How to make Chanukah about more than the oil


What’s a festive Jewish gathering without too much food? “And not only food,” as Woody Allen
has said. “Frequently there must be a beverage.”

Traditional Chanukah foods, like latkes, sufganiyot and other fried foods, tend to go well with bubbles, and also with high acidity. The acid helps cut through the oil, and good vibrant bubbles typically help cleanse the palate. Many beers will work quite nicely as well for similar reasons.

For sweeter items, like jelly doughnuts, or for sweeter toppings on latkes, a little more caution might be in order. One can certainly opt for a straightforward dessert wine with doughnuts, but make sure your choice will complement, rather than compete with, the filling and powdered sugar.

When dessert foods are served more or less contemporaneously with the meal,
additional caution is in order, as sweet foods typically make dry wines taste sour and altogether assaulting. So wines with a bit more residual sugar, or natural sugar after fermentation, tend to do much better.

Here are some options to consider:

Sparkling wines
Hagafen, Brut Cuvée, 2015 ($48; mevushal): A delightful blend of chardonnay and pinot noir, this is a lovely, refreshing and simply delicious bubbly — with fine, concentrated bubbles, enchanting aromas and flavors of citrus, strawberry, guava and stone fruits, with hints of brioche, beautifully balanced with lively acidity, ending in an enchanting, creamy finish. Hard to put down, and dangerously easy to drink.
Champagne Drappier, Brut Nature, Zero Dosage, Pinot Noir, NV ($50): This lovely dry, tingly, medium-bodied bubbly offers aromas of baked apple, citrus and subtle notes of toasted brioche, followed by flavors on the palate of apple, pear, roasted hazelnuts and citrus zest; with a creamy texture. The lively, vibrant acidity keeps this wonderfully refreshing.

De La Rosa, Ur Kasdim, Sweet White Sparkling Muscat Ottonel, 2016 ($28; mevushal; organic): This fun, supple, enjoyable, frizzante-style sparkler made from late harvest muscat ottonel is flowery and fruity, with distinct muscat characteristics. It makes for a great sweet sparkler.

Bartenura, Moscato d’Asti, 2017 ($16-though often on sale for less; mevushal): This is a semi-sweet, lightly bubbly, low-alcohol tropical fruit and citrus flavored wine. Not complex or ever meant to be anything but fun and light, it goes well with sufganiyot or latkes and applesauce.

White wines
Golan Heights Winery, Yarden, Gewürztraminer, 2017 ($23): This semi-dry/semi-sweet Mediterranean gewürztraminer is a balanced, fresh, crisp, clean, lean and vibrant take on the classic Alsatian style. It offers aromas and flavors of tropical fruits, apricots, lychees and honey with a distinct Crème Brûlée quality.

Covenant Israel, Blue C, Viognier, 2017 ($28): a lovely balanced, medium-bodied, oily, aromatic and fruity wine with notes of peach, clementine, apricot, vanilla, honeysuckle and stone fruits. A nice saline undercurrent adds some lovely depth, too. The finish has just enough sweetness and tartness to work with a Chanukah table no matter how intermingled dessert may be.

Hagafen, Lake County Riesling, 2016 ($24; mevushal): A light, delicious, off-dry riesling from Napa Valley that offers lovely tropical fruit notes beautifully balanced by soft but refreshing acidity.

Red options
Covenant Israel, Blue C, Adom, 2016 ($40): This is a delicious, balanced, aromatic, fruity, easy drinking blend of syrah, cabernet sauvignon, and also a smidgen of viognier (not mentioned on the label). The white wine grapes seem to highlight the red fruit here. There are almost sweet tannins, red and blue fruit notes and some lovely baking spice hints in the backdrop. L’chaim!

Send your wine and spirits questions to Joshua E. London at

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