A flash-heat technology preserves grape flavor.
One trend that’s on an uptick in the world of kosher wines released on the US market is “mevushal,” or “cooked,” wines. These are wines that have been thermally processed in accordance with religious strictures so as to inoculate the wine from being rendered not-kosher by the handling of non-Jew or a non-Sabbath observant Jew.
Typically, when non-Jews manipulate grape juice or the resultant wine, their very handling automatically renders the product not kosher. The only exception to this rule is when the kosher wine or kosher grape juice has been made mevushal by a Sabbath-observant Jew (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 123:3). Mevushal wine may be handled by others without being thereby rendered non-kosher. This is why mevushal wines are the preferred wines for kosher restaurants and kosher catering, and concomitantly why more and more kosher wines are being made mevushal.
“Flash détente” is a novel process for producing mevushal wine. The highly regarded Covenant Winery has released a new line of mevushal wines using this technology.
“After a decade of making only non-mevushal wines, we decided to use a new flash-heating technology called ‘flash détente’ to create mevushal wine,” said Jeff Morgan, Covenant’s co-owner and head winemaker. “It allows us to flash-heat whole grapes before they become wine.”
This technology has been used for more than a decade in Europe, South America and Australia, though it only hit the U.S. in 2009. The OU-approved system is actually used widely by non-kosher winemakers: initially developed for problematic vintages and then for “green” or under-ripe grapes, it helps increase sugar levels in grapes because it removes 6 to 7 percent of the water and also quickly extracts more color and less tannin from the grape skins than traditional processing methods.
Flash détente involves heating the grapes to about 180 degrees F and then cooling them within a vacuum chamber. The water in the skin of the grapes instantly “flashes” into steam, while the vacuum explodes the grape skin membranes, leading to an immediate extraction of color from red grapes. As a side benefit, certain unwanted compounds are volatized and dispersed.
“The heating extracts color from the red skins instantly but seems not to affect wine quality,” Morgan noted. “All fermentation (even with red wines) occurs post-heating as it would with non-mevushal wines. Flash heating appears to increase the speed at which the wines evolve in barrels. For this reason, we were able to bottle both whites and reds after only 6 – 7 months.”
One of Covenant’s new mevushal whites is The Tribe Chardonnay 2013 ($30), from grapes grown in a single vineyard located near the California town of Lodi east of San Francisco. A bright, fruit-driven wine with apple, quince and pear flavors on an interesting citrus, slightly spicy frame, it should work well with many summer dishes including chicken and fish.
Covenant The Tribe Chardonnay is available at Corx Wine & Liquor.
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