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Passover wines: Not your father's Manischewitz

Friday - 4/15/2011, 2:50pm  ET

by Scott Greenberg,
Special to WTOP.com

Kosher wines have entered a new era. There are a several countries that are dedicated to producing quality wines for all consumers. Israel is leading the way with six wine producing regions turning out some pretty good juice. Italy, New Zealand, Australia and California are also on the map with respectable Kosher wine offerings.

Nothing gets a party - or Seder - started like a glass of sparkling wine. The 2008 Bartenura Moscato from the Lombardia province of Italy is a fun and festive way to kick off the first cup with. This sparkler features bright flavors of ripe pear, tangerine and nectarine on the front of the palate and a touch of green melon on the crisp, refreshing finish. Serve cold in a fluted glass. $15.

White wine lovers will rejoice when they taste the 2008 Yarden Chardonnay from Galilee, Israel. This Chardonnay is an exceptional full-bodied wine with plenty of toasty oak and buttered brioche on the bouquet and fresh flavors of pear, apple and a bit of melon in the mouth. Well balanced, with a long, elegant finish. $20.

If you really want to see how far kosher wines have come, try the 2007 Galil Mountain 'Yiron' from the Galilee appellation in Israel. This is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah. It is aged for 16 months in small French oak barrels which produces a wine with a full-bodied frame featuring blackberry, cassis and jammy ripe plum on the front of the tongue. The finish is chocked full of nicely layered flavors of cocoa, dried herbs and earthy notes. $20.

All the way from the land Down Under comes the 2009 Goose Bay East Coast Pinot Noir from New Zealand. Utilizing grapes grown in the Marlborough and Nelson appellations, this wine is on the lighter side, with delicate notes of strawberry and red cherry that seem to float on the tongue. The abundant acidity provides splendid balance and carries the hint of baking spices throughout the supple finish. $20.

Another choice from south of the equator is the 2009 Beckett's Flat Five Stones Shiraz. Located in the Margaret River appellation of Australia, Becket's Flat has been making kosher wines since 1998. Their Shiraz - or Syrah as it's know north of the equator - displays characteristic blackberry and dark plum flavors up front and distinctive notes of black pepper on the balanced, powerful finish. $21.

Of course, no celebratory meal is complete without dessert. The 2008 Barron Herzog Late Harvest Riesling, Monterey County, Calif. is a nicely balanced dessert-style wine. The abundant bright acidity keeping the sweet flavors of candied orange, apricot and dried pineapple in check and the finish clean. Serve it well-chilled. $25.