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Saturday, June 15, 2019

It might seem like an impossible dream. Moises and Anna Cohen live in Spain, in Catalonia’s Monsant region, and they are among the first Sephardic Jews to own land in that country since the Inquisition. Not only do they live and work in Spain, but since 2003, they have owned a business, making high quality kosher wine; certified by the OU and with additional haredi hechsherim. I’ll pause while we all let that miracle sink in.

To digress heavily, while I have visited Spain twice in my life, and had a wonderful time both visits, it was always with the cognizance that Spain’s expulsion of the Jews in medieval times meant that my visits to the country would be short-lives exploratory, educational jaunts, not places where “my people” should spend large amounts of time. How surprised I was when I visited Barcelona with my friend Bracha Graber, z”l, and a travel book she had of Jewish sites in various European cities led us straight to a defunct below-ground mikvah in the recesses of a candle store. I also could have spent years in the Picasso museum in Barcelona, or in Girona where I walked on the same cobblestones as Nachmanides (the Ramban), who wrote a letter to his son which is on my personal reading schedule at least once a week.

It was also with Bracha that I tasted Elvi Wines for the first time. According to kosher wine expert Yossi Horwitz, Elvi derives its name from a combination of the Hebrew word for God (“El”) and the Catalan word for wine (“Vi”). “The guiding philosophy behind the establishment of Elvi Wines was to create world-class kosher wines (production has been 100% kosher since inception), which would showcase Spain’s top wine-growing regions,” Horwitz wrote.

While most of the attention has been placed on Elvi’s high level and award-winning wines including Clos Mesorah, which are indeed impressive, I have rarely tasted a white wine so easy to drink, and so light, lovely and pleasant as Elvi Wines’ $10 entry level wine Viña Encina Blanco 2017. It’s neither too dry nor sweet at all; just a study in balance and sureness. Like a sunny summer afternoon in La Mancha, I’d imagine.

The two Viña Encina wines, Blanco (white) and Tinto (red), are produced in La Mancha. Both are mevushal. La Mancha is a Denominación de Origen (D.O.), just like D.O.C.G. in Italy. La Mancha is in central Spain and is famous for its macabeo grape, also known as viura. The Viña Encina Blanco is comprised of 100% macabeo. Sometimes macabeo is used as one of several grapes included in the making of cava, or sparkling white wine, Spain’s answer to Champagne. But when it is used in 100% form, it’s best for young white wines meant to be drunk immediately. Drink this now or for the next year or two. But drink it, and enjoy it. You’re welcome.

The Viña Encina Tinto 2017 is comprised of 100% tempranillo, also known as cencibel, another wine grape typical of Spain, which makes rich, dark-ruby colored wines. It is the main grape used in Rioja, another Spanish wine region (and Ramon Cardova makes a pretty popular kosher wine called simply, “Rioja,” also using 100% tempranillo). The Viña Encina Tinto 2017 is a particularly plummy, dark cherry-noted wine which for me seemed a more neutral or less dry version of Israeli cabernet blends. It reminded me of a very fruit-forward carignan or a GSM (grenache syrah mourvedre) blend. At $10, this is a wine that is an incredible deal and a treat to enjoy weekly or to impress. Drink this now; don’t put it away for a special day. Today is special enough.

By Elizabeth Kratz