By Rabbi Avrohom Sebrow
This article is in the zechus of a refuah sheleimah for Minna Chana bas Sara Feigeh.
The Daf (Menachos 58a) discusses the prohibition of mixing honey into offerings that were brought in the Beis HaMikdash. Sadly, we have no Beis HaMikdash now, but perhaps the halachah still has a practical application.
The Rambam writes (Shabbos 29:14): “One may only make Kiddush on wine that is suitable to have been offered on the altar. Therefore, if honey or leaven was mixed with the wine, even if only a mustard seed-size was mixed with a barrel full of wine, one cannot make Kiddush on that mixture. That is how we instruct people to act in all of the West. However, there are those that do permit the use of wine mixtures for Kiddush. They are of the opinion that the suitability of wine mixtures is not based on wine that can be offered on the altar.”
However, many Rishonim say that one can initially use wine for Kiddush that has honey added. Among those Rishonim are the Ramban, Rashba, Ritva, and the Rivash.
The Shulchan Aruch (O.C. 272:8) quotes both opinions and seems to prefer the opinion that one can use wine for Kiddush that has honey added. The Rema comments that the custom is to use wine that has honey added if it is superior to wine that does not have honey added. The Mishnah Berurah comments that the implication is that one should use wine without honey added if it is the same quality or superior to wine with honey added.
The Radvaz notes that typically when honey is referenced in the Torah, it refers to honey from dates. Therefore, the question can be raised, according to the Rambam, if one can use wine that has bee honey added for Kiddush. The Radvaz concludes that the prohibition of adding honey to an offering applies to any type of honey. Therefore, the Rambam would say not to use wine with any type of honey added to it for Kiddush.
Rashi, however, in his commentary on Chumash, explains that the prohibition of adding honey to an offering only applies to sweetener from a fruit. It would seem that bee honey is not included.
The Pri Megadim concludes that the Rambam would forbid the use of wine that has sugar added. Indeed, the Mishnah Berurah quotes his opinion. Therefore, if someone wants to be stringent in this regard, he should purchase wine for Kiddush that has no sugar added, unless such wine is inferior.
Wine producers add sugar before or during fermentation in order to achieve a certain alcohol level. This process is called chaptalization, and it is more common in cooler wine regions such as Long Island, where grapes ripen more slowly and consequently have less sugar available for fermentation.
Some winemakers add sugar after fermentation to achieve the right balance of sweet and sour. By law, winemakers do not have to indicate on the bottle whether or not they added sugar. One must contact the company directly for this information. However, in California, it is illegal to add sugar at any point in the wine production. Therefore, they use grape juice concentrate if more sugar is needed to aid in fermentation or to affect the final taste. It would be a hiddur to use such wine for Kiddush.
As a final note, it is interesting to point out that there is an opinion that in the Beis HaMikdash they used sugar if there was no salt available to put on the korbanos. According to this opinion, which is not codified as halachah, one would be able to use wine with sugar added even according to the Rambam.
This article is based on Pninei Halachah on Menachos 58a.
Rabbi Avrohom Sebrow leads a daf yomi chaburah at Eitz Chayim of Dogwood Park in West Hempstead. He can be contacted at ASebrow@gmail.com.