I attended a Kosher Israeli wine festival in Jerusalem on January 30, 2012. It was touted as the first entirely Kosher wine festival in Israel. Although there are more than 250 wineries in Israel, many are not certified as Kosher. As a result, most Israeli wine festivals feature a mixture of Kosher certified and non-Kosher certified wines. There are very high quality Israeli wineries in both categories, though all of Israel’s largest wineries have Kosher certification. Often it is seen as too expensive for the smaller wineries to make arrangements to get official certification.
The festival was held at Binyanei Ha-umah – the Jerusalem International Convention Centre. Running from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. for two days, the exhibition featured booths from more than 30 wineries, all Israeli. With a relatively modest admission fee of approximately $20 (or $10 in advance) guests were given a Spiegelau red wine glass (that they could keep afterwards). We are able to wander around tasting 2 to 5 wines from each of the different represented wineries. It is of course crucial to either take public transit to this kind of event or spit out most of the wine. We opted for the former, since the location was right next to the Central Jerusalem bus station and I would hate to have to spit out all of that tasty wine.
Most of the wineries were not hesitant to provide tasting samples of some of their best wines. For example, Recanati was offering tastes of its award winning “Special Reserve” that sells for approximately $50 a bottle. Golan, Dalton, Carmel and others were also pouring some very nice wines.
I particularly enjoyed visiting with the folks from Ben Haim and Sagol wineries and sampling some of the delicious wines while chatting with the friendly vintners. Ben Haim was pouring a 2003 reserve Merlot…which was quite enjoyable.
One winery, Rimon, was offering sweet dessert and port style pomegranate wines. I have had Rimon’s dry pomegranate wine and quite enjoyed it. These dessert wines were a bit too sweet for my general consumption.
Wines were available for purchase at a discount, with a larger discount being offered for much larger purchases. There were also some food booths outside the exhibition centre including sushi, bread and cheese plates, and some other offerings.
The crowd was interesting. Since this was a Kosher festival, it drew a wide range of guests from the secular to the religious and even ultra-religious, all of whom were able to enjoy the same wine.
I won’t write extensively now about the real differences between Kosher certified and non-Kosher certified wine but we did witness an incident at one of the booths. An observant Orthodox woman reached over to pick up and look at a bottle of wine. The Mashgiach at the booth announced that since she had touched the bottle, he had to declare it “traif” and could no longer serve at. I won’t get into all the details of this now, though there actually were some women at some of the booths serving wine.
Overall, the facility was very nicely arranged and the booths were quite attractive. We enjoyed it quite a bit, though to quote one of my favourite cousins, I was probably somewhat “overserved.”