“Sod the wine, I want to suck on the writing. This man White is an instinctive writer, bloody rare to find one who actually pulls it off, as in still gets a meaning across with concision. Sharp arbitrage of speed and risk, closest thing I can think of to Cicero’s ‘motus continuum animi.’

Probably takes a drink or two to connect like that: he literally paints his senses on the page.”

DBC Pierre (Vernon God Little, Ludmila’s Broken English, Lights Out In Wonderland ... Winner: Booker prize; Whitbread prize; Bollinger Wodehouse Everyman prize; James Joyce Award from the Literary & Historical Society of University College Dublin)





13 January 2009


Israel At War In Wine World

UN Bribed With Dodgy Golan Grog


One wonders what Jesus, a self-confessed winebibber, and friend of publicans and sinners, would have to say about the current attitudes to wine in Israel.

He still is, after all, the world's most famous winemaker.

I wonder whether he taught the amarone technique to the Italians, or they taught him. Whatever the fact, I will guarantee the wine made at the wedding at Qana was not in the least bit kosher. It was amarone.

While Israel celebrated Our Lord's birthday by using all sorts of fearsome apocalypse machinery to bombard then invade an enclosed refugee camp from which nobody can escape, there have been quiet little wine wars going on, which I’m sure would see the Nazarene flailing quite few charlatans and wankers out of the temple.

The first is the crisis faced by winemakers in Bethlehem, which I wrote about at Christmas. Israel has since permitted some of the wine mentioned in that story to be shipped to thirsty markets in the EU.

Israel has since raised the ire of Syria by using wine from the Golan Heights to grease the gullets of UN staff at Christmas.

Syria claims the wineries are in its territory, and it’s not Israel’s wine to give away.

"The Golan Heights is an integral part of the state of Israel and the wine produced in that region is some of the best in the country”, Israeli mission spokeswoman Mirit Cohen said.

“As such, we were pleased to share it with our colleagues."

In letters to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and General Assembly President Miguel D'Escoto, Syrian Ambassador Bashar Ja'afari condemned the Israeli mission's "provocative and irresponsible behavior" in distributing wine from Golan grapes.

"I would appreciate it if you would request all United Nations staff to refrain from accepting these Israeli gifts produced illegally in occupied Syrian territory," he said....

On the same weekend, Rabbi Andrew Sacks clarified a few things DRINKSTER never before understood in his column in the Jerusalem Post.

The Rabbi’d been asked whether he drank only kosher wine.

“Another tough question to answer”, he wrote.

“If the wine were not Kosher I would not, of course, drink it. Yet, I have in my home, several bottles that have ‘Not Kosher’ printed on the label. Now what makes them non kosher? Do they combine the wine with pig's blood? Of course not. (And here I will not get into wine that is produced for pagan religious use or even wine produced by non-Jews. This is a whole separate Halachic discussion). What the person could have asked was ‘Do you drink wine that is produced without Hashgacha (Rabbinic Kashrut supervision)?’ To that I could have responded in the affirmative.

“A small boutique vineyard approached the Masorti Movement to inquire about Hashgacha” he continued.

“Several rabbinic colleagues visited the winery which produces about ten thousand bottles each year. There are but three employees - two brothers and their father. The process of producing the wine is almost entirely automated, making direct human contact with the wine unnecessary.

“In order to obtain Hashgacha from the official Rabbanut the family would have to incur the following costs. There would be an up front payment of thousands of dollars for the Kashrut symbol of the Rabbinate. There would need to hire two Mashgichim (Kashrut supervisors). Why two? One for working hours and one for all other times. You see, if the owner were to, say, leave his keys by mistake in the office, the second Mashgiach would be available to open the place. The owner would not be permitted in on his own.

“In addition, the brothers and father would have to give way to ‘religious’ workers. The Rabbanut would not permit non-Orthodox to be involved in the production of the wine. That means a total of five new salaries and the fee for the symbol.

“But it would not stop there. Many Jews who drink wine under rabbinic supervision will not rely on Israel's official Rabbinate. Those standards are just too lax to be trusted. So there would be a need for an additional payment for yet an additional level of fervently Orthodox supervision.

“All of this would price the ten thousand bottles out of reach for many consumers and put the winery out of business."

So now I fully understand. I'll just trust the good Lord that all that Golan grog fitted the Rabbi's recipe.


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