Why our four cups of wine may taste a little different this Pesach

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Why our four cups of wine may taste a little different this Pesach

The struggle for freedom is more challenging than ever and we should drink Israeli wine at our seder

It will be a sad and restrained Passover this year. As long as hostages are unable to participate in the holiday meal, soldiers and other workers cannot return home, and the wounded are still to recover, the festival will be different. As we raise our four cups of wine, our thoughts turn to the wineries that are caught up in the conflict; all the wineries in the Galilee, Negev and Gaza regions have experienced fatal incidents since October 2023 and the Avivim winery in the Galilee was destroyed by rocket fire.

The first cup, the Kiddush, sanctifies the holiday. It is a call to honour the hand of God in the journey from servitude to statehood. This year we will be thinking of those who cannot raise their glass in peace, and of the families torn apart by violence and war. The sanctity of the moment is intertwined with a silent prayer for safety and reunion, for the sanctity of life itself.

The second cup relates to the tale of the Exodus, a story of miraculous plagues and the eventual escape from tyranny. This glass symbolises hope and the indomitable spirit of a people yearning for freedom. However, as we recite the plagues of Egypt, we cannot help drawing parallels to the plagues of today: hatred, violence, and extremism.

The third cup is the birkat hamazon, the blessing after the meal: a gesture of gratitude for food and divine providence. In the shadow of conflict, this gratitude is mingled with grief. This glass is raised not only in thanks but also in memory of those who have fallen, in recognition of the bitter cost of enduring strife and division. It is a reminder that our freedom and our security are bound up with the fates of our neighbours.

The fourth and final cup is drunk after the recitation of the hallel – songs of praise that conclude the seder. Traditionally, this cup symbolises the fulfilment of the promise of redemption. But this year, it feels premature to speak of redemption. As we drink, we acknowledge that our celebration is incomplete.

In this context, the four cups of wine at Passover are not just markers on a historical journey, but symbols of our yearning for freedom, peace, and unity. They remind us that the story of Exodus is a living narrative that continues to unfold in the complex reality of our world. The seder night becomes a powerful expression of resilience and a testament to the enduring hope that freedom will prevail, and tyranny and oppression will be overcome.

This year, let the wines of this Passover be a reflection of our collective spirit: nuanced, complex, and striving towards harmony.


Wineries in the Galilee have been affected by the war


Each of these wines reflects the distinct character and spirit of its region, from the lush landscapes of the Upper Galilee to the stark beauty of the Negev desert. Israeli winemakers have skilfully harnessed these varied terroirs, producing kosher wines that stand tall on the global stage. Whether you prefer the elegance of a Viognier or the complexity of a Cabernet Sauvignon, these selections offer a glimpse into the rich viticultural heritage and innovative future of Israeli winemaking.


Upper Galilee Wines

Galil Mountain Viognier An aromatic white, with a bouquet of peach and floral hints, apricot, ripe nectarine and invigorating perfume, with fresh herbal aromas and a delicate background of oak. Medium bodied, with a silky texture; long, balanced finish. £14.50

Dalton Family Collection Cabernet Sauvignon The nose carries an intricate bouquet of aromas – dark cherries and ripe blackberries blend harmoniously with subtle undertones of vanilla and cedar, a nod to its careful aging in quality oak barrels. £29

Adir winery Kerem Ben Zimra Shiraz A seductive bouquet of dark cherries and blackberries, interwoven with hints of earthy spices and the subtle smokiness of oak aging. Layers of complexity, showcasing a harmonious balance between ripe, dark fruit flavours and a refreshing acidity that enlivens the senses. £28

Recanati Wild Carignan Reserve Ripe blackberries and cherries are at the forefront, elegantly intertwined with subtle notes of fresh herbs, Mediterranean scrub and a hint of oak, derived from meticulous aging in French barrels. £29.95

Tabor Adama Syrah A deep, ruby-red hue promises a sensory journey of complexity and elegance with a bouquet of dark fruits, notably blackberries and plums, interwoven with subtle hints of black pepper and the faintest whisper of smoked meat, a nod to the varietal’s Rhône Valley heritage yet distinctly influenced by the terroir of the Galilee. £18.99

Negev Wines

Yatir Har Amasa The wild landscape, mountains and vegetation of Mount Amasa with the Yatir forest and the vineyards are the backdrop for this blend of Viognier, Rosanne, Claret Blanche, and Chenin Blanc. This wine was fermented and aged for about seven months in a combination of concrete amphorae, a wooden tank and large wooden barrels £55

Midbar Winery Chardonnay Hailing from Israel’s arid Negev desert, this wine presents a fascinating study in the adaptability of vines and the ingenuity of viticulture in extreme conditions. It stands out for its crisp freshness and nuanced complexity with lush fruit flavours -ripe peaches and crisp green apples – and a subtle, underlying minerality. The wine’s elegant oak integration, achieved through meticulous aging, lends a soft touch of vanilla and a creamy texture without overpowering the vibrant fruit character. Price: £19.95

Pinto Winery Holot Red David Pinto was called to the reserves on the first day of the war, and a long time passed before he could return home to the winery. This blend of Malbec, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc, and Cabernet Sauvignon presents a rich tapestry of blackberries and plums with subtle hints of oak and spice that add depth and complexity. Smooth tannins and a finish that lingers. £48.50

Ramat Negev Kadesh Barnea Cabernet Sauvignon This winery lost a container of new bottles due to Hamas shelling. Its Cab Sav is a striking exemplar of how Israel’s desert terroirs can produce wines of profound character and distinction. A deep ruby colour and an aromatic bouquet brimming with ripe blackberry, cassis, and a hint of spice. On the palate, it unfolds layers of lush dark fruit, complemented by velvety tannins and a subtle oak influence, leading to a finish that is both elegant and enduring. £20


Buy kosher wines at your local kosher supermarket. Prices indicated are approximate and subject to change.


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