In order for a wine to be deemed kosher (Yiddish for “proper” or “fit”), it must be:
1. Made under the supervision of a rabbi.
2. The wine must contain only kosher ingredients (including yeast and fining agents) and it must be processed using equipment rabbinically certified to make kosher wines.
3. No preservatives or artificial colors may be added.
4. The wine can only be handled — from the vine to the wineglass — by Sabbath-observant Jews, unless the wine is mevushal.
*A mashgiach, or kosher supervisor, makes sure that religious laws are followed throughout the process.
Mevushal wine is often served at events where non-Jews will be doing the pouring and serving of wine.
Mevushal wines, unlike ordinary kosher wines, can be handled and served by non-Jews.
To be considered mevushal, a wine must be heated to 185 degrees Fahrenheit*.
*Extended exposure to high temperatures can threaten a wine’s character, but producers have developed flash-pasteurization techniques that minimize the effect on the wine’s flavor.
Wines kosher for Passover must also be free of certain additives, such as corn syrup and legumes.
Most kosher wines are already approved for Passover, but producers of Concord-based wines (such as Manischewitz) that are sweetened with corn syrup must produce special “kosher for Passover” bottlings, which are labeled as such.
Kosher wines started in the US with a bad reputation primarily because they were made with Concord grapes, the grapes available to Jewish immigrants to the US.
These grapes were highly tannic and had to be sweetened to be palatable.
Today, kosher wines are made all over the world and there are many high quality producers and wine types from which to choose.