Thursday, June 4, 2020

Even wine prepared by Noahides is unfit to drink by Jews


Jews often tell non-Jews that if they follow the Noahide Laws they are the "righteous among the nations" and have a place in the "world to come". However, according to some Rabbis, the wine made from Noahides is still not Kosher, and this prohibition was put in to prevent intermarriage with non-Jews.


"As a factual matter, most non-kosher wine today is not made with sacramental intent. Rather, it is considered “stam yenom” (their ordinary wine), e.g., made by non-idolaters accepting the seven Noachide Mitzvot. Such wine is rabbinically prohibited; we don’t drink wine, even stam yenam, if it is even touched by a gentile, but commerce in it is not forbidden—it may be sold to a gentile. The reason for forbidding drinking stam yenam, we are taught, is social—“meshum benotayhem” (because of their daughters) based on the Talmud (Shabbat 17b and 30b). The rabbis viewed it as a fence against intermarriage. This rule is codified in the Shulchan Aruch"


The Truth About Kosher Wine
By David E. Y. Sarna | December 08, 2016

David E. Y. Sarna is a writer and retired entrepreneur. He has eight published books, including “Evernote For Dummies, V2,” and hundreds of articles, and has nearly completed his first novel, about the Jewish treasures in the Vatican’s secret archive. He is hard at work on a book about the Internet of Things and also on a book on the Talmud for general readers. He and his wife, Dr. Rachel Sarna, are long-time Teaneck residents.

(Part 1 of 2)
“Wine makes the heart glad, making the face brighter than oil.” Psalms (104:15)
Shakespeare, in King Lear, had Edgar say, “Wine loved I deeply.” (Act 3, Scene 4)
“Drinking good wine with good food in good company is one of life’s most civilized pleasures.” Famed British wine critic Michael Broadbent.
Kosher Wine is, like good wine itself, complex. It has historical, oenological, and halachic bouquets and aromas and is intellectually satisfying. We will explore it in two parts.

From Kiddush Wine to Fine Rare Wine

Wine wasn’t one of life’s great pleasures for us when I was growing up. Wine didn’t do it for me. It was neither an interesting part of my life, nor of anyone else’s I knew. Those odes to wine did not resonate with me back then.
I knew wine only from Kiddush.
To borrow a line from the second studio album by Norman Cook (Fatboy Slim), “You’ve come a long way, baby”—kosher wines have come a long way. They have arrived and the best of them command high prices.
A bottle of Vintage Yarden 2003 Katzrin wine from The Golan Heights Winery in Israel sells for $799.99. A bottle of Domaine Roses Camille Pomerol 2006 sells for $219.99; Chateau Leoville Poylferre 2000 from the Saint-Julien appellation in Bordeaux sells for $300. California’s Herzog Special Reserve Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 1994 will set you back $300. These are but a few of many examples of rare kosher wines offered at prices comparable to rare non-kosher wines.
Those surely aren’t the wines of my memories. To me, wine meant Kiddush, and Kiddush meant drinking overly sweet, syrupy Concord or Malaga wine, made of grapes grown in New York’s Catskill’s, formulated as Schapiro Wine Company, founded on the lower East Side in 1899 as California Valley Wine Company (!) used to advertise, “wine you can almost cut with a knife.” No one I knew was motivated to drink more than the required minimum (shiur). Schapiro’s main competitors were Manischewitz (actually made by Monarch Wine, who licensed the name), Lifshitz and Mogen David. As far as I knew, it was only drunk voluntarily by the alcoholic derelicts who still frequented New York’s Bowery neighborhood in southern Manhattan in those days. “Kosher USA,” a fine book by Roger Horowitz relates that African-Americans said it tasted similar to the homebrew made in the South from Scuppernong grapes that have properties similar to Concord grapes. Extra heavy Mogen David jug wine was a favorite of theirs. Extra heavy refers to a wine’s body, and for wine connoisseurs is an analysis of the way the wine feels inside our mouths.

Why Was Kosher Wine Sweet?

Why so sweet? It turns out that the main reason for the sweetness in American kosher wines had nothing to do with tradition. It lies in the (inexpensive) Malaga-type grapes (including Concord) typically used. Whatever sugar exists in Malaga-type grapes, including Concord, is almost entirely transformed into alcohol during fermentation; sugar must be added to make the wine palatable. Its alcohol content is 13% (26 proof), as wine yeast eventually consumes the sugar and turns it into alcohol. About ten tons of sugar are typically mixed into the vats with approximately 25,000 gallons of wine. Other grapes, usually of the vitis vinifera variety, such as Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Gamay and Merlot are used in making fine fines. Malaga-type grapes are of the vitis labrusca species. They are higher in acid, and lower in sugar than grapes of the of vitis vinifera variety.
So don’t be fooled. The sweet Malaga-type kosher wines do not describe traditional kosher wine of the kind King David extolled.

Jewish Fine Winemaking in Ancient Times

The history of Jewish winemaking is ancient, going back many thousands of years. Ancient wine presses and winemaking equipment are frequently found in archaeological digs in Israel. During the period of the Second Temple, winemaking was at its peak in Israel. Wine was of fine quality, a major export and an economic mainstay until the destruction of the Second Temple and the dispersion (galut) of the Jews. The Arab conquest in 600 CE essentially killed off the wine industry in Israel, due to the conquering Islam’s prohibition on using alcohol. Thereafter, the wine industry in the Land of Israel lay dormant for another thousand years, until the second return to Zion in the mid-19th century that included the rabbinical Zionism of Rabbi Yehudah Alkalai (1798-1878) and Rabbi Tzvi Hirsh Kalischer (1795-1874). The first was during the times of Ezra, Nechemiah, Chagai, Zechariah, and Melachi.
My wife’s family, the famed Lurias, immigrated during the Chasidic aliyah around 1770. While they undoubtedly made wine, no details have been preserved.
Wine has always been important, throughout the calendar year and throughout the Jewish life cycle. We sanctify Shabbat and Yom Tov over wine. At the Pesach Seder we express the four expressions of Geulah (redemption) over wine. At a wedding too, the seven blessings, sheva brachot, are recited over wine. Any kosher wine is fine; even per most authorities, unfermented grape juice qualifies. Sugary syrup wine is not required, and was not used in Europe or in Israel. When grapes were not available, it was made from raisins.

Is Kosher Wine Sacramental?

We certainly make Kiddush over wine, but it is not specially made sacramental wine. Sacramental wine, in fact, is a Christian term. It is wine intended for use in celebration of the Eucharist (referred to also as the Divine Liturgy, the Mass, the Lord’s Supper or Holy Communion). It was also used in pagan (idolatrous) rituals. Such wine is Biblically forbidden to Jews (based on Deut. 32:37-38) as Yayin Nesech, and forbidden in the Talmud Avodah Zara 29b), meaning wine used or intended to be used as part of an idolatrous religious service (as defined in the Talmud Avodah Zara, 57a—60b) is forbidden. Not only is drinking it forbidden, but also any form of enjoyment or commerce. Maimonides views the prohibition as Biblical (Hilchot Maachalim Asurim, 11a).
Use of the term sacramental in connection with kosher wine dates to the prohibition era (1920-1933), when the Eighteenth Amendment to the constitution passed, ushering in prohibition. The enabling legislation, the Volstead Act, contained an exception to the general ban. It permitted “the manufacture, sale, transportation, importation, possession, or distribution of wine for sacramental purposes.” Jews latched on to that exception.

Stam Yenom and Other Key Distinctions in Kosher Wine

Kosher wine is made just like non-kosher wine, by fermenting the juice of grapes, but with many important and strict limitations and rules. Adherence to the rules is so strictly required that kosher wine requires continuous supervision (hashgacha) from the moment the grapes are brought to the winery, right after they are first harvested. The most important of these is that the wine be only handled by Sabbath-observing Jews.
What is the situation now? As a factual matter, most non-kosher wine today is not made with sacramental intent. Rather, it is considered “stam yenom” (their ordinary wine), e.g., made by non-idolaters accepting the seven Noachide Mitzvot. Such wine is rabbinically prohibited; we don’t drink wine, even stam yenam, if it is even touched by a gentile, but commerce in it is not forbidden—it may be sold to a gentile. The reason for forbidding drinking stam yenam, we are taught, is social—“meshum benotayhem” (because of their daughters) based on the Talmud (Shabbat 17b and 30b). The rabbis viewed it as a fence against intermarriage. This rule is codified in the Shulchan Aruch, “the set table,” Rabbi Yosef Karo’s code of Jewish Law, completed in 1563 and published in Venice two years later, in Hilchot Yayin Nesech—Orech Hayim 123. The halachic rulings in the Shulchan Aruch generally follow Sephardic law and customs, whereas Ashkenazi Jews will generally follow the halachic rulings of Moses Isserles, whose glosses to the Shulchan Aruch note where the Sephardic and Ashkenazi customs differ. For wine, there are a few differences; we will discuss them later.

The New Era of Kosher Wine in Israel

Fast forward to 1848, when winemaking in Israel resumed after an imposed hiatus of a millennium.
The first recorded modern winery in Israel was opened in 1848 by Rabbi Yitzhak Galin Shor, a Karliner Chasid. His son Elisha, a nephew and another relative were killed in 1948 as members of the Palmach, fighting the Jordanians. The Shor family remains in the wine industry today and Rabbi Shor’s descendants own the HaCormim, Arza and Zion wineries. Another of the earliest wineries was founded by Rabbi Avrom Teperberg in 1870. Efrat Winery (now known as Teperberg 1870) was founded in the Old City in Jerusalem. It went bankrupt in 1929 but was re-established in 1951. It is still owned by the fifth generation of this family. The much-better-known Carmel Winery was established in Israel in 1882 by Baron Edmond de Rothschild (1845-1934), owner of the famous Château LeFite Rothschild in France, in Zichron Yaakov (a town he founded in 1882, and named in honor of his father, James Mayer de Rothschild), and Rishon LeZion, a town founded in 1882 by 10 Hovevei Zion pioneers from Kharkiv, Ukraine (then part of the Russian Empire) headed by Zalman David HaCohen Levontin (1856-1940).While Carmel made some better-quality, dry wines (a wine with no residual sugar), most of its production was also low-cost, low-quality, sweet wine, not much different from that made in the US at the time.
Royal Wine Corp. (Kedem), the premier kosher manufacturer, importer and distributor of specialty wines and spirits in America also started out by producing “sacramental” (sweet) wines from Concord grapes grown near its winery in Marlboro, in New York’s Hudson Valley, in 1948. Kedem was founded in 1848 in Slovakia, and for eight generations has been owned and operated by members of the Herzog family. They were renowned as the Royal wine supplier to the emperor of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Franz Joseph (1830-1916), eventually earning Phillip Herzog (1843-1918) the royal title of Baron. The winery was seized by the Nazis at the onset of World War II. A scion of founder Phillip Herzog, Eugene, moved to the United States in 1948, and worked for Royal Wine Corp in New York, founded by the Pluczenik Brothers; he purchased the company in 1958. By 1978 Kedem had begun importing dry kosher French Bordeaux wines.
As the Orthodox and Modern Orthodox communities developed, and became more affluent, they developed a taste for some of the finer things in life, including food.
They discovered fine single malt whiskeys and such, but wine drinking was not to take a place in the kosher community for many years. There simply were few good choices.
That situation began to change in 1972, when a visiting professor to Israel from UC Davis, renowned for its scientific winemaking expertise, suggested that the Golan Heights, acquired a few years previously in the 1967 Six Day War, would be a great place to grow quality grapes. Kibbutzim and moshavim (cooperative agricultural communities) planted their first vineyards in 1976. Grape vines take three to six years to produce fruit. In any event, the grapes may not be eaten for three years, as they are considered Orlah, based on Leviticus 19:23. The Golan Heights Winery was founded in 1983. They brought in experts from California, including the UC Davis-trained Peter Stern and others, initially also trained at UC Davis. Later, Israelis began to study winemaking abroad in places like California, France, Italy and Australia. Local winemaking expertise was once again available in Israel. As the market expanded, so did the number of wineries.
Families that had been involved in growing grapes for other wineries soon started to build their own wineries. This started with Jonathan Tishbi, whose great-grandparents began supplying Carmel and others in the 1880s. He opened up Baron Wine Cellars—now “Tishbi.” A few years later, other vineyards—most notably Ronnie James from Kibbutz Tzuba, and Dalton—followed suit.
In the 1990s, Barkan, founded by Shlomo Friedman in 1899, took over Stock. Israeli wine quality and reputation improved. Most notably, the new Golan Heights Winery began winning international awards. The revolution had begun.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, other individuals began opening their own wineries. Dr. Yair Margalit, a chemistry professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, opened Israel’s first boutique winery in 1989. Margalit also studied winemaking in California. Today, Margalit is recognized as making some of Israel’s best wineries. His wines, however, are not kosher.
Restaurateur Eli Ben-Zaken, self taught, began making wine in the old chicken coop near his home on Moshav Ramat Raziel, just outside of Jerusalem. Initially, he was just making wine in small quantities. Zaken became noticed when, in 1992, a bottle of his wine made its way to Serena Sutcliffe, Master of Wine (a qualification issued by The Institute of Masters of Wine in the UK), head of Sotheby’s Wine Department and one of the world’s leading authorities on wine. Sutcliffe’s evaluation changed the course of Israeli wine.
She called it “absolutely terrific” and “quite unlike other Israeli wines,” recalled Ben-Zaken. With that accolade, Ben-Zaken knew he had a winning wine and decided to take the risk and begin to pursue winemaking professionally. He planted more vineyards, converted the ramshackle chicken coop into a beautiful winery and sent his son, who had been touring in Europe, to France to learn the art of winemaking. His acclaimed Domaine Du Castel wines are kosher and not mevushal (discussed later). Today they are some of the most expensive wines made in Israel.
By 2005, the Israeli wine industry had become sufficiently developed that Daniel Rogov could produce an annual Rogov’s Guide to Israeli Wines, which he continued until his passing in 2011. In 2014, Yair Gat and Gal Zohar tasted more than 300 wines from the 100 top wineries in Israel (most, but not all are kosher) and published The New Israeli Wine Guide, available online.
Next week we will continue the discussion focusing on European and California wines, Mevishal wines, and what is choicest.

1 comment: