Went vineyard-crawling with some friends on Saturday to a beautiful vineyard in Aviston, IL, just 45 miles from my home.Â It’s the Hidden Lake Winery. Their dry wines are closer to semi-territory, which most in our group preferred, but I’d have liked to taste something drier.Â I found their cabernet most to my liking on that end of the sheet.Â They had a merlot, and a few syrahs, along with a chardonnay, too.Â They had a great selection of sweet wines, some of which they labelled semi-sweet.Â My preference was for their Adam’s Apple, though others in the group enjoyed the Double Decker Red.Â (having grown up on Mogen David and Manischevitz wine, I tend not to like sweet red wines, whether they come from the Concord grape or not.)Â I also enjoyed their Muscat dessert wine, and I brought home a bottle of that, along with an Adam’s Apple.
The question arose in conversation what made a wine kosher or not.Â Unlike the rules for any other food or beverage, the Orthodox require that kosher wine be produced by a completely Jewish staff.Â This isn’t a Biblical commandment, but a Talmudic era judgment to prevent one from drinking wine made for pagan rituals.Â It was the only way the Rabbis knew to make sure one wasn’t drinking wine thus tainted.
I’m not Orthodox, and I don’t question the religious background of those producing the wine.Â (I have drunk mead, though, produced by some friends of friends in the pagan community….)
There is an additional concern for non-kosher wine.Â The wine making process often uses a clarifying agent. “Different proteins serve as clarifying agents depending upon both the type of wine and the desired flavor…Some clarifiers are animal-based products, while others are earth-based. Common animal-based agents include egg whites, milk, casein, gelatin, and isinglass. Gelatin is an animal protein derived from the skin and connective tissue of pigs and cows. Isinglass is prepared from the bladder of the sturgeon fish.”Â (Neither sturgeon fish, nor pigs, are kosher.Â If either were used as a clarifying agent, it would make the wine non-kosher from a Biblical, and not just a Talmudic perspective.)Â Personally, I avoid pig products, and if I knew a wine was made with pig gelatin as a clarifying agent, I would probably not drink it.Â But I currently follow a ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ philosophy.