Celebrate Jewish New Year with Innovative Kosher Wines from Around the World!

What better way to start the Jewish New Year than sharing great wines with loved ones? Traditionally, wine or grape juice is an important part of Kiddush, which means “sanctification” in Hebrew, a ceremony where a blessing is recited over wine or grape juice.

Wine and Pomegranate, a fruit symbolic of good deeds and wishes.

Royal Wine Corp is bringing a fresh selection of kosher wines from California, Israel, France and South Africa just in time for Rosh Hashanah, which falls on September 18th this year.

Organic Kosher Wine with Noble History

If you are sensitive to sulfites and want some quality organic kosher wine, you could try Herzog Variation Be-leaf Cabernet Sauvignon, a full-bodied organic Cabernet Sauvignon from Paso Robles with no added sulfites. Herzog Winery was one of the first in America to make kosher wines, with over 9 generations of winemaking. Founded by Rabbi Menachem Herzog, Herzog wines were so sought after by Austrian Emperor Franz Josef that he dubbed then-owner Phillip Herzog a Baron.

Herzog’s Paso Robles vineyard. Credit: Herzog Winery

Surprise Yourself With Wild Yeast Wines!

Have you tried wines fermented with “wild” yeast that originate from the vineyards? Winemaker and Master of Wine candidate Ido Lewinsohn, known for experimenting with wild yeast and whole cluster pressing, has made Segal Wild Fermentation Chardonnay and Segal Wild Fermentation Cabernet Sauvignon from Gailelee, Israel resulting in some unique wines representative of their authentic terroir.  

Galilee in Israel. Credit: Isaac Harari

French Winemaking in the Judean Hills

High fashion designer turned Winemaker David Suissa has made high-end kosher wines in Bordeaux before starting his winery Ephod in Israel. You can now try kosher red wines from vineyards in Judean Hills, Galil Elyone and Ramat Hagolan: EbiatarKeter, and Regesh, made with classic Bordeaux grapes Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Petit Verdot.

Ephod wines.

Kosher Champagne Back By Popular Demand

Established in 1808, Drappier in Champagne, France is known for their quality organic vineyards. After being out of stock for almost 15 months, three of their kosher champagnes are now back on the shelves, just in time for the upcoming Jewish New Year celebrations.

Drappier Carte D’or Brut, kosher champagne

Chill with Canned South African Rose!

For a fun twist, you can try J. Folk from South Africa, a fruity but dry and refreshing rosé that comes in packs of four 250ml cans.

J Folk canned rose.

About Royal Wine/Kedem

Founded in 1848, Royal Wine Corp. has been owned and operated in the United States by the Herzog family, whose winemaking roots go back eight generations to its origin in Czechoslovakia.

Today, Royal Wine’s portfolio of domestic and international wines range from traditional wine producing regions of France, Italy and Spain, as well as Israel, New Zealand and Argentina. 

Additionally, Royal Wine Corp.’s spirit and liqueur portfolio offers some of the most sought-after scotches, bourbons, tequilas and vodkas as well as hard to find specialty items such as flavored brandies and liqueurs.

The company owns and operates the Kedem Winery in upstate New York, as well as Herzog Wine Cellars in Oxnard, California, a state-of-the-art-facility featuring guided wine tours, a fully staffed modern tasting room, gift shop and catering facilities. Additionally, the winery houses the award-winning restaurant Tierra Sur, serving the finest, Mediterranean-inspired, contemporary Californian Cuisine.

Follow Royal Wine Corp on social media: @RoyalWineCorp; https://www.facebook.com/RoyalWineCorp/

#DrinkSouthAfrican Now!

Have you ever tried South African wines? If not, now is a great time to enlighten your wine experience with some unique wines from this country known for their high quality yet affordable wines, with a rich history in winemaking.

Beautiful vineyards of South Africa. Credit: Wines of South Africa

Wine Sales Devastated By Covid-19 Restrictions

A lot has happened in South Africa since our last post about their wine exports resuming after an abrupt ban in March due to Covid-19. National alcohol sales ban has remained in effect, except for a brief period in June, with no end in sight. South Africa is the 8th largest wine producer globally, producing some 974 million liters of wine in 2019, and $1.1 billion worth of revenues in wine exports.

Cargo ship

Livelihoods at Stake

Based on Wines of South Africa estimates, $18 million is lost every week in alcohol revenue since the ban, and 1 in 5 wineries may not survive, affecting the livelihoods of some 300,000 wine industry workers and their families. Even before the pandemic, about half of the country live below poverty line. Moreover, hospitality and food and beverage workers are equally devastated, who have been protesting for relaxation of restrictions.

Vineyard worker transporting grapes in South Africa. Credit: Wines of South Africa

#DrinkSouthAfrican!

Some good news: about half of South African wines are exported globally, and since exports are still allowed, global support is more important than ever. South Africa is a highly reputable New World region that produces a diverse range of grape varietals, such as red Pinotage (a cross between Pinot Noir and Cinsault) and white Chenin Blanc, and many wine styles worth trying. You can easily find it online or from your local wine shop. Taste, share and spread the word!

Many South African wines to choose from to pair with a nice meal and share with friends and family!

Vin Piscine – The New Exciting Trend of Swimming Pool Wine

I first encountered “Vin Piscine” last year in South Africa on a very hot January day in Johannesberg. Being the Southern Hemisphere, the seasons of South Africa are opposite of North America, and I had spent the hot and humid day on a tour of the city. By the evening, I was ready for a cool glass of chenin blanc wine, but was surprised when the small outdoor café where I went for dinner brought me a bucket of ice, tongs, and my wine in a large balloon glass. Looking around the café, I saw other people with similar glasses and they were all putting ice cubes in their wine, creating a beautiful spectacle of light dancing around the crystal ice cubes and shimmering golden and rosé wines.

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Rosé Piscine and Blanc Piscine

What is “Vin Piscine?”

“Vin Piscine” means “wine swimming pool” in French, and refers to a glass of wine – usually white or rosé colored – served in a large glass with lots of ice.  The ice, which is swimming around in the pool of wine, slowly melts creating an icy refreshing drink referred to by the French as “Vin Piscine.” Apparently, it is all the rage in Paris this summer, as well as last summer, according to a report in Meininger’s. Another popular drink is the “frosé,” which is wine mixed with crushed ice, similar to a crushed ice margarita or daiquiri, but made with wine.

Special Types of Wine Used to Make Vin Piscine

In France, they have actually created a new category of wine designed to add ice.  It is usually stronger tasting so when the ice melts, the wine still retains good flavor.  Examples are illustrated in this advertisement for Blanc Piscine and Rosé Piscine by VinoValle.

Vin Piscine from Vinovalle

Try Making Vin Piscine Yourself at Home

Since it is currently difficult to find this special type of wine in the US market, I decided to try making my own “Vin Piscine.” I pulled out two large balloon wine glasses and filled them half-way with ice cubes.  Then I poured a French Provence rosé in one and a California white blend in the other. The rosé, which was dry, quickly became diluted and didn’t taste as good after some of the ice had melted.  The white wine, however, which was fruitier and more concentrated with a hint of sweetness, actually improved with the ice, and I ended up relaxing by the pool and enjoying my glass of “Vin Piscine.”

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Swimming Pool Wine by the Pool – Vin Piscine

South African Wines Now Shipping Again After COVID Halt

During the middle of harvest season for South African vintners in March, business activity was ordered to stop by their Government to mitigate the spread of Covid-19. Alcohol production, national sales and tasting rooms were prohibited, followed by an export ban on April 16th, grinding the entire industry ­(except sanitizing alcohol) to a halt. 

Vineyard in South Africa

Wines of South Africa

Wines of South Africa, the organization representing all exporting South African wine producers, has been actively lobbying to lift restrictions. Their efforts were successful when Minister Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma announced permission of packaged and bulk wine export activities, including procurement, transport, manufacturing and related services to resume starting May 1st.   

Economic value 

According to Wines of South Africa, wine is their nation’s second largest agricultural export, amounting to $500 million in foreign revenue annually. The wine industry contributes $2.6 billion USD to national GDP and creates 290,000 jobs annually.

This several-week ban has lasting implications: apart from estimated $53 million lost revenue, Wines of South Africa estimates at least 3 months but likely longer for an average order to be fulfilled, as the entire supply chain gradually resumes with continuing restrictions, strict safety protocols, and new rules to be followed.     

Average Vineyard Worker Wages in South Africa – Emerging as a BRICS Country

Sept. 2012 – Several times throughout my wine trip to South Africa I asked winemakers the average wage they paid their vineyard workers. The answer was it depends on the region, as well as whether or not the workers have housing and benefits on the property.

In terms of regional pay differences, it appears that Stellenbosch pays the highest wages at 170 Rand ($21) per day for a basic vineyard worker who does not live on the estate. Wineries in Cape Point and the Constantia region said they paid 120 – 150R per day ($15 – $18). In Swartland I was told they pay 100 to 120R ($12 – $15) per day, but also provide food in the form of a large BBQ.

For wineries who provide worker housing and other benefits, the rates also vary by region. In Stellenbosch, we were informed that the monthly rages for a basic vineyard worker are 3000 R per month, or 143 R ($18) per day with housing. However, I had another person tell me that basic farm workers in the outlying areas often receive only 60 R ($8) per day with housing. More experienced workers receive higher wages. For example, one winery told us that a vineyard supervisor living on the estate makes around 8000 R per month ($1000 per month, or $47 per day assuming 21 work days per month).

Considering the official unemployment rate in South Africa is currently 20%, and the unofficial rate is 30%, it is interesting to learn of these wages. They are higher than China, which is only around $8 to $10 per day in the Xinjiang wine region, but much lower than Napa Valley which pays an average of $12 per hour ($96 per day) for vineyard workers and around $16 per hour ($128 per day) for supervisors.

After seeing the townships that surround Capetown with tiny shacks made of corrugated metal and wood fires built in old oil containers in the front yard for cooking, the houses of the vineyard workers appear plusher. They are usually larger and built of brick, clay or wood with green grass instead of dirt and pavement as seen in the townships.

I asked the spouse of one winery owner what was different in the vineyards since Apartheid had ended. She said not much had changed, and that most of the workers had remained to work the farm. The main difference, she noted, was that they were becoming more independent. In the past she had to drive them to doctor, the store and other places, but now they were doing it themselves.

At the same time, keeping children in school seems to be an issue. Several people told me that many farm children drop out of school around the 7th and 8th grade because it is the custom with their friends. The current culture doesn’t encourage being different or sticking out from the crowd. In fact, at one winery when I asked how many of the workers had finished school and gone to university, the answer was “none – yet.”

It is interesting to see where South Africa is since Apartheid ended in 1994. The whole world is cheering for them as they emerge from a time when inter-racial marriages were forbidden, black leaders such as Nelson Mandela were jailed on Robbins Island, and more than 3000 people were forcibly removed from their homes in District 6 of Capetown because of the color of their skin. They watched their houses bulldozed, and were relocated many miles away. It’s hard to believe that these types of actions – which seem so reminiscent of Hitler – actually occurred between 1960 and 1993. Now the new black government is building houses in District 6 and trying to encourage the original owners to return, but there are many who find it too painful to do so.

The Positive Future of South Africa and Its Wine Industry

Yet despite the poverty witnessed in the townships and the high unemployment rate, there is still much to be hopeful for in South Africa. It is an incredibly beautiful country that takes your breath away at times, with views of vistas that often left the word “Eden” whispering through my mind. There are huge rugged mountains that are reminiscent of the granite cliffs of Yosemite. These meet in multiple verdant green valleys where charming towns and cities are built. Then there is the breath-taking coastline with steep twisting roads above the ocean reminding me of Big Sur, and white sandy beaches similar to Hawaii. Further inland lays the desert where the Big 5 roam: elephant, leopard, rhino, lion, and Cape buffalo. And everywhere there is a plethora of birds, flowers, and beautiful protea—the national flower of South Africa – that is part of the fynbos family, native vegetation that only occurs here in the world.

Even more, the people are very friendly, and there seems to be a positive optimism despite the unemployment and the poverty. Tourists are welcomed warmly and there are many affordable tours available. In addition to city tours, safaris and sea dives with sharks, the best way to tap into the soul of South Africa is to listen to live music. We attended an African music night in one of the townships where the singing was so moving that in one moment, people had tears streaming down their faces, and the next they were dancing and shouting in the aisle.

After my  eight-day visit, I can see why experts believe that South Africa should be added to the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China) as a new up and coming economic power. They are now adding an “S” to create BRICS with South Africa as the fifth country. It appears to have a huge potential for economic and cultural success in the future. And the South African wineries, which have been here for more than 300 years, can play a part in that economic engine – especially since wine quality has improved so much over the past several years. Furthermore, with the global recession waning, and global wine supplies dwindling, it seems like a great opportunity for South African wines to develop a unified promotion to expand sales, not only in their own country and continent, but in the USA, China, Japan, and other countries outside of Europe.

NOTE:  This post was originally published on  Wine Travel Stories.  Available at: http://winetravelstories.blogspot.com/2012/11/average-vineyard-worker-wages-in-south.html