Picking wines to serve at your seder can be a little less straightforward than it might seem at first.
For one thing, wine is de rigueur. So except for those dining alone or who otherwise require grape juice to fulfill their holiday obligations, an awful lot of wine will likely be opened. There are also various customs and halachic rulings about the four cups of the seder that should also be factored in.
Some people only consume red wines for the four cups, some only nonmevushal wines, some will only use mevushal wines due to their diverse crowds, some will only drink low-alcohol wines, and some aim to consume as many different high-end wines as possible.
There are also many who prefer sweet wines — whether out of genuine preference or nostalgia.
Consider that at least four full glasses need to be consumed, and stomachs will be initially empty.
Remember, too, that alcohol will tend to numb the senses and, after the first cups, possibly mask any subtleties in the wines. So I try to focus on wines that are enjoyable, and that are less likely to cloud the mind and befog the evening.
There are some great, reliable producers, especially if you are buying for larger crowds. The small-production Abarbanel wines from France’s Alsace and Languedoc region, for example, and the volume-driven Butcher’s Daughter brand from the Languedoc-Roussillon region of France are great picks, as are some of the Bartenura and Cantina Gabriele wines of Italy.
Those seeking an Israeli equivalent should look for wines from the Barkan or Teperberg 1870 wineries, or the lower tier Diamond labeled wines from Recanati, or the Gilgul wines from the Golan Heights Winery.
And consider these:
Château Roubine Cru Classé Côtes de Provence Rosé (Provence, France) 2016 ($25): This bright, sunny, light-to-medium-bodied, salmon-colored beauty is dry, crisp, refreshing, elegant, well balanced and hugely pleasurable.
Hagafen, Napa Valley Dry White Riesling (Napa Valley, Calif.), 2016 ($24; mevushal): This light, clean, fresh, bright, bracing, dry Riesling is superb with a nose of lychee, peach, lemon zest and touch of ginger-heavy allspice, following through on the palate to flavors of underripe white peach, grapefruit and Meyer lemon. Vibrant, and refreshing throughout.
Duc de Pagny Beaujolais Nouveau (Beaujolais, France) 2016 ($15): This would work well for all four cups as it is fun, fresh, fruity, light, crisp, clean and breezy, with notes of pear, banana, blueberries, cranberries, red plums and raspberries, even some macerated cherry, and perhaps some pureed strawberry. Serve lightly chilled. Available online at kosherwine.com and jwines.com.
Louis Blanc, Côte de Brouilly, Domaine La Ferrage (Beaujolais, France), 2013 ($26): A lovely, medium-bodied 100-percent gamay wine with very soft tannins and medium acidity. It offers aromas of ripe raspberries, blackberries, boysenberries and dark plums with some lovely earthy notes, followed on the palate by the same with additional notes of currants and some graphite, with stronger plum and blackberry notes. The medium-length but satisfying finish offers a touch of mocha, and a bit more earthiness.
Champagne Laurent-Perrier, Brut, Kosher Edition (Champagne, France), non-vintage ($77): This first-rate, light-to-medium-bodied blend of 45 percent chardonnay, 40 percent pinot noir and 15 percent pinot meunier is refined and balanced, yet fun and easy, with fine, concentrated bubbles and lovely notes of citrus peel, minerals and nuts, and all with a lovely dollop of fresh berries in the lengthy finish. This is really superb champagne. A great way to start and, for that matter, also conclude a seder.