April 28, 2009 / 11:09 AM / 8 years ago

Kosher wines pouring out of the religious niche

<p>Rabbi Yair Didi, who supervises production of kosher wines at the 'Cantina di Pitigliano' winery, samples a glass in the Tuscan town of Pitigliano March 26, 2007. Picture taken March 26, 2007.Daniele La Monaca</p>

PARIS (Reuters Life!) - Have you ever fretted over which wine to serve your Jewish friends without having to resort to an untested Israeli import?

Worry no more, there are more and more kosher wines available and even the well-known Mouton Cadet Bordeaux wines are available with a kosher label.

And religious Jews need not scratch their heads over the question of whether they can share their kosher wine with non-Jewish friends as flash-pasteurizing can turn a bottle of kosher red or white into Mevushal wine that can be shared with non-observant Jews. In the past, wines needed to be cooked to become Mevushal and that often did not do much for its taste.

"We clearly see a rise in the use of kosher wines by people from outside the community" said Marc Ben Chemoul, president and co-founder of the specialist Wyyne website.

He said that was partly due to better quality of wines from Israel, following government incentives for smaller-sized production, and a trend toward "bio" products as some consumers see the kosher label as a certificate for un-tampered wines.

The market in France is estimated at some 50 million euros ($65.69 million), compared to 150 million for the U.S. and 100 million in Israel.

Wine plays an important role in Jewish traditions, as it does in Catholic rites.

The ingredients normally used in making wine -- alcohol, sugar, grapes -- are permitted under the kashrut laws for kosher food and most additives as well, but not casein from dairy products or gelatin that can come from pigs.

Wine fit for the Jewish holiday of Passover must be kept free from contact with grains or its products.

ROTHSCHILD

Nowadays there are some big French names that make kosher wines: Smith Haut Lafitte, Leoville Poyferre and Valandraud for Bordeaux and Batard Montrachet and Clos de Vougeot for Burgundy.

Wynne's Ben Chemoul said that of the 2003 Lafont Rochet Saint Estephe there were only the kosher versions left and big restaurants in Paris such as Le Tour d'Argent now also serve kosher wine.

In Paris, kosher wines are available in many supermarkets and can be ordered online at sites such as the specialized htpp://www.wyyne.com, the IDS Company (www.idswine.com) -- which has an online catalog for prestige wines as well as 'pleasure' wines -- and more general Internet shops like htpp://www.chateauxonline.fr.

In the United States a large online provider is www.kosherwine.com.

Baron Edmond James de Rothschild (1845-1934) is considered the founder of the modern Israeli wine industry and many French grape varieties are used such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc or Chardonnay. He was a staunch Zionist.

His French branch of the Rothschild family owns Chateau Lafite-Rothschild. They are a different family branch than that of Baron Philippe de Rothschild's who own Chateau Mouton Rothschild, a First Growth, and produce Mouton Cadet which is one of the world's best-selling red wines. It is an assembly of various wines, selected on taste, and is not a top growth.

This part of the family stems from the British banking branch and is currently run by Philippine de Rothschild.

But they are far from the only French winemakers producing kosher wines and vintners in Italy, France, South Africa, Australia and the United States are also involved.

Reporting by Marcel Michelson, editing by Paul Casciato

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