Campus & Community / Magazine Feature

Kosher wine tasting connects Jewish community to cultural roots

Loosely translated from Yiddish, “Not Your Bube’s Manischewitz,” means “Not your grandma’s sickly-sweet wine.” It was the title of DU’s Center for Judaic Studies’ kosher wine tasting Sept. 14. Approximately 80 people attended the event, which raised about $1,500 for the ALEPH Institute for Jewish Culture.

For an $18 donation, attendees got to taste six kosher wines, enjoy great food and fine music, according to Rabbi Richard Newman, the center’s coordinator.

“Manischewitz is the classic kosher wine in the United States,” says center Director David Shneer, an associate professor in DU’s history department.

“It’s the first wine I got tipsy on at a friend’s Bar Mitzvah,” Shneer says.

Although Manischewitz is known to be too syrupy sweet for those with discriminating tastes, it owes its perseverance in the U.S. market to a sense of nostalgia.

“It evokes sweet childhood memories,” Shneer says.

Manischewitz originated when Jewish immigrants in New York began making wine with the only grape that would grow in that climate—Concord grapes. The juice of this bitter grape required copious amounts of sugar to make it palatable.

Rabbi Newman explains that the rules for kosher (pure) winemaking start in the vineyard.

“There is a law in Leviticus that says the fruit of a new tree may not be eaten for three years,” he says.

Only observant Jewish males are allowed to harvest and process the grapes and their tools and equipment must be clean, he explains.

Wine tasting etiquette applies to wine connoisseurs of all beliefs. Tara Thomas, managing editor of Wine & Spirits Magazine, schooled attendees in the proper way to taste the wines. Noting the wine’s color, swirling the glass to stir up the wine’s aroma and then rolling the wine around in the mouth are the first three steps to appreciating a wine’s subtle qualities, she says.

Finally, one must spit the wine into a bucket. Sounds crude? Thomas says there are worse things people could do in polite society.

“You would look like a fool at a professional wine tasting if you kept swallowing the wine and staggered around the room,” she says.

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