Kosher wine on a budget


Over the last few years, kosher wine consumers have seen a steady stream of new “budget” or “value” wines coming from Italy. At first glance this might seem surprising as there are only two exclusively kosher wineries in Italy —Terra di Seta (in Castelnuovo Berardenga, in the province of Siena; it began in 2001, but only went fully kosher in 2008) and Cantina Giuliano (in Casciana Alta, in the province of Pisa; 2014 was the first vintage). Both of these are small, artisanal producers of higher-end kosher wines befitting their region, Tuscany.

When one considers, however, that Italy is the world’s largest producer of bulk wine overall, it doesn’t seem so bizarre that at least a tiny amount of this massive volume of inexpensive wine should also be produced under kosher certification.

Further, until these two kosher wineries began, kosher Italian wine was almost exclusively made for export under contract at this or that large unidentified commercial volume producer, without regard to the local table. So kosher Italian wines produced without an advertised winery or winemaker has been more the norm than the exception.

Now “bulk” in this context means not only cheap wines most suitable for blending or getting blotto very economically, but also quality inexpensive wines that attained regional designations, and are intended for folks who enjoy drinking wine more or less daily and expect it to taste good.

As a wine reviewer, I am presumed by folks to be a wine snob, but this is neither true nor fair. I ardently love inexpensive plonk that simply and unobtrusively gives pleasure, quenches thirst and makes both food and company more agreeable.

So I was pleased to encounter the Pavolino brand of mevushal inexpensive wines from the Veneto region (in northeastern Italy), imported by the New Jersey-based Vision Wine & Spirits. Pavolino is one of the newer kosher Italian budget brands to hit the United States. The winery and winemaker are unadvertised, largely because they don’t really matter for this sort of wine — the production is simply a custom-crush-for-export affair.

If you enjoy them, the brand is easy to remember. And if not, it is just as easy to forget. Nothing wasted on pretense or high-concept packaging. Whether this is a short-lived  brand or a future Bartenura or Borgo Reale remains to be seen. All that matters for now is that, thankfully, these are fun, simple and enjoyable value-driven wines:

Pavolino Pinot Grigio 2015 (IGT-Veneto; $9): simple, dry wine offering bright acidity, notes of subtle white peach and very light green apple hints, and more prominently honeysuckle, with a nice mineral and slightly bitter quality, but in a good way. This is straightforward, uncomplicated, thoroughly enjoyable and inexpensive Pinot Grigio. Serve chilled.

Pavolino Pinot Noir 2015 (IGT-Veneto; $9):  a simple, soft, clean, fresh and easy-drinking red, and while it could just as easily have been made in California’s Central Valley as the Veneto, this is very pleasing indeed. Serve slightly chilled.

Pavolino Prosecco, Extra Dry (DOC Prosecco, Veneto; $12): dry, crisp, clean and refreshing sparkling wine with a savory-sweet nose of earthy, floral, fruity notes, a balanced dollop of lemon acidity and a lovely, energizing finish. Serve chilled at any part of the meal or even on its own. L’chaim!

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