By Gabriel Geller
This article being about wines to drink in celebration of Shavuos, its title might sound a little confusing. The shalosh regalim, the three holidays of pilgrimage (Pesach, Shavuos, and Sukkos), are referred to as the Time of our Freedom for Pesach, the Time of the Giving of Our Torah for Shavuos, and the Time of our Joy for Sukkos. All three are certainly worthy of the utmost joy and celebration, but Shavuos should symbolize the source, the essence of the joy we, the Jewish people, should feel and celebrate. Shavuos is the day on which we commemorate matan Torah, the gift of Torah from Hashem with all that it entails, and therefore all the mitzvos and yamim tovim, including Pesach and Sukkos.
We use wine for almost every holiday in our calendar and religious ceremony, but every one of these holidays has its specificity. Shavuos 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 many kosher rosé wines available today. 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 in French. 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 classy looking bottle, the content of which is even classier, with a 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 recommend the other two wines produced by the owners of Château Roubine: Roubine La Vie en Rose, as well as Sainte-Béatrice Cuvée B, both also from the 2019 vintage. While not as complex as the Château Roubine, they deliver the same refreshing notes of summer fruits with balancing acidity.
The Rothschild family is possibly the most famous name in the Jewish community for the past 2–3 centuries, a lineage of successful business people who have been marking the world with their business acumen, generosity, and 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 in Eretz Yisrael the wine culture and donated 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 Shavuos. It is lively, delicious with notes of peach, apricot, and lychee, 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 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, and we recently 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, Shavuos 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!