“Are you familiar with the French kiss?” he asks, giving me his most dashing smile, coupled with a more mischievous look.
“Excuse me?” I blurt out, spitting my wine onto the white napkin provided for wiping, not spilling.
No, I’m not talking about my latest date. I’m referring to my very first encounter with the acclaimed wine critic, Daniel Rogov, 6 months ago.
“The French have many ways to bid a maiden farewell, and they are all expressed in the kiss of a hand. Allow me,” he raises my hand to his lips, and proceeds to demonstrate the various, graphic kisses used by the French to woo their women. But I had to admit, if Rogov knew even half as much about wine as he did about impressing women, his reputation was well deserved.
If you don’t know who I’m talking about, allow me to enlighten you. Rogov has established himself as one of Israel’s’ leading wine critics, currently writing a column for “Haaretz”, and a contributor to other international wine books such as “Hugh Johnson’s Pocket Wine Book” and” Tom Stevenson’s Wine Report.”
But his real claim-to-fame is his thorough, user friendly wine guide: Rogov’s Guide to Israel wines – 2010 published by “Toby Press”. That’s what this classy celebration at “Derech Hayayin” (The Wine Road), in Tel Aviv, was all about.
Rogov’s comprehensive guide covers over 2000 Israeli wines, 150 Israeli wineries, and a vast amount of information about each wine – even a tasting chart. Adam Montefiore, representing the Carmel Winery, launched the event, assuring everyone that Israeli wines are indeed on the map, due, in no small measure, to Rogov. He described Rogov as the “Ambassador of Israeli wines”, and his guide has helped catapult Israeli wines into the consciousness of wine-drinkers across the world.
But what am I, a humble actress and blogger doing at this classy party?
Like any self-respecting actress, I have done my share of bartending. And for me the wine experience is one of the more delightful. Yet, my appreciation for the beverage is totally subjective and I have never been a gargle-then-spit wine connoisseur. I know the basic rules; smell before tasting, white before red and from experience – never, never drink on an empty stomach.
But what I went there to find out was: Is there such thing as great Kosher wine?
So here I am, mingling among the rich and famous, trying my best to fit in. The only problem is, my brother seems determined to blow my cover.
“What should I try first, Red or White?” he asks me, holding up a sparkling dessert wine and a sweet concord wine.
“Neither,” I say in disgust, motioning for him to hide both glasses. “Act sophisticated, will you? Try a REAL wine, not alcoholic sugared syrup! Here, try this,” I hand him a cup of my favorite pinotage.
Bro takes a sip and scrunches his face in discontent. “This is spoiled. It’s bitter!”
“You simply have to develop your pallet a little more,” I say confidently, straightening up and gargling my wine as professionally as I can, wondering if there was a difference between a dry wine and a wet wine. “This is your chance to taste some great Kosher wines.”
He shakes his head at me. “Tiferet, don’t you know that we Jews are famous for the sweet red wine? You wouldn’t want to break a tradition, would you?” and he gulps his grape-juice tasting beverage down.
He has a point. We all share those same first memories of kosher wine. The sugar rush that courses through your veins with your first sip of Concord Extra Sweet (Pre-Diabetic) Wine. Drink enough Manischewitz and even the Mom’s chicken soup tastes like candy.
In fact, I remember, back in the States, I walked into a liquor store to buy a holiday gift for a family who invited me for a meal. When I asked the salesman to recommend a good kosher wine he looked at me and said: “You want good or kosher. Decide.”
So that’s why Rogov’s OTHER guide, the first of its’ kind, is a very important PR tool for Kosher wines: “Rogov’s Guide to Kosher Wines – 2010: A guide to the world’s 500 Best Kosher wines.”
I was impressed to read in Rogov’s’ kosher wine introduction that making good wine is not a new field for Jews. And in fact, there was life before Manischewitz. Apparently, 2000 years ago, Jews were actually the leading experts on the how-to of alcohol. But that was before the onset of our last Diaspora. When we returned to making wine, some 200 years ago in the USA, our ingredients were limited as was our ability. So there’s good reason Kosher wine has received a bad rep. It really was pretty bad.
And speaking of the “old days”, who hasn’t felt downright envious of those lucky enough to have their Friday night dinner with a “good bottle of wine” - dry, even semi-dry. But most Jews (including my family) brought in the Sabbath with fine foods, respectable guests and 100% Glucose Concord/Malaga wine.
So much for developing connoisseur tastes.
The only thing we developed was cavities.
But I am happy to announce that those days are over. Kosher wine is “in”. So, I dragged my wine-mayven brother over to congratulate Rogov in person.
This time I thought I was prepared. I wore long sleeves and had a package of hand sanitizers in my purse. But nothing really prepares you for Rogov.
“Can I just have a quick picture with you?” I ask, beckoning the photographer in our direction.
“Of course. Will we be getting undressed?” he grins.
“In another time, another place, and a different age gap,” I wink at him. “For right now, let’s just smile at the camera.”
Rogov’s charisma and quick wit are only part of his charm. The other part is he really does know what he’s talking about.
Rogov’s guide will help you to see the light as well as the medium and heavy wines. It will introduce you to wines you may be unfamiliar with, and will teach you how to know when your wine reaches its peak of flavor.
And you’ll be proud to learn that being kosher and liking good wine is no longer an oxymoron.
“Do you maybe have a Danish that will help wash away this taste of alcohol?” my brother asks the waiter, pointing to his cup of Muscat. The waiter frowns in disgust and offers him Blue cheese hors D’oeuvres instead.
“Whoa,” Bro takes a step back. “That cheese has fungus all over it!” Noticing the waiter’s astonished look, he quickly adds, “That’s okay, just throw it right away. I won’t tell your boss you forgot to refrigerate it.”
I smile apologetically to the waiter, and shove my brother in the other direction. “You’re embarrassing me. Now please, let’s pretend to be civilized people, and drink some of this Château stuff,” I hiccup, trying to steady my balance.
My slightly inebriated, hyperactive brother grabs a copy of Rogov’s guide and reads me the following:
“…Whether one enjoys drinking wines in their youth, their adolescence, their early adulthood or in their maturity, their choice is very much a matter of personal taste.
“That means, that if I think sweet wine is delicious – it is!” he concludes, as those around us turn to snicker.
Obviously some people will never learn. Not all common-folk have the capacity to expand their horizons to the sophistication and sensations of good, kosher wine, like me.
But, that cheese really did look like it was growing fungus….
“Come on,” I tell my brother and prepare to exit the party before Rogov gets to say goodbye again, “Let’s go get some rum-raisin ice cream.”