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What makes wine Kosher?

[For Kedem's explanation, click here.]

In addition to the usual kashrut rules, the Talmud rules that wine is not kosher if it (or an opened bottle) has been used for idol worship, or touched by anyone who is not shomer-shabbat (a Sabbath observing Jew), unless it has been mevushal (today, flash pasteurized to 85 degrees c.). Most kosher wines are mevushal, but fine wines generally aren't, since most winemakers believe pasteurization harms the taste.

The Conservative movement says that wine produced by automated procedures -- all American wine -- is kosher because it has not been touched by anyone, but only wine with a heksher (rabbinical certificate that it is kosher), preferably Israeli, should be used for kiddush or havdalah. See Isaac Klein, A Guide to Jewish Religious Practice, p 307. Presumably, though, the wine ceases to be kosher if it is served by someone who isn't shomer-shabbat.

In contrast, some of the more radical Orthodox halakhic authorities of the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem rule that the Talmudic restrictions on yayin stam (wine that is not suspected of being used for idol worship in fact) are no longer applicable, on the ground that there isn't much idol worship these days and maintaining the ban separates observant from non-observant Jews, which in today's world offends the principle of unity of the Jewish people, not to mention kvod l'borei (honor to the Creator, who created Adam as the progenitor of all people so that none might say, 'my father is greater than yours'). On this view, all wine is kosher (so long as no one has used it for actual idol worship or flavored it with bacon).

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Mailorder Kosher Wine

NB: Mail order wine is subject to state regulation. Wine in Utah may be purchased only through the State Liquor and Wine stores, with a complicated partial exception for ritual wines. The State Wine Stores stock a small selection of Kosher wines and will special-order any wine they don't carry. Kol Ami places a wine order before Passover. Where mail order wine is illegal, these listings are for information only.

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