Pierre Miodownick, a Frenchman turned-Israeli winemaker of seemingly indefatigable energy, is one of the early quality kosher wine pioneers.
Miodownick, 65, fell in love with wine at an early age. His family “was not religious,” he told me in his heavily accented English, but “wine was on the table at every meal” and, really, was all around him culturally.
In his early 20s, he began working in local vineyards. It was also at this time that he became religiously observant. By 1980, his first real vintage as a proper winemaker, Miodownick was firmly ensconced in the world of wine. His lifework at this stage was to develop kosher wines that tasted as good as their non-kosher counterparts.
His big break came in 1982. He produced Château de Paraza’s first kosher wine, a minervois appellation. It was “a great year,” he said, and, amazingly, the wine received a gold medal at the prestigious Foire de Macon French wine competition. Enthused by this early success, Miodownick spent the next four years making vin de pays (country wine) in the Languedoc before moving on to make wine in Bordeaux, France.
In 1985, he teamed up with Lionel Gallula and founded M & G wines. Their wine was picked up by Herzog’s Royal Wine Corp, and became the first big kosher Bordeaux in the U.S. market. Realizing a good thing when they saw it, Herzog hired Miodownick in 1988 to be the winemaker for Royal Wine Europe (Royal’s European branch).
With Royal, Miodownick began producing kosher editions for many great wine estates across France, not just Bordeaux. Eventually, he also convinced more prestigious estates to join the kosher scene. Under Royal’s auspices, he also branched out and began making successful wines for them in Spain and Portugal.
These pioneering efforts helped unleash a dynamic in which both kosher consumers and kosher producers have begun to behave more like wine lovers and wine producers the world over — insisting upon kosher wines that are actually enjoyable to drink and that enhance food, and life in general.
After making aliyah in 2005, Miodownick turned some of his energies to Israeli wine, founding the Domaine Netofa Winery in 2006 in the village of Mitzpe Netofa in Israel’s Lower Galilee. He finally retired as Royal’s European winemaker in 2014 to devote most of his time to Israeli wine, but he continues to work with a handful of French estates at their behest — such as with Château Cantenac Brown, from the Margaux region of Bordeaux.
Château Cantenac Brown, Margaux, France, kosher edition, 2015 ($150): This is simply fabulous — an elegant, nuanced nose that takes time to reveal its treasures of fine blackberry, cranberry, strawberry, sweet plum, bramble, mushroom, cedar, tobacco and new leather aromas, pushing through to a palate of considerable depth, power and complexity.
Though still in its infancy now, it’s an absolute pleasure to drink. I’d estimate it’ll enter its optimal drinking window around 2023. L’chaim!
Send your wine and spirits questions to Joshua E. London at [email protected]