Lightening Up On The Four Cups
Wines that won’t fog the mind during the long holiday meal.
Wines that won’t fog the mind during the long holiday meal.
With Passover around the corner, it’s time to think about what wines to serve for your seder and related holiday meals. This is a little less straightforward than it might seem at first — and I don’t mean simply the difficulty of trying to pair wine to horseradish.
For one thing, wine is required for the seders, so except for those dining alone or who otherwise require grape juice to fulfill the evening’s obligations, it’s likely that many bottles will be opened. There are also various customs and halachic rulings about the seder’s four cups of wine that should be factored in.
For instance, some people only consume red wines for the seder’s four cups; some only non-mevushal wines, while others will only use mevushal wines due to their diverse crowds. Some will only drink low-alcohol wines, and some aim to consume as many different high-end, stunning wines as possible. Seder drinking customs likewise vary, with some people gulping down each glass as quickly as possible, while others sip slowly, savoring each drop. While some favor dry wines, many prefer sweet wines — whether out of genuine taste preference or simple nostalgia.
Given all this, I tend to approach the seders in a more functional way. Consider that at least four full glasses need to be consumed, stomachs will be initially empty and alcohol tends to numb the senses a bit and possibly mask any subtleties and nuances to be found in the wines after the first couple of cups. So, I try to focus on wines that are enjoyable when quaffed and are less likely to cloud the evening and fog the mind as the glasses are tilted back again and again. Consider the following picks:
Château Roubine Cru Classé Côtes de Provence Rosé (Provence, France) 2016 ($25): This bright, sunny, light-to-medium-bodied, salmon-colored beauty is bright, dry, crisp, refreshing, elegant, well-balanced and hugely pleasurable.
Nik Weis, “Gefen Hashalom,” Wiltinger, Saar Riesling (Mosel, Germany) 2015 (9.5 percent abv; $25; imported by HB Wine Merchants): This light-yellow, 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), 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. This is selling fast, so pick up a bottle if you can still find any.
Hagafen Lake County White Riesling (Napa Valley, Calif.) 2015 ($24): This is delicious, runs a tad sweet, but is light, full of tropical fruits, with soft balancing, refreshing acidity.
Duc de Pagny Beaujolais Nouveau (Beaujolais, France) 2016 ($15): This would work for all four cups as it’s fresh, fruity, light, crisp and meant for joyously glugging. This lovely, magenta-colored wine contains notes of pear, banana, blueberries, cranberries, red plums and raspberries, even some macerated cherry and perhaps some pureed strawberry. Serve lightly chilled. Available online exclusively at kosherwine.com and its sister site jwines.com.
Louis Blanc, Côte de Brouilly, Domaine La Ferrage (Beaujolais, France), 2013 ($26): 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.
Champagne Laurent-Perrier, Brut, Kosher Edition (Champagne, France), NV ($77): This first-rate, light-to-medium-bodied blend of 45 percent chardonnay, 40 percent pinot noir, and 15 percent pinot meunier (different from their usual house blend of 50-35-15) is refined and balanced, yet fun and easy, with fine, concentrated bubbles, and lovely notes of citrus peel, minerals and nuts, all with a lovely dollop of fresh berries in the lengthy finish. This is really superb Champagne. A great way to start or conclude a seder.
And since something with a little more oomph might be desired for the seder meal itself (outside of the four quickly consumed cups) consider:
Domaine d’Ardhuy, Ladoix Rouge, Les Combottes (Burgundy, France), 2014 ($60); imported by, and exclusively available through, liquidkosher.com): Finally, the return to the U.S. market of a kosher Ladoix rouge. Ladoix is the appellation from the village of Ladoix-Serrigny in the Côte de Beaune district of Burgundy’s Côte d’Or (the reds are sometimes sold as Côte de Beaune-Villages in the wider wine market, so Ladoix tends to be undervalued). This is a superb, soft, elegant, medium-bodied example of the appellation. With refined and charming aromas, and flavors of strawberry, raspberry, cherry and cassis, plus a lovely, earthy core, this wine has soft, nicely integrated powdery tannins and a mild yet distinct spice note on the rewarding finish. This has lovely depth and complexity now, but should continue to evolve nicely through 2022 if well-cellared. This might not be available until mid-Passover or just after, but if you enjoy Burgundy, do yourself a favor and buy as much as you can get.
Château Marquisat De Binet, Cuvée Abel, Montagne-Saint-Émilion (Bordeaux, France), 2012 ($38): A complex, elegant, very fine, medium-bodied expression of merlot is wonderfully balanced and 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. A great wine.
Celler de Capçanes, Peraj Ha’Abib (Montsant, Spain), 2014 ($55): A delightfully rustic wine from this consistently good producer; medium-to-full bodied with an enticing spicy nose intermingled with vanilla and fresh black fruits, some nice earthiness, good acidity and fine-grained tannins. Lovely now with sufficient air, but will be at its best starting next year, through 2024.
Pavillon de Léoville Poyferré, St. Julien (Bordeaux, France), 2014 ($55): Supple and lively, offering fresh and elegant dark fruit (blackberry, wild strawberry, black currant), some mild black pepper, subtle truffle, and perhaps a little tobacco, with still integrating tannins and acidity. It will reward a few years’ patience if stored in a suitable cellar, but it can be enjoyed earlier if you allow time for it to breathe in your glass.