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Wine is an integral part of Jewish ritual and rarely absent at ceremonies and feasts. While some holiday meals are boozier than others, even the ordinary Shabbat Friday night dinner is incomplete with the wine kiddush, blessed be the creator of the vine.
The Passover seder is notorious for the multi-course, symbolic feast, which includes four cups of wine for every adult. Wine symbolizes nobility, but most of all freedom from exile and persecution. According to tradition, we drink three glasses of wine for the Hebrews’ exile from Egypt, Babylonia, and Greece, and a fourth for the current diaspora and those suffering persecution throughout the world.
Wine and Purim
Purim, which precedes Passover and happens towards the end of winter, tends to fly under the radar, but for enophiles Purim is by far the most winecentric of all Jewish holidays. It is also the one of the most secular holidays, and isn’t even directly mentioned in the Torah, which may explain the loose attitude toward ritual drunkenness.
Purim tradition dictates that we drink wine until we are pleasantly tipsy enough to confuse the villain, and the hero of the Megillat Esther, AKA the Book of Esther. For some this might only be a glass or two on an empty stomach. For others it’s a great excuse to crack open those bottles we’ve been saving for a special occasion, or to wrap up the evening musing over glasses of rich and robust meditation wines.
Food and Wine Pairing
Like all Jewish holidays, food is symbolic. When it comes to food and wine pairing for the Purim Seudah (feast) the options are wide open, as the menu is up for interpretation, unlike the more rigidly established Passover seder. Across the globe there are a few common threads when it comes to Purim cuisine.
Eating The Book of Esther
The Book of Esther tells the story of Jewish persecution under Persian rule. Mordecai, a member of the Hebrew Tribe of Benjamin, gets a lot of play for having discovered an assassination plot within the palace where his cousin Esther has been married off to the Persian King. Later on, when the King’s right hand man, Haman, who is portrayed as being a power-hungry racist, issues an order to round up and murder the Jewish population throughout the kingdom, Queen Esther steps into persuade her husband to overturn the order and save her people.
If you’re creative, this story offers plenty of inspiration from a culinary point of view.
Purim is a great excuse to try some popular Persian recipes like crunchy tahdig rice and Abgoosht, a lamb and chickpea stew in a spice-laden tomato base. Persian cuisine has something for every palate with vegetarian dishes and crunchy salads, meaty stews, rich, sautéed herbs and spices, as well as dried fruit and even citrus. This also makes it a joy to pair with wines! The more flavors the merrier.
Persian Food and Wine
For lamb-based dishes, Syrah or Shiraz is a classic go-to. Gamier meats need punchy and robust wines for balance, and Syrah’s signature peppery finish partners perfectly with Persian spice blends. Find a kosher Syrah at Kosherwine.com or jwines.com.
Read our Kosher wine guide.
Côtes du Rhône red blends also work well with spice blends and meat-based dishes. Most often an assemblage of Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvedre, they come in varying degrees of complexity and weight. This kosher one from Château Signac has a bit of Carignan as well, and half of the wine undergoes carbonic maceration, a process that add lightness and elevates fresh fruit notes.
Rosé also pairs well with lamb and spices. Provençal rosé is historically well matched as it suits the similar spice blends of Moroccan dishes that influence the local cuisine. Israeli winery Mony makes a dry rosé from Cabernet Sauvignon.
If Kosher isn’t a factor, wine.com has a huge rosé selection at different price points.
A popular triangular jam-stuffed pastry tradition emerged during the European diaspora, in Germany, supposedly inspired by Haman’s three-sided hat. Fashion historians later ruled out any such accessory during the height of the Persian empire, so the Hamantaschen shape may have more to do with a 15th-century chapeau du jour.
Download our Hamantaschen recipe card.
There are thousands of recipes out there, some sweeter than others. Regardless recommend a semi-sweet sparkling wine to bolster the pretty fruit flavors and break through dry pastry with a burst of bubbles. Try Kosher producer Baron Herzog’s Jeunesse Belle Rouge for a rosé, or a classic sparkling moscato to play peach and apricot filling.
In keeping with the savory, try Spanakopita, a beloved Greek savory pastry stuffed with spinach and feta cheese, or simply with cheese (Tiropita), are both wrapped in phyllo dough, and easy to form into triangles. Pair these with dry Greek white wines like Assyrtiko. The mouthwatering mineral finish beautifully balances fattiness in the phyllo. Another option is a dry sparkling wine like Spanish Cava.
Learn more about food and wine pairing.
While the adults sip their way to forgetfulness, another Purim tradition often relegated to children is is to dress up as characters from the story. At the table, you might find stuffed dumplings like Kreplach, Ravioli, and Stuffed Cabbage. Your wine pairing will depends a lot on what you’ve hidden inside. To brush up on the basics of food and pairing, check out this video from our introduction to wine tasting, 21 Days to Wine.
Legend has it that queen Esther was vegetarian, so Purim is often packed with vegetable-based delicacies like Israeli salads and meat-free versions of all of the above.
Remember to keep the finish in mind when pairing vegetables with wine. Beware of the bitterness you find in greens, celery, radicchio, and asparagus for example, and learn toward white and rosé wines with a smooth finish.