Let there be wine: the ultimate list for Chanukah

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Let there be wine: the ultimate list for Chanukah

Whether they are salty, sweet, rich or creamy, festive foods need to be complemented by the right wines

As a wine enthusiast, I am always seeking the perfect balance between different types of food and wine. Chanukah presents a particularly complex challenge, because it is a jumble of traditional dishes: latkes characterised by salty flavours, the smoothness of cheese and dairy, the jammy sweetness of sufganiyot, and the dark richness of brisket and gravy. It appears that those who developed the Chanukah menu did not suffer from food guilt.


Before the main event, offer guests some coin-sized, mini latkes with an aperitif. They are quick and easy to fry in a pan and serve warm with crème fraîche for a dairy meal or applesauce for a meat meal.

Matching wine: there is a widespread belief among wine lovers that champagne complements salty, fried foods the best. Champagne has a unique texture characterised by high acidity. The bubbles and mild sweetness are perfect to offset your mini latkes. Alternatively, you can serve them with a glass of rosé wine. I prefer dry, crisp, and floral rosés to the sweet and fruity ones – perhaps something from Provence or even Britain.

Piper-Heidsieck Cuvée Brut NV £30, Champagne René Jolly Blanc de Noirs Extra-Pur NV £37, Kosher Laurent Perrier Brut Champagne £75, Mirabeau La Folie Rosé £16, Chapel Down English Rose £16, Kosher Israeli premium Teperberg Essence Rose £32


A classic dish in Jewish-American cuisine, brisket is typically served at Rosh Hashanah and Passover, but why not at Chanukah as well? This cut of beef is from the bottom of a cow’s chest and since this part of the cow is in constant motion, brisket is relatively tough. It contains a lot of connective tissue, collagen and fat. Cooked at a low heat over a long period of time, brisket becomes soft and rich, full of meaty flavours.

Matching wine: to balance the depth and richness of this dish, Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot are recommended because they contain robust, spicy flavours. The wine should not be too young. Try one that has been aged in the bottle from the years 2012-2018 and you will not be disappointed. There are many flavours in these wines, and the tannins should be soft.

Château La Croix de Marbuzet Saint-Estèphe £22, Château Clarke £37, Kosher Israeli Shiloh Secret Reserve Merlot £32


Particularly when life does not seem to be going as we would like, pressures from both the outside and the inside cause a sense of restlessness. There is a desire to eat something familiar and comforting, from a time when everything seemed simpler. Kugel is pure comfort food. It always reminds me of the scene in the movie Ratatouille, where the difficult food critic tastes a rustic ratatouille dish and is thrown back into his childhood. Who doesn’t remember going in to Grandma’s kitchen full of pots and aromas, lifting lids and opening the oven to find out what she made for Shabbat?

Matching wine: a slightly sweet white wine such as a white Rhone blend or an off-dry Riesling work well with kugel made from noodles, because they compliment the rich, buttery flavours. With a savoury potato kugel, which is heavier, try a dry red wine like a Pinot Noir or Zinfandel. The earthy aromas that represent these wines will be very flattering.

Les Vins de Vienne Saint-Péray £18, Leitz Magdalenenkreuz Riesling Kabinett  £14, Kosher Israeli Galil Mountain White £15, Finca Ferrer 1310 Pinot Noir £29, Brazin Old Vine Zinfandel Lodi £18, Kosher Israeli Gamla Pinot Noir £22


These are made with the dough used for buns and bread, however, instead of baking in an oven, the donut is fried in oil and absorbs the oil, hinting at its Hebrew name, which means ‘like a sponge’. There is almost no kitchen that will not claim that the donut was born there. The Greeks and Romans were the first to discover donuts. Nevertheless, the Jewish donut is believed to have been influenced by German cuisine, where it is known as a “Berliner”.

Matching wine: sweet wines can be served on their own as desserts, but some are known for pairing well with different types of sweet foods (in our case, donuts). The general rule of thumb when combining sweet foods with wines is that the sweetness level of the wine must be (at least) as sweet as the sweetness level of the food. Obviously, I am not referring to sweet red wines for Kiddush. White dessert wines such as Sauternes or Tokaji should be your primary focus. But please, serve them very cold!

Royal Tokaji Betsek Primae Classis 6 Puttonyos 50cl £58, Château Doisy-Védrines 2016 Barsac £40

All wines are available at waitrose.com and kosherwinecellar.co.uk


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