There is no contradiction whatever between the laws of kashrut and the ability to produce truly fine wine. For an Israeli wine to be certified as kosher, several requirements must be met. In the fields, for example, the grapes of new vines cannot be used for making wine until the fourth year after planting. From then on, the fields must be left fallow every seventh year. It is also required that vegetables or other fruits not be grown between the vines.
Once the harvest starts, only kosher tools and storage facilities may be used in the wine-making process, and all of the wine-making equipment must be cleaned to be certain that no foreign objects remain in the equipment or vats. Equally important, only Sabbath-observant male Jews are allowed to work in the production. Because most of the senior winemakers in the country are not Orthodox or Sabbath observant, they cannot personally handle the equipment or the wine as it is being made. Depending on the level of orthodoxy of those purchasing the wines, some wines must also be flash pasteurized, and there is a ritual in which just over 1% of the wine produced is poured away to symbolize the tithe once paid to the Temple in Jerusalem.
The wines from each of the major wineries in the country are kosher. Those from many of the boutique wineries are not. Those concerned with such issues will find whatever information they need on the front and rear labels of the wines on sale throughout the country.
Daniel Rogov is the restaurant and wine critic for the daily newspaper Ha'aretz. He is also the senior writer for Wine and Gourmet Magazine and contributes culinary and wine articles to newspapers in Europe and the United States.
Source: Israeli Foreign Ministry and Rogov's Ramblings. Reprinted with permission.