I was sipping a bit of Kiddush wine a few months ago, when the thought struck me that most people know very little about this remarkable drink. We say a blessing over it at sacred moments, we pour it when we celebrate a simchah and while relaxing with friends, but most of us are not all that savvy about this concoction that is so ancient, yet so modern.
You know me, folks. Once my curiosity is aroused about something, I won’t rest until I’ve learned all I can about it. And when I come across valuable information, my first move is to share it with you and the world.
So I called up Jay Buchsbaum, wine educator for the Royal Wine Corporation. You know them. They’re the people who bring you Bartenura, Gamla, and Baron Herzog wines, among others. You’ve been drinking their best fruit of the vine. And Jay is now an old pal – we spoke about the “5 S’s” of wine tasting, and “How to Become a Wine Connoisseur in 10 Minutes Flat” in my new book, Quick & Kosher: Meals in Minutes. So, as usual, I threw all my questions at Jay, and he fielded them like a champion athlete.
We covered so much ground that I’ll have to divide our discussion into several posts. So watch for our continuing discussion over the next few weeks. I hope you enjoy the Q&A. L’chaim!
Q: Jay, I’ve heard that besides tasting good, wine is supposed to be healthy too. In fact, I’ve been told that a glass of wine a day is recommended. Is that true?
A: Several years ago, “60 Minutes” did a documentary on a study called “The French Paradox.” It showed that the French, who eat all kinds of heavy foods, cream sauces and fatty cheeses, had markedly lower rates of heart disease than Americans. At the time, they attributed it to the fact that the French drink wine with their meals every day.
More recently, scientists have pinpointed resveratrol, a polyphenol (group of chemical substances) found in skins of grapes that seems to have beneficial cardiovascular effects, at least in test animals. There’s more resveratrol in red wine than in white. Its efficacy is not as good in pill or other forms. It’s actually best delivered through a glass of wine. Clinical trials have shown that even eating a grape is not as effective.
I urge you to consult your physician, though. Simply ask, “Do you think it’s a good idea for me to have wine with my dinner?”
Q: Magnifique! So let’s say I resolve to go French and boost my health by drinking wine every day. But wine has calories, Jay. Shouldn’t I worry about getting fat on that diet?
A: Two glasses a day is optimum. I believe you should get your calories from things you most enjoy! Think of it this way. A 3.5 ounce glass of wine contains about 85 calories. Hershey’s Extra Dark Chocolate pieces have 60% cacao, which is also good for you. Four pieces of that contain 180 calories. It seems to me that the wine is a caloric bargain. You should balance calories with your joie de vivre intake.
Q: A glass of wine and chocolate every day – what a perfect diet! Sign me up. But does it have to be red wine to get those health benefits?
A: Red wine stays longer in the grape skins – so there’s more resveratrol, but it’s present in white wine too. It’s not a bad idea to vary your wines; it keeps things interesting. So don’t restrict yourself to one kind or another.
Q: Jay, do you work two glasses of wine into your day?
A: Of course. I like it with dinner. Europeans have a glass at lunch.
Q: But if I open a new bottle at dinner, it won’t be finished that night. Won’t keeping it overnight compromise the quality?
A: Here’s what you do: Re-cork the bottle. Red wine should be kept on the counter, not in your fridge. That’s because a change in temperature is deleterious to wine. White wine can go back in the fridge, since you serve it cold anyway. Both will stay for a day or two. The wine will be almost as good as when you first opened it.
Q: Fine. So red wine is served at room temperature; white wine is chilled. What about letting the wine “breathe” before serving? I was told to let it stay open for a while to enhance the aroma and taste.
A: There’s a wide range of answers to that. It depends on the wine. Most are ready to drink – they’re not too “young.” You can leave the bottle open for 10-25 minutes.
Q: That’s doable. Doesn’t take too much planning.
A: Here’s an easy system for letting your wine breathe before Kiddush on Friday night. Open the wine, pour it into the Kiddush cup, and then sing Shalom Aleichem. Speaking of Kiddush, when my children were young, I used to make Kiddush on grape juice.
Q: My husband considers giving the kids a sip of real wine training for their adult lives. I’m surprised you didn’t do that too.
A: Well, I prefer a really full-bodied dry red wine. When I would give that out to my kids, they would wince and make faces. So I began to think, why waste good wine on a kid? I decided to make Kiddush on grape juice, and reserve my wine for the meal.
Q: Jay, I’m sure many people would now like to bring wine into their daily lives, but it seems you have to know so much about pairing wine with different foods. There must be tips and tricks to make it easy, and I want to talk about them next time. You in?
A: I’m no Houdini Jamie, but I do have a few secrets up my sleeve. Tell the folks to meet us here next week.
Do you have any Kosher Wine questions for Jay, our wine expert? He would love to answer them. Please leave your questions and comments in the comment section below. L'Chaim!