Passover Wine: Four Ideas For Your Seder Sommelier

Looking forward to Passover but can’t face another glass of Manischewitz (let alone four)? Wine expert Annie Shapero is here to help you become an A+ Seder sommelier. From wine pairings for gefilte fish to kosher offerings, these Passover wine picks will help you be the toast of your table.

Four Wine Ideas for Your Passover Feast

1) Gefilte Fish Pairings

Q: I’ve always heard that white wine was better with seafood, but I love red. What can I serve with my homemade gefilte fish?

A: Wine pairing by color, e.g. whitefish and shellfish with lighter white wines, and meaty tomato sauce with red wine, serves as a rudimentary guide to insure that the food and wine are balanced when it comes to intensity.

As a very general rule it works, but once you throw some clever cookery into the mix and build up your wine catalog, you’ll find the rules to be quite bendable.

Gefilte fish starts with a delicate primary ingredient, but if it’s anything like my aunt Ellen’s recipe – laced with carrot slivers and sage – the final product is savory and rich with a texture reminiscent of lamb meatballs. I would look for a red wine with silky texture, low tannins and some spice in the finish.

Sicilian reds are historically paired with tuna and swordfish. Frappato can be very lovely, with almost candied fruit notes and the freshness of spring flowers on the nose. It’s rarely aggressive. Same for Nero d’Avola, only this grape produces a darker-toned wine with berry notes and a bit more abrasion. The black pepper on the finish will not only stand out, but will also compliment the depth of flavor in your gefilte fish.

Kosher option: Gilgal Syrah (Israel)

2) Passover Desert Pairings

Q: What goes best with Passover desserts, like macaroons and flourless chocolate cake? I hear dessert wines are a big deal, but when I think about sweet Passover wines like Manischewitz I can’t help but shudder.

A: We’ve come a long way since Manischewitz baby! The array of dessert wines currently on the market is as daunting as it is exciting.

When it comes to pairing sweet with sweet, remember to balance. The beauty of dessert wine is that many of them finish with a beautiful, clean acidity. This leaves your palate refreshed. A well-made dessert wine should never be cloying. In fact, look for something that smells like nectar, feels and tastes interesting and pleasant, and washes away clean. Just as you like fresh fruit, you want it ripe but never rotten.

Bubbles are another way to balance a sweet wine. Moscato d’Asti is an absolutely respectable wine when made with care. The bouquet spans peaches and apricots and roses petals. It’s lush and irresistible.  The cold splash of bubbles is instantly quenching, not cloying. I like red dessert wines like Aleatico or Recioto di Soave with Chocolate-based desserts, and a passito like Malvasia delle Lipari with coconut.

Kosher Option: Dalton Anna, Muscat/ ‘Paradisia’ (Israel)

3) Best Wines for Heavy Drinking

Q: Matzot dries my mouth out and there is never enough Charoset to get a second helping, so I end up drinking too much, too fast. Before Elijah even knocks I get boozy and I just want to lie on the couch. Are there any low-alcohol wines that still taste good?

A: First of all, reclining on Passover is a requirement! As long as you stay present and engaged, a low slouch (or even a quick reprieve to a nearby sofa) is forgivable.

That said, there are ways to stay alert while imbibing. My number one solution is seltzer. It’s far more quenching than plain water and a lot more interesting. For flavors that are relatively simple, like matzot, skip the wine all together.

Another trick I learned over long lunches in the Italian countryside is to add water to your wine.  Don’t try this on very rare or expensive bottles, but for basic wines have a few sips out of respect for the integrity of the wine and the artistry of the winemaker, and then top it off with a splash. You’ll still get the aroma, flavor and acidity that wine provides while remembering every verse of Dayenu.

4) Pairings to Impress

Q: My crush invited me home for Passover and I want to bring a bottle of wine. What is appropriate for the occasion?

A: First of all, know your customer. Ask your crush for some insight. Are they Kosher? Secondly, are they connoisseurs? Quality and taste can be subjective, so I find it always more meaningful to bring a bottle from a winery you have visited or discovered. If you can tell them a little story about the family production, the quirky winemaker, or the unusual assemblage, the wine takes on multitudinous character, which at the end of the day transcends any good-bad qualifier.

Kosher and impressive, with something to talk about: Chateau Giscours Margaux (their production predates the French Revolution!)

Read more from Annie Shapero: Kosher Wine Selections to Help You Say L’Chaim

About the Author

Annie Shapero is a certified sommelier and the founder and CEO of DiVino, a wine education and communications consulting company in NYC as well as the co-creater of Nez Bar scent blog.

She returned stateside after nearly a decade of living and travel-writing in Italy.

Her work took her to tiny towns and humble trattorias where local food and wine traditions had grown up together, and to vineyards where generations of winemakers carried the torch of tradition through centuries.

She learned that while there are “rules” about what to drink and when, the spirit of wine goes far beyond its scent and flavor profile, and especially its price. Wine embodies place and time, an occasion, and even a feeling.

Storytelling comes naturally to Annie, and she truly believes that to know is to love, and to love something or someone is to want to know more. She is currently producing a 21-part online video wine school series to be published on her YouTube channel, to share what she knows and loves with the world, or at least the Internet.

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