Principessa Perlante Gavi Welcomes Easter
Principessa Perlante captures the fresh, fruity bouquet and elegant structure of Gavi with a delicate natural effervescence. An elegant aperitif, Principessa Perlante is also an ideal accompaniment to Easter brunch or supper of country ham, scalloped potatoes and fresh spring asparagus.
Click on this link to read the Legend of Principessa Gavia.
Wine Lovers' Voting Booth:
Most unusual wine smell?
As wine lovers know well, one of the most enjoyable things about our favorite beverage is the amazing complexity of aromas and flavors that appear in the glass.
Made only from pure grapes and yeast, wine boasts millions of distinct aromas, many of which bear little resemblance to grapes or even fruit. ... Great Burgundies have been likened to the scent of the barnyard; wines made from the Mourvedre grape often inspire comparisons to the smell of tree bark and the forest floor. New Zealand's impressive Sauvignon Blancs often evoke the territorial marking habits of tomcats. And yes, these are often used as complimentary, even admiring descriptions.
Now it's your turn. The Wine Lovers' Voting Booth offers no specific list of choices this week, simply inviting you to fill in the blank in your own brief words as we ask, "What is the most unusual smell you have found in a wine?" To take part, simply click to
California Wine Club: Free Wine Guide!
The California Wine Club is a fun and convenient way to experience incredible tasting wines from California's best boutique wineries. Call now, send a gift or join for yourself and they'll send you Food & Wine magazine's 2003 Wine Guide – FREE!
Food & Wine Magazine is an excellent and reliable source for wine enthusiasts. Their compact guide is jam-packed with tasting notes, regional grape growing facts and of course, ratings and recommendations.
Call 1-800-777-4443 or visit
Each month The California Wine Club hand-selects two bottles of award-winning wine from California's small family-owned wineries. Their wines are guaranteed and there's never any bulk, private label or closeout wines! Just $32.95 per month, plus shipping. No joining fees and you can cancel anytime!
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Last Week's Wine Advisor Index
The Wine Advisor's daily edition is usually distributed on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays (and, for those who subscribe, the FoodLetter on Thursdays). Here's the index to last week's columns:
Twist-off cork: What do you think? (April 11, 2003)
Introducing Caparoso wines (April 9, 2003)
Volatile or vinegar? (April 7, 2003)
Complete 30 Second Wine Advisor archive:
Last week's Wine Advisor Foodletter: Simple Caesar salad (April 10, 2003)
Wine Advisor Foodletter archive:
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Monday, April 14, 2003