Tuesday, August 03, 2021

This article being about wines to drink in celebration of Shavuot, its title might sound a little confusing. The Shalosh Regalim, the three holidays of pilgrimage (Pesach, Shavuot, and Sukkot), are referred to as the “time of our freedom” for Pesach, the “time of our giving of the Torah” for Shavuot, and the “time of our joy” for Succos. All three are certainly worthy of the utmost joy and celebration. Shavuot, however, should symbolize the source, the essence of the joy we, the Jewish people, should feel and celebrate. Shavuot is the day on which we commemorate Matan Torah, the Gift of Torah from Hashem with all that it entails. This includes, of course, all of the mitzvot and Yamim Tovim, including Pesach and Sukkot.

We use wine for almost every holiday in our calendar and religious ceremony, but every one of these holidays has its specificity. Shavuot is also the celebration of the bikurim, the first fruits of the harvest. Typically, the first wines to be released to the market during springtime are rosé wines. Most of these wines are made to be refreshing, bursting with fruit and meant to enjoy as close to release as possible, as they otherwise lose their initial freshness.

There are now many kosher rosé wines available out there, Baruch Hashem. I try every year to taste through most, if not all, of them. One that usually stands out and this year even more so is the Château Roubine. Château Roubine is not just a wine, it is one of only 18 wineries in the region of Côtes de Provence in the south of France to have the prestigious title of Cru Classé, (Classed Growth). This title was given to the wineries producing outstanding wines exclusively from their vineyards since the establishment of the classification in 1955.

Château Roubine 2019 is a very classy looking bottle and the content even classier: a very pale, delicate pink color that features aromas and flavors of citrus blossom, red berries and stone fruits with mouth-watering acidity. It was quite warm this past Shabbos and I immensely enjoyed drinking this wine well chilled while sitting on my lawn after Kiddush. I also very much recommend the other two wines produced by the owners of Château Roubine: Roubine La Vie en Rose and Sainte-Béatrice Cuvée B, also from the 2019 vintage. While not as complex as the Château Roubine, they deliver the same refreshing notes of summer fruits while balancing acidity.

The Rothschild family is possibly the most famous name in the Jewish community for the past two-three centuries. A lineage of successful business people who have made their mark in the world with their business acumen, generosity, and their philanthropy, donating tremendous sums and resources to Jewish causes all over the world. In the 19th century, Baron Edmond de Rothschild was the owner of world-famous Château Lafite-Rothschild in Bordeaux, France. He decided to revive the wine culture in Eretz Yisrael, donating millions of francs as well as knowledge, equipment, rootstock and technology to build Carmel, which would eventually become one of Israel’s largest wineries.

More than 150 years later, Carmel is not only a tremendous commercial producer, it is also one of the country’s best wineries, producing quality wines from the entry-level Selected series through to its flagship wine, Carmel Limited Edition. The Carmel Appellation Gewürztraminer 2018 is a delightful off-dry white wine to accompany a platter of fine cheeses on Shavuot. It is lively, delicious with notes of peach, apricot, and lychee, and a truly excellent value.

In 1986, more than 100 years after the establishment of Carmel, Baron de Rothschild’s grandson and great-grandson, Edmond and Benjamin, took their ancestor’s legacy very seriously when they decided to produce the first quality dry red kosher wine from Bordeaux at their famous Château Clarke. Barons Edmond-Benjamin de Rothschild Haut-Médoc 1986 set out new standards for kosher French wine. We celebrated the 30th anniversary of this wine with the recent release of the 2016 vintage, an exceptional year in Bordeaux. This is a wine that combines depth, complexity and power with panache and finesse. A wine that is certainly worthy of the Yom Tov table.

For many of us, Shavuot is not complete without some cheesecake. The Herzog Late Harvest Chenin Blanc 2018 is one of the best wines to pair with that succulent dessert. It is sweet but not cloyingly so, with a great balance of acidity to match its ripe and dried fruit flavors. Chag Sameach. L’chaim!

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