Best Booze for your Purim Buzz
The right way to get hammered this Purim
The right way to get hammered this Purim
To those who enjoy their tipple, Purim is generally thought of as an opportunity to indulge.
Folks can quench their thirst with real gusto, while doing so still within the sanctity of the confines of Jewish communal life. After all, one of the most well-known observances of Purim is, in the words of Rabbi Yosef Karo (1488-1575; in Shulchan Aruch), “to drink on Purim until one does not know the difference between ‘cursed is Haman’ and ‘blessed is Mordechai.’” In fact, this is actually a direct quote from the Talmud (Megillah 7b).
Seems pretty straightforward, right? Let’s crack those bottles open! Well, not so fast. After all, as the old—and wildly popular if wildly uncharitable—Yiddish folksong has it, “Shikker iz a goy” (“a drunkard is a gentile”) while “Nekhter iz a Yid” (“sober is a Jew”). Grab a contemplative dram of whisky, and bear with me for a moment, I’ll get to the sauce soon enough. I promise.
The Jewish view of drunkenness is crystal clear. As Maimonides (1134-1204) admonishes: “Whoever becomes drunk is a sinner, is shameful, and will lose his wisdom.” Which further begs the question here, as Rav Yisroel Meir Kagan (1838 –1933), the Chofetz Chayyim, puts it: “How could the sages have obligated us [to drink on Purim] when the Torah and Prophets have recalled many incidents that demonstrate the great danger of intoxication?”
Sure enough, Rabbi Moshe Isserles (152-1572), in his gloss to Rabbi Karo’s Shulchan Aruch (Code of Jewish Law), adds here: “And there are those who say that one need not get too inebriated, rather, drink a little more than usual and sleep, for during sleep one is unable to make the distinction” and that “whether one drinks heavily or drinks a small amount, intention toward heaven is required.”
So, what to do – get seriously swizzled or just drink more than usual and have a nap? (This should go without saying, but just in case, anyone in actual need of religious assistance should seek it from their respective preferred religious leader. Anyone who relies solely upon my scribblings on booze for religious guidance will, well, probably be driven to drink.)
So, what should you drink this Purim? Think in terms of which wines will go best with your se’uda (Purim meal) menu. The goal of pairing wine with food is balance; neither the food nor the wine should overpower one another.
As I’ve mentioned previously, a general rule of thumb, that lighter foods go with lighter wines, and richer foods with richer, full-bodied wines, can be handy, but should not be thought of as absolute. The interplay of wine and food is subjective, and differs from person to person. When in doubt, serve q multiple options.
Here are a few suggestions:
Louis Blanc, Côte de Brouilly, Domaine La Ferrage (Beaujolais, France), 2013 ($23.99): A lovely, medium-bodied 100 percent Gamay wine with very soft tannins and medium acidity. It offers aromas of ripe raspberries, blackberries, boysenberries, and dark plums with some lovely earthy notes, followed on the palate by the same with additional notes of currants and some graphite, with stronger plum and blackberry notes. The medium length but satisfying finish offers a touch of mocha, and a bit more earthiness. Available at Jwines.com, 866-567-4370.
Domaine Gachot-Monot, Bourgogne (Burgundy, France), 2010 ($32.95; imported by Rashbi Wines): This lovely Bourgogne rouge is vibrant, fresh, and fruity; a great working man’s Burgundy, with proper Bourgogne rouge characteristics of pungent farmyard on the nose, leading to a surprisingly rich mouthful of typical cherry and raspberry fruit. The slightly grippy tannins help drive the long finish home, while preparing the appetite for another bite. Finally, a really decent, properly representative, and relatively affordable kosher Burgundy. More please. Available at Columbus Avenue Wine and Spirits, 730 Columbus Avenue, www.columbuswines.com, 212-865-7070.
Château Marquisat De Binet, Cuvée Abel, Montagne-Saint-Émilion, 2012 ($42.99): Still young but impressive and wonderfully balanced, with silky, integrating tannins, and great structure. This medium-bodied, still playful beauty is straining at the ropes with a refined yet heady nose of plum, cherry, raspberry, damp earth, dried herbs, a little tobacco, dried spices, a whiff of barnyard, and a touch of black licorice. The palate offers a nicely complex interplay of fruit, herbs, minerals, tannins, and high acidity, with a long, pleasing earthy finish. Elegant and highly enjoyable. Available at Skyview Wine and Spirit, 5281 Riverdale Avenue, www.skyviewwine.com, 888-759-8466.
Nik Weis, “Gefen Hashalom,” Wiltinger, Saar Riesling (Mosel, Germany) 2015 (9.5% abv; $25; imported by HB Wine Merchants): this light-yellow colored, low-alcohol, wonderfully quaffable beauty offers fine, pure expressions of floral and mineral aromatics, leading on the palate towards a brilliant tension between the fruity sweetness (delicate tropical, citrus, and stone fruits), the subtle yet smoky minerality, and the taut intensity of the acid; there is some residual carbon dioxide that adds a subtle yet lively freshness to the mouthfeel, and all of this is supported by the loving cushion of natural residual sugar. Though the natural residual sugar is perceptible, this is off-dry, rather than fully sweet, and would make a fine accompaniment to hot and spicy cuisine. Indeed, this is a delicate, vibrant, complex, and rewarding example of village-level Mosel.
Champagne Drappier, Carte d’Or, Brut ($48.95; mevushal): Opens with citrus, tart apple, and toasty aromas that lead into lemon, stone fruit, red berry, and yeasty bread flavors with accents of spice and minerals extending into a lingering brightly acidic finish. A solid and most enjoyable bubbly. Available at Skyview Wine and Spirit, 5281 Riverdale Avenue, www.skyviewwine.com, 888-759-8466.
For those wanting some of the hard stuff:
Tomintoul 16-year-old Single Malt Scotch Whisky (40 percent abv; around $56.95): This excellent, medium-bodied, gentle, and sophisticated whisky offers lovely aromas and flavors of hay, marzipan, espresso, vanilla fudge, cream, dried fruit, a very subtle hint of anise, toffee, pepper, and honey, and with remarkable yet improbable hints of mint. Wonderful and a real bargain for the price. Available at Skyview Wine and Spirit, 5281 Riverdale Avenue, www.skyviewwine.com, 888-759-8466.
Laphroaig 10-year-old Single Malt Scotch Whisky (43 percent abv; $57.95). Although lower proof and chill-filtered unlike everything else from this distillery, this flagship expression is nonetheless utterly fantastic and one of my perennial favorites. It is, in turn, soothing and stupendous, and familiar and reliable, yet complex, deep, and dreamy. It enraptures with its heady yet nuanced mix of iodine, smoke, sea brine, and sweet malt; with its oaky backdrop and whispers of vanilla; and with its rounded, oily, subtle and ever so slightly drying finish. Yet it is a dram with enough of a medicinal, fish oil, seaweedy presence to keep one grounded and alert, like a good-natured thump from an older brother or an old school chum. Not for all tastes, obviously, but this is serious, brilliant whisky. Available at Skyview Wine and Spirit, 5281 Riverdale Avenue, www.skyviewwine.com, 888-759-8466.
The Glenlivet 18-year-old Single-Malt Scotch Whisky (43 percent abv; $149.95): A very fine example of truly great whisky from The Glenlivet. This pale copper-colored spirit offers aromas of flowers (peonies?), sultanas, fruitcake, honeycomb, barley, ripe plums, and dark oranges, followed by flavors of panna cotta, honey, vanilla, prunes, a touch of fudge, a hint of smoke, subtle coconut, and some chocolate nuts edge their way in, ending with a long, dry, spicy, oak finish in which the various flavors dance gently on the taste buds. A lovely and absorbing dram. Available at Sherry Lehmann Wines and Spirits, 505 Park Avenue, sherry-lehman.com, 212-838-8500.