With the high holidays coming, this is the holiest time of the year for followers of the Jewish faith. That means many local wine lovers may be wrestling with the thorny question of whether to serve kosher wine with holiday meals. The tradition in most local Jewish households has been to serve thick, sweet "mevushal" wines that taste decidedly different from standard dry wines, more like melted grape Jell-O. This is because mevushal literally means "cooked," something we ordinariy avoid doing to wines to preserve their fresh-fruit flavor. Historically, the purpose of boiling kosher wines was twofold, not simply to purify the wine but to deliberately ruin its flavor, which helped to ensure Jewish wines weren't coveted by gentiles and to make socializing with wine less tempting. But in an ironic twist, mechanization and modern winemaking practices have eliminated many of the dangers from which kosher wines once needed purification, and all sorts of mainstream wines are now "cooked," as well, albeit very briefly, in the process of pasteurization. The side benefit is that there are more international wines these days that qualify as kosher, and even mevushal, but that taste drier and more food-friendly instead of syrupy sweet. This ultra-affordable sangiovese blend from Tuscany is a perfect example — its tart, slightly bitter fruit flavors of fresh pomegranate and sour cherry taste a lot more like old-school Chianti than Manischewitz.
Bartenura Toscano Rosso, $7.99 (regularly $9.99; sale price through Sept. 30). PLCB Item #2253.