Top 10 Chanuka Wine Pairings to Bring Joy and Light to Your Table:

Kosher Wine Pairings For Chanuka

Chanuka, The Jewish Festival of Lights is quickly approaching and as Adam Sandler said in his famous 1994 Chanuka Song “We have 8 craaazy nights!” A lot of eating goes on during these 8 nights and also a lot of wine drinking. As you will read in my future series about Wine and Religion many Jewish holidays and celebrations are not complete without wine.

It is a common misconception that the only kosher wine Jews drink is Manischewitz, a company which produces sweet kosher wines often used for rituals such as Friday night, kiddush – sacred blessing on the wine. My family was always partial to the Concord or Malaga, I’m embarrassed that you should even see the massive jug we had in our house growing up. There is such a huge variety of kosher wines now, not only from Israel, but from around the world. The options are limitless.

What makes a wine kosher, you might ask? Another question for another time, you will have to check out the Wine and Religion series when it comes out on Just Wine. Our topic here is how to decide what Jewish wine pairings go with Chanuka food. We have a saying in the Jewish culture “Ask two Jews, get three opinions”. I think the wine culture is very similar, ask two Somms, get three opinions. There is so much variety and choice that we can decide on the basic type of wine that goes with a specific food, but choosing an exact wine is a very personal choice. For a quick pairing run down see What Goes With Latkes and Other Chanuka Delights? The Pocket Edition. Here are some general Jewish wine pairing suggestions and some explanations:

The perfect wine pairings for Latkes

Potato pancakes are usually eaten by Ashkenazi Jews (literally Jews whose origin is historically Germany, but due to persecution in the Middle Ages and migration generally encompasses all of Central and Eastern Europe). Sephardic Jews (literally Jews from Spain, but due to the 1492 Spanish Expulsion and migration generally encompasses parts of Western Europe, North Africa, Asia and the Middle East) eat Sufganiyot / Jelly Doughnuts. Both foods are delicious and fried, so most Sommeliers and Winemakers while differing on their specific choice tend to pair them with light white wines like Chardonnays or sparkling wines. The specific type of white wine used for latkes would also depend on what your family eats with the latkes. As you will see in the Pocket Edition of this article, some families eat it with sour cream, some with sugar and some with apple sauce (I’m partial to warm apple sauce and cinnamon myself).

The best wine pairings for Kugel

Casserole comes in various forms potato, noodle, sweet and savoury, but generally on Chanuka, potato kugel is the choice of most families. The reason for this is because it is basically the same recipe as latkes, but you don’t have to fry it. You bake it in the oven, saving you both the time and calories of frying. Potato kugels are best paired with sparklings or light Pinot Noirs which compliment their dense, salty and oily qualities.

The best wine pairings for Meat Stew

Jewish Meat Stew‘s main three ingredients are beans, meat and potatoes everything else is based on where your family is from. Jews around the world eat this hearty delicious dish on the Sabbath (Saturday for lunch) because they can put it in the slow cooker before the Sabbath starts on Friday and let it cook all night without breaking the rule of not cooking on the Sabbath. Ashkenazi Jews call it Cholent and often add barley and kishke (intestinal lining or sausage). The name comes from the French chaud lent meaning to cook slowly. Sephardic Jews not from North Africa call it Chaminand add wheat and sometimes sweet dried fruits like apricots or dates, North African Jews call it Dafinaand often add eggs and/or rice and vegetarian versions may use sweet potatoes, mushrooms and cornmeal. Yemenite Jews call it Haris and make a delicious version using Jachnun, but I digress. Now, because cholent is a mix match of foods with a variety of flavours, it is best to pair it with a wine that can tie together all the elements, so if you are going with red wines, try a red blend, but if you prefer white wines try a Sauvignon Blanc.

Now all these suggestions, of course, aren’t just for Jewish families feel free to click on the recipe and wine links and explore some of these tantalizing pairings yourself on Chanuka Dec. 6-13, 2015 or any other day when you feel like experimenting. We’d love to hear some of the pairing combos that you come up with. L’chaim! To Life!

Want to read more on wine pairings? Check out these articles:

What Goes With Latkes and Other Chanuka Delights: The Pocket Edition

Fabulous Fall Foods and Wines To Match

Israeli Wine: Betcha Didn’t Know

Good for the Soul and the Environment: Tishbi Winery, Israel