A specific set of foods and their attendant rituals are inextricably linked to Passover. Like eating matza (unleavened bread), maror (bitter herbs), charoset (a sweet mixture of apples, honey, & nuts) and the requisite 4 cups of wine after toasting to L’Chaim (life). Did you know that there are now some delicious Kosher wines on the market that can do a religious observance of this magnitude some justice?
I recently tasted 2 bottles from South Africa’s Backsberg Estate Cellars. Established by a family of Jewish refugees from Lithuania almost 100 years ago, the Back family today owns close to 300 acres of vineyards situated in the foothills of the Simonsberg Mountains. Both the Chardonnay and Merlot I tasted below are 100% Kosher Mevushal (pasteurized) produced under certifications of the Cape Town Beth Din and U.S. Orthodox Union:
Backsberg Chardonnay 2010
With a citrusy bouquet, sweet honey hits first on the tongue. I paired it with fish…broiled Hake…and it didn’t have
an overpowering presence but rather served as a flavorful garnish. Mild on the palate with a chalky mouth feel, it blossoms into hints of bright lemon and sharp peach. I’m imagining a lively flavor interplay with spicy dishes. I also had it with Comte Raw Milk cheese aged for 15 months as well as Gouda Goat. Effervescing nicely with the creaminess in both, this Chard puts the sharper curds on a pedestal for the tongue to better absorb. Counter to what one would perhaps falsely assume in a pasteurized wine, this one has an extremely lively attitude.
Backsberg Merlot 2008
Fruitiness immediately punches through on the bouquet with the first sip being distinct and clean. Light on the tannins with a crisp purity throughout, this wine makes a great pairing with light meats like grilled lamb or roasted chicken. Outside of slight peppery bursts, it stays level on the palate from sip to swallow. With foods, the pepper persists while allowing other flavors to continue on their even trajectory of light plum and hints of raspberry. Pasteurization appears to level out any flavor pops or overzealous tannins. Flavor interplays don’t take center stage with this varietal. No crescendos or lower notes on the palate can be beneficial with foods in which you want an accompaniment rather than a flavor altering experience. Think of it as a cranberry sauce with your turkey rather than chipotle sauce with your tamale.
This review based on complimentary samples. Photos courtesy of Frederick Wildman