Wine Connoisseur, Critic, Author
KosherEye had the pleasure of speaking with Israel's noted wine expert Daniel Rogov, the food and wine critic for the Israel newspaper Haaretz and the author of numerous books on Israeli restaurants and wine, including the acclaimed Rogov's Guide to Kosher Wines 2010. He resides in Tel Aviv, Israel.
Our chat with Daniel Rogov was fascinating, informative and extensive. He shared so much with us so that we could share it with our KosherEye readers. We are presenting part two of our two part series.
In past years, kosher wine has had a bad connotation. When/how did that change?
"There is no contradiction between making fine wine that competes with the world and rules of Kashruth. I will go a step further – the quality revolution in kosher wines started September 16, 1982 when they started planting vineyards in the Golan Heights when the Golan Heights Winery opened...In America, it started with Herzog - mid to late 1980's following on the heels of the Golan Heights Winery. The Golan Heights Winery made people aware there is good quality kosher wine. From there, the other wine makers (worldwide) had no choice but to catch up.
I will give you a little historical background: I remember the first wine that arrived for tasting – a Sauvignon Blanc from the 1984 vineyard. I tasted the wine (I didn't know where it came from) and when someone uncovered the wine and showed that it was an unknown Israel winery, I actually got angry. I thought to myself – this is not possible, it's too good. Israel cannot make kosher wine this good.
So being a critic, this is what I did... I drove to the Golan Heights Winery, didn't tell them I was coming and just showed up. Now I will find out what they did; my guess was they brought in bulk wine from Italy and rebottled it. I was in luck,; both the senior wine maker and the CEO were there. They took me to the vineyards, showed me the equipment, I tasted from the barrels, and all of a sudden it dawned on me...Israel is capable of making world class wine and that hasn't changed since then."
There are good kosher wines from around the world – what are some areas that produce good kosher wine?
"Yes, there are good kosher wines produced worldwide: from California, France, Italy, Hungary – Spain for sure – and of course, Israel, and now, Chili and Argentina.
What is required (to produce good wine) is not a specific soil or location but a French term called terroir – it relates to the soil, micro/macro climate and the intervention of the winemaker. If grapes are planted in an area that is natural for them, you have no problem but if not, you have to know how to work with them.
The two countries currently producing the best kosher wines are the U.S.–California, including Napa and Sonoma, and Israel – wines from the Golan Heights, Upper Galilee and Judean Hills.
One of the ways to know wines is to read the critics, as you will get some input as to what you like, the quality, etc., etc. I taste 9,000 kosher wines a year and that includes re-tastings of course".
What is your personal scale for scoring wine?
"I use what Americans refer to as a 100 point scale and it starts at 50 and it goes up (or down) from there. What you are looking for mainly are color (can give you hints if the wine is off, good or bad) and aromas (clean or dirty), Then body – are they in balance – the woods, the tannins, the fruits... And in the end, every critic has his/her own interpretation of the wine, which is worth 5 points of the total score. These 5 points are the most subjective part of the score; the rest is objective."
Please share some of your favorite table wines based on value:
• "Let's start with Israel: The best bargains today are from Tabor Winery, Golan Heights Winery and Galil Mountain Winery. These are phenomenal buys for the money and high quality.
• California: Royal Wine company - the Baron Herzog (not the Reserve because they cost more) wines are excellent; Cabernet and Pinot , Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc. Jeunesse is also a bargain.
• From Hagafen Winery: The Don Ernesto wines are very good value for money.
• South America and Europe: Tierra Viejo and Terrenal; Sara Bee has a Muscato that sells for $5.00 at Trader Joe's!
The above wines are ones that you would drink now and enjoy – they are not meant to be keep for long periods of time – drink within a year.
When you buy wine, look at the vintage year. If the wine is mevushal, for white wine, it should not be purchase after one year from that date; for red wine, do not purchase after 1 1/2 years maximum from that date."
What are your favorite luxury wines?
"Do either of you remember the movie and play Finian's Rainbow? The Leprechaun sings the following song (and Daniel sang this to us) 'When I'm not near the girl I love, I love the girl I'm near' – does that answer your question?"
We told him "NO"; it can be troubling to spend a lot of money on a bottle of wine and discover it is not good. Rogov sent us some excellent luxury wine suggestions for those special occasions that warrant a special wine.
• Cabernet Sauvignon, Special Reserve, Alexander Valley, 2008: Deep garnet with a robe of royal purple, full-bodied with generous tannins and spicy oak in fine balance with fruits. $35
• Cabernet Sauvignon, Special Reserve, Warnecke Vineyard, Chalk Hill, 2007: Dark garnet toward royal purple in color, full-bodied with soft tannins and spicy wood in fine balance with fruits. $75
• Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, 2007: : Riper and more fruit-forward than the Covenant. Garnet to royal purple, medium- to full-bodied, with soft tannins integrating nicely to highlight blackberry and black cherry fruits, those on a tantalizing spicy background. $88
• Red C, Napa Valley, 2007: Made entirely from Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, dark ruby toward royal purple in color, full-bodied and well extracted, showing gently gripping tannins and opening beautifully in the glass. $45
Domaine du Castel, Grand Vin, 2007: The by-now traditional Grand Vin blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, that flushed out with Merlot, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc and Malbec. Full-bodied, dark. $65
Segal, Cabernet Sauvignon, Unfiltered, 2007: Perhaps the best of Segal's unfiltered Cabernet Sauvignon releases to date. Dark garnet, full-bodied, with a black fruit and spicy nose, $70
Should wine be served chilled or at room temperature?
"The average room temperature differs around the world... red wine should not be served at room temperature - it should be slightly chilled. Refrigerate reds for about 30-40 minutes. If it does have a chill when it is served - no problem, it will warm up in the glass. White wines should be served chilled but not so cold that it masks the flavors and aromas. And NEVER, NEVER, NEVER heat wine in the microwave oven!"
How long can you keep leftover wine?
"I realize that most people cannot finish an entire bottle of wine. The two worst enemies of wine are oxygen (air) and heat. Transfer the leftover wine (very gently) to a small, plastic water bottle, close with a screw cap (or put a cork in the original) and put into the refrigerator. Take it out of the refrigerator a little while before you drink it - let it warm up a little - do not remove the bottle top."
You are also a food critic – will you please share a favorite recipe and wine suggestion?
"Certainly: Lamb Stew Printanier, Navarin Printanier – a Traditional French Dish – and Ossobuco, a traditional Italian dish."
We have created a printable Rogov Kosher Wine Suggestion List – keep it handy and refer to it when shopping for wine. It lists his wine suggestions and the countries producing the best kosher wine. For some of us, buying wine can be confusing, so take Rogov along with you to the wine store.
February 16, 2011