Hanukkah (also spelled Hanukah or Chanukah), the Jewish holiday known as the “festival of lights,” brings friends and family together for eight consecutive nights. The duration might seem excessive, but it’s with good reason.
Hanukkah celebrates the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem as well as a miracle—the single flask of oil in the Temple, enough to last just one night, burned for eight nights, which was enough time for new oil to be prepared. To commemorate and celebrate this miracle, the festival of Hanukkah was born.
Today, the holiday is spent celebrating with loved ones by lighting the menorah each night, reciting special blessings, singing traditional songs and playing with dreidels and giving gelt. Hanukkah gatherings also often involve plenty of foods fried in oil (a nod to the oil-burning miracle), like potato latkes (pancakes) and sufganiyot (jelly-filled doughnuts).
With all of the candle lighting, singing, playing and eating, of course you’ll want to add some special wines to pair with your festivities. L’chaim!
Jerusalem Wineries 2013 4990 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon (Judean Hills); $24, 91 points. For the first night of this special holiday, turn to the land where it all began. A selection from Israel’s Jerusalem Wineries not only offers an appropriate nod to the Holy Temple’s locale, but the Reserve Kosher Cab is full of dark fruit tones and seductive spice, sure to impress any true Cabernet lover. But if Cabs aren’t your thing, check out other recent Israeli wine reviews from our Buying Guide for more delicious options.
Dancing Flame 2015 Ojos del Salado Sauvignon Blanc (Central Valley); $10, 85 points. After the bold, brooding Cab on night one, it’s time to lighten things up with a white wine. This Chilean Sauvignon Blanc reminds you to listen to what the Hanukkah candles are saying, including messages of resolve, faith, radiance and enduring light. Best Buy.
Finca Flichman 2013 Dedicado (Mendoza); $30, 91 points. The name “Hanukkah” is actually derived from the Hebrew verb for “to dedicate,” so get your own tribute in order by pouring Finca Flichman’s Dedicado Bordeaux-style red blend. It’s a woody, smoky, black fruit-laden pour, with power and weight that befits the significance of the holiday.
Villa Russiz 2013 De La Tour Sauvignon (Collio); $53, 91 points. While the emphasis is often on physical goods and toys these days, the traditional Hanukkah gift was gelt, or gifts of money, which afforded the opportunity to pay it forward and give tzedakah, or charity. Do good through your wine purchase, too—Villa Russiz runs a home on the estate grounds for disadvantaged and orphaned children, funded by the sale of the estate’s wines.
Vintales 2016 Sunset Rosé (Western Cape); $10, 85 points. Considering that the menorah is typically lit at dusk, popping this wine from the Western Cape will help to keep things bright alongside the Hanukkah candles. Plus, the wine’s spicy tones and juicy acidity will be a perfect match for freshly fried latkes and tomato-braised brisket. Best Buy.
Shafer 2012 Relentless Syrah-Petite Sirah (Napa Valley); $85, 92 points. The story of Hanukkah tells of the mighty Maccabees, a small band of faithful Jews led by Judah the Maccabee who, against all odds, defeated one of the mightiest armies on earth to reclaim the Holy Temple. Their efforts were nothing short of relentless, much like this burly, full-bodied California red brimming with black fruit flavors and shades of coconut and chocolate. Cellar Selection.
Sparkman 2014 Lumière Chardonnay (Columbia Valley); $30, 90 points. You’re nearing the end of the holiday’s festivities, and need a wine with ample weight and substance to carry you through the homestretch and not bog you down. This Washington Chardonnay will help you see the light, with rich fruit, a creamy texture and lingering toasty accents.
Château Frank NV Célèbre Crémant Riesling (Finger Lakes); $21, 88 points. Congratulations! You made it to the last night, so celebrate with this extremely likeable bubbly from New York producer Dr. Konstantin Frank. The bright acidity and lively foam will cut through all your fried favorites, and since the last night of Hanukkah coincides with New Years’ Eve this year, you’ll have a sweet taste in your mouth as you ring in 2017!