Passover Seder’s four (plus) cups

The Passover Seder, the retelling of the story of the Exodus from Egypt, is a ritual practiced by Jews across the globe. We gather with friends and loved ones recounting the miracles through story, song, food and WINE. So much wine in fact that over 50% of the year’s kosher wine sales occurs prior to Passover, in large part due to the mandate to drink FOUR cups of wine. For the most observant, these four cups are dry (not sweet) red wine, each cup measuring almost 3 or as many as 6 ounces and must be fully consumed.

Should you drink grape juice or wine? Red or white? Sparkling or still? From Israel, California, France or Italy? Inexpensive or top of the line? Perhaps a glass of each? We know about the Seder’s four questions, but who thought simply figuring out which wine to drink for the four cups could present so many questions.

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Come as I strategically walk you through the Seder’s 4 cups. The guests have finally arrived, everyone is seated around the long Seder table, and you are hungry. But if you are at a traditional Seder it might be a long time before you get a taste of those tantalizing dishes whose aromas are wafting from the kitchen. With a rumbling, empty stomach, downing a glass of wine with 14% alcohol would be a mistake. The night is a marathon, not a sprint. The first glass, which occurs early on during the “Kadesh” portion of your Seder, calls for a low alcohol glass of wine. Bartenura’s Malvsia, at only about 5.5% alcohol, is a great option.

Your first glass freshly emptied, it’s time to refill. You feel good, but you should hold off on the big Cabernet Sauvignon. Save that trophy wine for later. Here is a great Your browser may not support display of this image. opportunity to try a light bodied wine with balancing acidity that can complement the Maror and Charoset flavors that will soon grace your palate. If you are drinking white, consider the Baron Herzog Central Coast Chardonnay. If you are drinking red, try the new Carmel Private Collection Merlot.

Your browser may not support display of this image. The next time you fill your cup might be for the third cup of wine or it might be for a wine to accompany the festive meal, which will (finally) be commencing. NOW is the time to pop the cork on that special big-bodied red or white you have been looking forward to. For many of us the wines we have opened so far were from the under $20 category. Some special $20+ wines to consider at this point might be a Chardonnay such as the Castel C Blanc.

You may instead consider a red wine for pairing with your meat such as a Cabernet Sauvignon, a merlot or a Shiraz. At the high end I would consider the Yatir “Forest”. A midrange option ($30+) could be the Herzog Reserve Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.

If the idea of spending more than $30 for a bottle of wine makes you feels like “Bitter Herb”, you can try a gem from the sweet spot of wine, $20-$30, such as the Barkan Merlot Reserve.

Your browser may not support display of this image. Having finished a heavy fleishik meal and three previous cups of wine, you may have some trouble contemplating your last cup. And so, I have devised an overstuffed and inebriated-proof strategy with the last step repeating the first; LOW, light, rich, LOW.

Simple options include the Carmel “Young” wines or the Joyvin wines.

If you want to try a more serious white dessert wine you can check out the Herzog Late Harvest Riesling or Chenin Blanc.

There are some other gorgeous sweet wines that are red, more expensive and higher in alcohol such as the Elvi EL26 Sweet or a port from Casa da Corca.

The Passover Seder and its accompanying wines present many questions. And while I can not presume to tell you why this night is different from all others, following the aforementioned guidelines will ensure that “what wine should I be drinking” is not a question that you will utter this Passover season.

-Perry H. Geffen (self proclaimed kosher wine expert)

Other options for your four cups:

Cup 1 options:
* Bartenura Malvasia – 6% ABV
* Kedem Matuk Kal – 4.5% ABV

Cup 2 options:

* Carmel Ridge White
* Baron Herzog Pinot Grigio
* Goose Bay Pinot Noir
* Capcanes Peraj Petita
* Elvi Classico

Cup 3 options:

* Puligny-Montrachet Les Nosroyes
* Herzog Russian River Chardonnay
* Herzog Chalk Hill Cabernet Sauvignon
* Carmel “Limited Edition”
* Chateau Pontet Canet
* Chateau Leoville Poyferre
* Rashi Borolo
* Capcanes Peraj Ha’abib
* Binyamina’s Sapphire
* Segal’s “unfiltered”
* Castel’s “Grand Vin”
* Shiloh “Secret” Cabernet Sauvignon
* Barkan “Altitude” series Cabernet Sauvignon
* Baron Rothschild Bordeaux
* Herzog Reserve Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

Cup 4 options:

* Low alcohol Concord wines from NY State
* Carmel “Sha’al” late harvest Gewurtztraminer

Cup 4 red, rich and sweet options:

* Carmel “Vintage” (port style wine from Israel)
* Casa Da Corca Port