Once again it is time to start thinking about which wines to serve with the Shavout meals. As you may know, on Shavout the tradition is to serve dairy dishes: blintzes, quiches, pasta, burekas and fish are all good options. Which wines should one serve alongside these dishes? The first question that I am usually asked is: “is it ok to serve red wine with fish or dairy dishes?” While some people tend to be more conservative with their wine-pairing selections, there really is no right or wrong; other factors, such as the sauce used for the dish and the weather often influence my vino choice. I do find that red wine usually goes better with red meat: the tannins in the wine cut through fat and muscle, helping to enhance the flavors. However, if you are serving a relatively lean cut of meat (e.g. fillet, sirloin etc.) a nice chardonnay will do the trick as well. At the end of the day it is all a matter of personal taste.
As the temperatures continue to rise, especially if you are thinking of eating out doors, I would recommend serving a chilled white, rosé or even a chilled light-bodied red. In my opinion, white wines (dry, semi-dry and even sweet wines) are often overlooked by Israeli wine consumers and, in a warm climate like ours, we should be drinking more and more of them.
Following is a list of several white vinos that were recently released to the market:
Binyamina, Chardonnay – Sauvignon Blanc, Yogev, 2010 - “Yogev” is the biblical term for farmer. It is dedicated to the farmers and vintners that are an inseparable part of the wine production process. 70% Sauvignon Blanc, and the balance Chardonnay, come together for a light and refreshing white wine suggesting distinct lemony and grassy notes and a clean finish. The winery recommends serving the wine alongside baked fish with herbs and olive oil and other Mediterranean style dishes.
Bravdo, Chardonnay, 2009 – an excellent Chardonnay, similar to the 08 , the wine has a somewhat creamy texture with layered aromas of pears, grapefruit, green apples and hints of cloves and oak all leading to a long and satisfying finish. Serve with baked fish dishes or rich pasta
Mony, Gewürztraminer, 2010 – pale straw with slight golden reflections, this semi-dry Geurtz offers pleasant aromas of tropical fruit, citrus, honey suckle and white flowers, balanced nicely with good acidity. The winery suggests serving the wine alongside fish, chicken and piquant Oriental dishes. Gewürztraminer is one of the few grape varieties that pairs well with spicy Asian and Indian dishes. The rather aromatic and spiced profile of the Gewurtz often complements these cuisines. Of course, if the dish is very hot, it might be better to serve a cold beer instead, but moderately spicy dishes are usually a good match.
Another genre that is often overlooked in Israel is sweet desert wines. I recently sampled a couple of dessert wines that were quite enjoyable. The first was the Teperberg, Riesling – Late Harvest, Silver, 2009 – while I personally preferred the 08, at NIS 40-45 this is still one of the best in its price range. The wine suggests aromas and flavors of tropical fruit, sweet peaches, vanilla and hints of toasted oak.
The second was a real treat: Golan Heights, Yarden, Heights Wine, 2008 - This is Golan Heights’ version of an “ice wine.” Whole clusters of grapes are frozen and then slowly pressed to extract the rich nectar. This vino recently received recognition at the 2011 Vinitaly wine competition and, along with the Yarden, Chardonnay, Odem Organic 2009, was selected as the leading wines in their categories. Golan Heights also received the overall prize for the best winery in Vinitaly 2011, making it the first Israeli winery to receive this impressive recognition. By the way, between 21-28 May, the Golan Heights will be establishing a massive wine bar along the old Tel Aviv Harbor offering wine aficionados a great opportunity to sample a wide variety of the winery’s vinos.