Kosher 101

Backsberg produces a Premium Range, a Black Label Range, an eco-friendly range, Tread Lightly by Backsberg, and a range of fortified wines but what few people know is that we are also a producer of some noteworthy kosher wines.

According to Rabbi Tzvi Rosen, editor of the quarterly journal Kashrus Kurrents,  “to this day, kosher wine remains one of the most sensitive, tedious, and difficult processes to oversee”. For wine to be considered kosher it needs to be produced according to Judaism’s dietary laws, kashrut.  These dietary laws emphasise the avoidance of certain ingredients, none of which are normally used in wine production, but they also restrict the handling of food and beverage items. In this case, the wine production process is the biggest source of contention.

First, no wine can be considered kosher if it is used for ‘idolatry’ purposes. Essentially, kosher wine may not be used in worship to an idol or as an offering to an idol. Second, it may not be produced by an individual of non-Jewish faith and third, for it to be sold commercially, it requires the hechsher, or ‘seal of approval’. Approval may only be given by a Rabbi, an individual from the Orthodox Union, or by a Mashgiach, an observant Jewish supervisor.

The production of kosher wine is thus a rather tricky process. At Backsberg, we follow a certain procedure to ensure our alcoholic kosher wines stay true to their name. The grapes are brought in from the vineyard, sorted, destemmed and crushed. From the get-go our Mashgiach is on the scene. Once the juice is released, only he may handle the product and the necessary winemaking equipment. Kosher enzymes and yeasts are added to the juice in order to aid fermentation. After fermentation and maturation, the liquid is flash pasteurized at 82 °C. The product is now considered mevushal (kosher) and may be handled by an individual of non-Jewish faith.

Throughout the production process kosher seals are used to avoid tampering of the product. Our Mashgiach remains on the scene until the wines are bottled, labelled and shipped. Every Tuesday a Rabbi comes in from Cape Town to oversee the operation and once a year a member of the Orthodox Union comes over from the United States to inspect our constituents and certifications.

Whether you are a wine connoisseur or a leisure drinker there is always more to know in this industry. Hopefully, this has assisted in improving your knowledge on kosher wines and the processes involved in its production. All that is left now is to try these superb wines!

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