Wine is increasingly becoming part of our modern dining culture, a drink to be enjoyed regularly and not just on special occasions. That’s to be applauded from a wine writer’s perspective; after all, I’m recommending five or six wines every week. But with Passover and Easter this weekend, it’s fitting to remember the special significance wine enjoys in Judeo-Christian culture and ritual.
Wine’s symbolic significance is strongest in the Passover Seder, the ritual dinner observed in Jewish households around the world. The Passover holiday begins this year on Friday night. During a Seder, each adult diner drinks four cups of wine, representing the redemption of the Israelites from slavery under the Egyptians. A fifth cup is reserved for the prophet Elijah in hopes he will visit during the celebration; representing future redemption, it is left unconsumed.
For observant Jews, the Passover wine must be kosher. That means it was produced under the supervision of observant rabbis and is acceptable for use in religious ceremonies. A wine’s kosher status is typically denoted by the letter U or K in a circle, with a P in superscript. It doesn’t have any significance in the actual production of the wine, except for “mevushal” wines, which are flash-pasteurized so they can be handled by non-observant folks and remain kosher.