When it comes to the four cups of wine at the seder, there are numerous approaches. Some people only use red wines, some use only non-mevushal wines, while others will only use mevushal wines due to the diverse backgrounds of their guests. (Mevushal wine is wine that was handled exclusively by observant Jews.) Some will only drink low-alcohol wines, and some aim to consume as many different high-end wines as possible.
Seder-drinking customs also vary, with some people gulping down each glass as quickly as possible, and others siping slowly, savoring each drop. While some favor dry wines, many prefer sweet wines — whether out of genuine taste preference, or simple nostalgia.
Here is my approach to the four cups of the Pesach seder.
Cup 1: Kiddush (Blessing over wine)
Flam Rosé 2017 ($33): The sedarim require focus and patience, and staying alert is fairly important. I usually like to start with something lighter yet hugely pleasurable. So for Kiddush, I recommend this aromatic, fresh, fruity yet subtle and elegant rosé; it has enough crisp acidity, spice and minerality to keep it dry and refreshing.
Cup 2: Maggid (Telling the Passover story)
Shiran, The Trio, Israel, 2016 ($39.99): The maggid cup should be not only tasty and high quality, but also charming with a slightly serious side. So I recommend this red blend of carignan (from the Binyamina area), petite sirah (from Kerem Ben Zimrah in the Galilee), and petit verdot (from the Gush Etzion Hills).
This is fresh, vibrant, fruity, refreshing and well-balanced. A brand new U.S. import, this shiran is a great example of an Israeli wine that embraces its eastern Mediterranean region, and that should wonderfully wash down Israeli cuisine. It works a treat on meaty Ashkenazi fare, also. Delightful and very easy to drink.
Cup 3: Barech (Blessing)
Shiloh Shor Barbera 2016 ($34; mevushal): For the cup of barech, recited at the end of the meal, I seek refreshment, pleasure and flavor — something that will nicely complement the feast being concluded and add agreeably to the happy flavors of the night. This enjoyable, balanced, fruit-forward, medium-bodied barbera offers an eastern Mediterranean twist on an Italian classic — with aromas and flavors of plum, blackberry, strawberry, violets, Mediterranean herbs, dark cocoa, a bit of spice and a touch of espresso. There is a nice earthy note dancing in the background. Pleasing finish, too.
Cup 4: Hallel (Praise)
Golan Heights Winery, Yarden Rosé, Brut, 2011 ($40): To accompany hallel, I want a fourth cup that is festive, delicious and energizing. This lightly pinkish blend of 70 percent chardonnay and 30 percent pinot noir offers aromas of citrus (lemon and perhaps grapefruit), strawberries, stone fruits and brioche, all draped in flowers.
Most of this reappears on the fine, brisk and effervescent palate along with sour cherries, baked apple, ripe pears, almonds and lemon peel. The bubbles are nicely sharp and concentrated, and the acidity is zippy and zingy, keeping it all fresh, refreshing and nicely balanced. A great way to conclude a seder. L’chaim!
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