On Passover, we drink (at least) four cups of wine. And for dinner, we are treated to a broad array of Passover foods that includes soup, fish, meat, dessert and more — often eaten as separate courses.
With all this diversity on our plates, why drink only one wine? Today, our choice of wine varietals and brands is legion, far different from the meager options available to our grandparents. They were relegated to what is referred to sweet Concord grape wine, especially when it came to kosher wine for Passover. These so-called traditional Jewish wines were anything but traditional. American Jews adopted them in the last century, when Concord grapes were easier to locate than the grapes we now associate with fine wine. In truth, Concord grapes are not even the same species of grape as Old World grapes such as chardonnay or cabernet sauvignon.
Given today’s many options, I suggest drinking a different wine for each of the four cups. Or in the spirit of each cup, why not simply drink four different wines to pair with the different dishes you’ll be enjoying during your seder?
Pairing food and wine is really easy. Lighter, fresher foods — like salads, most soups and fish — go best with lighter, fresher wines such as white wine and rosé. Richer savory dishes, such as meats, pair best with richer, more full-bodied red wines. And desserts are best with sweet wines. This is all you need to know.
With all this diversity on our plates, why drink only one wine?
With this in mind, let’s plan our four cups! To start off, there’s Kiddush: the blessing over the wine. You can continue drinking this wine through your first course. We typically start with a white wine, like chardonnay, sauvignon blanc or riesling (not a sweet one, though). These wines are easy to drink with or without food. They work well for Kiddush as well as the initial treats to follow. You don’t want to drink white wine? Then try rosé, technically a light red wine that drinks more like a white wine. It’s fresh and light and should be enjoyed chilled, too. Both whites and rosés go great with gefilte fish and matzah ball soup.
For the second glass, I recommend a lighter-styled red wine, such as pinot noir, malbec or the Italian varietal sangiovese. These wines are versatile and work well with light dishes such as fish or salad, and heavier ones such as red meat, too.
For your main meat course, if you are having one, I recommend a more full-bodied red. Let’s consider this your third glass. Cabernet sauvignon and syrah are particularly appropriate. But so is merlot, along with many red blends. Don’t worry about it. Just enjoy whatever you select. (And remember that every wine — white, red or rosé — goes with chicken.)
Finally, there is dessert — perfect for the fourth glass, which should be sweet. Think late harvest whites or Port. Both pair well with macaroons! And for lingering over the fourth cup, you’ll find that sweet wine is easy to enjoy without any food at all.