Wine is one of the mainstays of Passover Seder. To know more about the Passover custom wine, read on.

Wine At Seder

Without wine, Passover Seder is almost incomplete. The four cups of wine that the Jews drink during the Seder holds tremendous significance. As one may already know, Passover is commemorated to mark the freedom of Hebrew slaves from Egyptian despotism. Though the Seder plate comprises of several other symbolic foods like maror, charoset, karpas, zeroah, beitzah and matzot, the four cups of undiluted wine served at the Seder table is of unparalleled importance. Apart from the fact that the wine served has to be "Kosher", meaning that it has to be made and drank in a particular way, according to the Jewish tradition and customs. Seder, which means 'order', has a step-by-step list of rituals at the feast performed in the Jewish culture. It's a festival of togetherness as all the family members are actively involved throughout. Scroll further and gather information on the requirements and the prominence of the Seder wine.

The Four Cups
During Seder, it is a ritual to drink four cups of wine. According to The Mishnah, even the poor have to drink four cups of wine during the Passover. Each cup of wine in Seder holds great importance at specific points during the feast. The first is meant for Kiddush, second for Maggid, Birkat Hamazon is the third and the fourth is for Hallel. Each of the four cups is used to express liberation as promised by God -"I will bring out, I will deliver, I will redeem and I will take." Besides these, there is a fifth cup of wine, which is poured and placed on the Seder table known as the Cup of Elijah. It is an offering for the Prophet Elijah who is believed to visit every home during the Seder.

Modern Orthodox Jewish Belief
According to some modern orthodox Jewish beliefs, wine, some of the cooked foods and most likely the dairy products have to be prepared by the Jews themselves. Similarly, the Jews are prohibited from drinking the non-Jewish wine referred to as the 'yayin nesekh'. Rather they have to drink the cooked wine; 'yayin mevushal', which means that the wine is heated and can be drunk by the Jews. Kosher wine includes mulled wine and pasteurized wine.

Kosher Wine
  • For the wine to be regarded as kosher, Sabbath-observant Jews have to be involved in the wine making process throughout, from fermentation to bottling. Also, the ingredients used should be kosher including the finings. The kosher wine that is used for Passover has to be kept free from contact of grains, bread and dough.
  • After the kosher wine is made, marketed and commercially sold, it should have the hechsher, a seal of approval of a supervising agency, organization or an authoritative rabbi who is also a posek according to the Orthodox Judaism.
  • Over the years, the demand for the kosher wine has drastically improved and so numerous countries have taken up the production of kosher wines under strict supervision. This is particularly considered in countries like Israel, United States, Germany, France, Italy, South America and Australia. Kedem and Manischewitz, based in the Northeastern United States are considered to be the largest importers as well as producers of the world.
  • According to the kashrut laws, a wine cannot be considered to be kosher if it has been used for idolatry. The law forbids the consumption of Yayin Nesekh, a wine that is poured to an idol or Stam Yainom wine, which is touched by those who believe in idolatry or one that is produced by non-Jews.
  • None of the ingredients of the wine like alcohol, sugars, acidity and phenols are considered to be non-kosher. According to kashrut laws, the person who handles the wine and what they use to make it makes a lot of difference.
Mevushal Wines
  • If the kosher wine becomes mevushal (cooked or boiled), it is regarded to be unfit for the idolatrous purpose and hence, will maintain the status of kosher wine even if it is touched by an idolater.
  • Boiling the wine kills most of the fine mold or must present on the grapes, but alters the tannins and the flavors of the wine as well. Hence, with certain modifications in heating, it was stated that the wine should be heated to 194 degree F (90 degree C). This temperature is perfect for cooking and is believed to cause less damage to the flavor of the wine.
  • Recent process known as 'flash pasteurization' avoids the condition of boil and has a reduced effect on the flavor as well.