What is Kosher For Passover Wine ?
Kosher for Passover wine or Kosher for Pesach wine is a type of wine that meets the requirements of Jewish law for both kosher wine and for the additional requirements in Jewish law for wine that is permitted to be drunk during the Passover / Pesach festival.
The principle requirement for making Kosher for Passover wine that distinguishes it from kosher wine in Jewish law is that the yeast which is used must not be grown from any of the five grains which are prohibited for use during the Passover / Pesach festival. These grains are: barley, oats, rye, spelt, and wheat. The yeast can be grown, for instance, using various types of fruit such as the grape, plum, cherry, blackberry, boysenberry, apple, or different types of sugar, but not from any of the five aforementioned grains. However, the yeast for kosher wine can be grown from any of the five aforementioned grains.
Ashkenazi Jews - Jews whose ancestors came from Central, Northwestern, and/or Eastern Europe - have a custom dating from the Middle Ages to refrain from consuming legumes such as beans, corn, and rice during Passover / Pesach because in the Middle Ages it was thought that since the flour produced from these legumes resembled wheat flour - one of the five forbidden grains - then flour derived from legumes might be easily mistaken for flour derived from wheat and so the Ashkenazi rabbinical authorities in medieval Europe created a custom which banned the use of legumes during Passover / Pesach for Ashkenazi Jews. However, in the case of yeast that is exclusively used for making Kosher for Passover wine or Kosher for Pesach wine, legumes are permitted to be used for growing yeast that will be used for making Kosher for Passover wine or Kosher for Pesach wine.
In the past, most preservatives were permitted to be used in making Kosher for Passover wine or Kosher for Pesach wine since they did not contain any trace of the five forbidden grains, but since the importation from China into North America of some common preservatives like potassium sorbate which were produced from grains such as corn or rice which are legumes, these preservatives are now forbidden to be used during Passover / Pesach and hence, for making Kosher for Passover wine. Despite this perceived limitation, it is usually not difficult to purchase synthetic Kosher for Passover potassium sorbate in the United States. Just check to make sure it was not produced in China.
Kosher for Passover wines cannot be made using any animal-based fining agents derived from animal products or animal by-products that are of course forbidden by Jewish law. Even soap is subject to Jewish laws. Therefore, wine that is produced by following the Kosher for Passover or Kosher for Pesach dietary laws in Judaism and is also produced without the use of any additives and preservatives like potassium sorbate that are derived from the five aforementioned grain-based products or by-products and without the use of any legumes or legume by-products such as corn syrup as well as not being produced using additives from any animal-based products or by-products will very easily be Kosher for Passover from the outset of the wine-making process. Jewish laws for Passover / Pesach permit the use of both unfermented and fermented Kosher For Passover wine or Kosher For Pesach wine during Passover / Pesach.
Why do the traditional Kosher For Passover table wines taste so sweet and are so syrupy in texture?
In the early days of wine-making in the United States, the only type of grape that was available to make Kosher For Passover table wines in the United States was the Concord grape, originating in Concord, Massachusetts. Today, the large, purplish-black or dark blue Concord grape is grown in the Eastern United States, including in the Hudson Valley in New York State among other areas. However, since the juice of the Concord grape is so high in acid, winemakers had no other choice but to add lots of sugar into the wine in order to make it drinkable. Now you know!
Nowadays, there are more dry wines for Passover or Pesach that are seen on Seder tables in addition to the traditional Concord grape table wine. In addition, there are many more varieties of grapes that are used to make Kosher For Passover wine in the United States, including the Napa Valley grape, the neighboring Sonoma Valley grape, both areas being located north of San Francisco and west of Sacramento in California, and the Santa Cruz Mountains grape, the area being located south of San Francisco, and the Edna Valley grape, located northwest of Los Angeles, in addition to other varieties of grapes grown in other areas of the U.S.
When did Kosher For Passover wine wine begin, or what is the origin of Kosher For Passover wine ?
Kosher for Passover wine or Kosher for Pesach wine was first established sometime during the era of the Anshei Knesset HaGedolah ["Men of the Great Assembly" in Hebrew, also known as the "Great Assembly" or the "Great Synagogue", a 120-member Jewish council of representatives which consisted of Jewish prophets and Jewish Sages, first convened in 444 B.C.E. (when Judea was under Persian rule) in Jerusalem by the Jewish priestly scribe Ezra and the Jewish high official (King's Cupbearer) in the Persian King Artaxerxes I's court, Nehemiah. This Jewish council lasted until the beginning of the Tannaitic era of rabbis and rabbinical institutions, either sometime after 400 B.C.E. or more specifically, from either 10 B.C.E. or 68 C.E. or 70 C.E. or 165 C.E. depending on the scholarly opinion one follows]. During this period, the Men of the Great Assembly introduced the Kiddush ["Sanctification (of the Hebrews by G-d)" in Hebrew] prayer which is recited over a cup of wine on Shabbat or the Jewish Sabbath and on Jewish festivals. Centuries later, in the Talmud, in Tractate Mishnah Pesachim which discusses the laws of Pesach or Passover amongst the Tannaitic rabbis (the rabbis who compiled the Jerusalem Talmud version in the 4th century C.E. in Israel and the rabbis who compiled the more often used Babylonian Talmud version in the 5th century C.E. in Babylon), the rabbinical obligation to drink Four Cups of Wine during the Seder on Passover / Pesach are first discussed in the Jerusalem Talmud, in Pesachim 10:1 . The Four Cups of Wine are based on the Four Expressions of Redemption (from Egypt) that G-d promised the Hebrews as told in the Torah in Shemot or Exodus 6:6-7 .
If Kosher wineries wish to make Kosher For Passover wine or Kosher For Pesach wine, what must they do?
A few months prior to Passover / Pesach, kosher wineries will thoroughly clean their tools and equipment of any possible traces of leavening using Kosher for Passover products since leavening derived from any of the five aforementioned forbidden grains is forbidden to be consumed as well as in one's possession during Passover / Pesach. Furthermore, all products with leavening in them are removed from the kosher winery before production of the Kosher For Passover or Kosher For Pesach wine to avoid contact with the grapes/wine juice.
What types of Kosher for Passover Wine are there?
Like kosher wine, there are basically two types of Kosher for Passover Wine: Mevushal ("cooked" or "boiled" in Hebrew) and Non-Mevushal. Mevushal wine is wine that is flash pasteurized to a rabbinically-prescribed temperature so as to render it fit to be touched and handled by anyone after it is bottled and opened. It is flash pasteurized and then quickly cooled down so that the flavor and aroma attributes of the wine are not damaged. Non-Mevushal wine is wine that has not undergone the flash pasteurization process and so after it is bottled and opened, it can only be touched and handled by Sabbath-observing Orthodox-Jewish males for the wine to remain kosher and in the case of Kosher for Passover wine, to remain Kosher for Passover. When unopened, Non-Mevushal wine either remains kosher or Kosher for Passover, depending on which Jewish laws were followed. The majority of kosher wines and Kosher for Passover are Mevushal wines, but in Israel, there are more Non-Mevushal wines compared with outside Israel since there is far less of a chance that the Non-Mevushal wine will come into contact with non-Sabbath-observing Orthodox-Jewish males.
How would I know whether or not a wine is Passover Wine or Kosher For Passover Wine ?
A Kosher for Passover symbol from a reliable rabbinical organization or rabbinical council or qualified rabbi in overseeing the Kosher For Passover winemaking process is affixed to the food, drink, or other product which will indicate that the item in question is reliably Kosher For Passover Wine or Kosher For Pesach.
The Kosher for Passover symbol will indicate any or all of the following words in English and/or Hebrew:
Kosher For Passover (this will be indicated in English and/or Hebrew on a label)
Kasher L'Pesach or Kasher Le Pesach (meaning "Kosher For Passover" in transliterated Hebrew; this will also be indicated in English and/or Hebrew on a label.)
The letter P will be indicated on a label, indicating that the item in question is both Passover Kosher (or Kosher For Passover Wine) as well as Kosher all year round (note that P does not indicate Pareve or Parve or Parev, meaning "neutral" in Hebrew, which refers to an item containing neither meat nor dairy products or by-products in it. Kosher laws prohibit meat or a food with meat ingredients to be eaten with or cooked with dairy or with foods made with dairy ingredients.).
The letters D-P may be indicated on a label, indicating that the item in question contains a Kosher for Passover dairy product/products or by-product/by-products and is both Passover Kosher (or Kosher For Passover Wine) and Kosher all year round. Alternatively, the item in question may not have any dairy in it, but was made using tools and on equipment that is also used for making dairy product/products or by-product/by-products.
The letters F-P may be indicated on a label, indicating that the item in question contains a Kosher for Passover fish product/products or by-product/by-products and is both Passover Kosher (or Kosher For Passover Wine) and Kosher all year round. Alternatively, the item in question may not have any fish in it, but was made using tools and on equipment that is also used for making fish product/products or by-product/by-products.
The letters M-P or Glatt-P may be indicated on a label, indicating that the item in question contains a Kosher for Passover meat product/products or by-product/by-products and is both Passover Kosher (or Kosher For Passover Wine) and Kosher all year round. Alternatively, the item in question may not have any meat in it, but was made using tools and on equipment that is also used for making meat product/products or by-product/by-products.
The most popular certifying rabbinical organization in the United States is the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America (or Orthodox Union of Jewish Congregations of America), headquartered in New York City. On Kosher For Passover wine or Kosher For Pesach wine, the letters "OU", for the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, may be displayed, signifying that the wine in question is certified by a reliable rabbinical organization. Other Kosher For Passover or Kosher For Pesach certification symbols from rabbinical councils or rabbinical organizations or certification symbols from a qualified rabbi in the Kosher For Passover or Kosher For Pesach wine-making process may instead be displayed, either from the United States or from other countries. In Canada, for instance, The Kashruth Council of Toronto uses the letters "COR" plus a certification number as its kosher and Kosher For Passover or Kosher For Pesach symbol.