Vineyard’s kosher champagne available in U.S. market


Guinness-draught_pint_2With France on the brain, this seemed like a good opportunity to mention the latest kosher champagne to hit the U.S. market, this from the esteemed Champagne House of Bonnet-Ponson.

Founded in 1862 by Grégoire Bonnet, this fine champagne producer’s reputation has been maintained through six generations of the family. Today Thierry Bonnet and his son, Cyril, are at the helm, upholding their tradition, producing quality champagne from their family-held vineyards — 26 acres across five Premier Cru and Grand Cru villages: Chamery, Vrigny, Coulommes-la-Montagne, Verzenay and Verzy. The vineyards are maintained using organic farming methods.

I’m not entirely sure when they first began offering limited kosher production (under contract), as several styles of Bonnet-Ponson champagne are available kosher in Europe. The only one kosher version available in the United States, at least for now, is a charming brut:

Bonnet-Ponson, Brut, Premier Cru, Kosher, Champagne ($55; make sure to check for the kosher version): This wonderfully fruited, creamy, fabulous Champagne with fine, intense and endless bubbles, is a blend of 60 percent Pinot Noir and 40 percent Chardonnay, with 30 percent reserve wines blended in for greater depth and finesse. It offers deep aromas and lovely flavors of lemon zest, baked apple, green apple, citrus, peach and cream, with flaky and buttery pie-crust, toasted brioche, almonds and fresh yeasty bread. Refreshing and delicious!

At the risk of upsetting tradition in this column, a moment on beer is appropriate so as to note the announcement of a major production change to the venerable, 256-year old Guinness Irish stout.

On Nov. 1, according to The Times of London (later reported in The New York Times on Nov. 4), Guinness announced that it will be going vegan. Guinness has for many, many years used isinglass, a gelatin-like substance derived from the dried swim bladders of non-kosher sturgeon fish, to separate out unwanted solids like yeast particles from the brew. With plans for the construction of a new filtration plant in the pipeline, Guinness will change its filtration process by the end of 2016. So no more isinglass for Guinness in the near future.

Interestingly, this changes nothing regarding its kashrut status as most major kashrut authorities have always considered Guinness to be perfectly acceptable (“recommended”) to kosher consumers despite the fish bladder.

Famously, Rav Yechezkel Landau (1713 –1793) leniently answered a question (Noda Biyehudah, YD, 1:26) about the use of fish bladder for the filtration of wine, ruling that the isinglass does not pose a kashrut concern. He ruled so because, at least in part, only a miniscule amount of isinglass remains in the wine (or beer, in our case), and so is deemed nullified. Further, there is no concern of violating the general rule against intentional dilution of non-kosher into kosher because the isinglass is added in with the specific intention of removing it.

On the strength of this, the Star-K in Baltimore, the CRC in Chicago, and other major kashrut authorities have always considered Guinness acceptable.

This is not, strictly speaking, the same as ruling it kosher — if only because some kashrut agencies adhere to the policy that any items they are to certify as kosher must meet a higher standard and not contain any inherently non-kosher ingredients or processes that are only deemed acceptable in context because of a leniency, even if widely accepted.

To mark the occasion of the announced shift to vegan standards by Guinness, I’ll be not only knocking back some fine Guinness Stout, but also drinking down some fine Irish Stout Sangria. A lovely cocktail adapted from Lucy Brennan, the esteemed cocktail creator and owner of Mint and 820 in Portland, Ore.

Irish Stout Sangria:

Into your serving glass pour 12 ounces Guinness Irish Stout and a 1/2 ounce of simple syrup; allow this to settle, and then add a 1/2 ounce of ruby-style Port. The best of the kosher ruby style Port wines is the Quevedo Ruby Port (19.5 percent abv; $24; comes in a non-kosher version too, so make sure to check for the kosher certification). Gently stir this a few times, then top with the remaining 4 ounces of Guinness (the cans come in 16-ounce servings). Allow to settle for 30 seconds or so, then serve. Delicious — and filling. L’Chaim!

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