With the holiday of Purim upon us, many people think wine. Yes, I think wine daily, but for 24 hours I am joined by Am Yisrael, my Hebraic sisters and brothers.
Purim begins tonight, Mar. 9, and runs throughout the day tomorrow, Mar. 10. I become more religious during the holiday of Purim, where the Talmud tells us, “A person must drink until he cannot tell the difference between ‘Cursed be Haman’ and ‘Blessed be Mordechai.’”
It seems a daunting task to be unable to distinguish between Haman, the evil antagonist of the Book of Esther, read twice publicly on Purim, and one of our exalted heroes (along with the eponymous heroine, Esther), Mordechai.
Still, if anyone knows me, I take these types of challenges seriously and buckle down.
Kidding aside, a nice explanation is offered by the Orthodox Union:
“Clearly, however, it is possible to interpret the quoted statement of the Talmud very differently. The requirement is not to drink to the point where one can no longer distinguish between Haman and Mordechai, between evil and good; rather, it is that one must drink until one cannot distinguish between “Cursed be Haman,” the destruction of evil, and “Blessed be Mordechai,” the reward of the righteous. Both the destruction of evil and the enhancement of the good shift the moral balance of the world towards the side of the good. Thus, it is not at all a trivial distinction that the Talmud is pointing to.
“It means also to say that the Jew’s obligation on Purim is to use the spiritually elevating quality of wine to rise to a high level of trust in God.”https://www.ou.org/holidays/purim/ad_dlo_yada_until_one_cannot_distinguish/
With this is mind, and with the intention to raise the spiritual quality of the day from normal to that of a higher conscience and greater meaning, here are a couple excellent wine suggestions with which to pair your celebratory meal.
Purim is also synonymous with the hyper-generous giving of charity, and with the exchanging of shaloch manot, or gift baskets of food and drink, to our friends. (Hint, I like wine.)
As with any great celebration, it is imperative to bring our dear friend, Bubbles, to the party.
N.V. Freixenet Cava Brut, ($18, mevushal)
The first bottle was produced in 1914, by Pedro Ferrer and his wife, Dolores Sala. Pedro’s childhood nickname was “El Freixenet,” named after his family’s ranch, “La Freixeneda”, which means ash tree grove.
Cava is made in the méthode champenoise, which is the traditional method used in Champagne where the secondary fermentation actually occurs inside the bottle. Cava is a Denominación de Origen (DO), meaning that it can only be made in certain regions of Spain. This always excellent sparkling wine has a nose of toast, yeast and, apple, pear, with citrusy and green notes.
Too, with any great celebration, and with apologies to our dear vegetarians (I live with one), a beautiful piece of meat to carve up is a given. We will be doing a Sous Vide Red Wine & Shallot Ribeye Roast (https://www.dadcooksdinner.com/sous-vide-boneless-ribeye-roast/), and of course will need to pair a nice, big red to balance the fatty goodness.
2016 Special Reserve Herzog Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, ($35, mevushal)
I’ve been waiting to shout about this bottle. Herzog’s Alexander Valley Cab has a long, storied track record of excellence, matching Herzog Winery’s going-on-eight-generations history of winemaking. And this 2016 vintage of Sonoma Valley’s “Alex” is no exception, rivaling the noteworthy 2014 in terms of quality and elegance.
This wine is still a baby, but is approachable and delicious now with plenty of air. Its 16 months in oak barrels are apparent in a nose of vanilla and toffee, and a mouth full of dark fruit, mouth-coating tannins (perfect for the ribeye), and perfectly-balanced acid, and a long finish.
I wouldn’t just buy one. I’d buy a case and open one a year for the next 12 years.
Chag Purim Sameach, ah freilichen Purim, Happy Purim one and all!
Dr. Kenneth Friedman is a Baltimore-born kosher wine aficionado/connoisseur. He is known for his unsolicited wine advice and runs many local kosher wine tastings.
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