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!
Golan Heights Winery 2013 Yarden Syrah (Galilee); $29, 92 points. For the first night of this special holiday, turn to the land where it all began. A selection from Israel not only offers an appropriate nod to the Holy Temple’s locale, but this one is full of dark cherry and lush strawberry tones as well as seductive hints of lavender and baking spice, sure to impress any true Syrah lover. But if Syrah isn’t your thing, check out other recent Israeli wine reviews from our Buying Guide for more delicious options. Editors’ Choice.
Dancing Flame 2017 Gran Reserva Sauvignon Blanc (Central Valley); $9, 87 points. After the bold, spicy Syrah 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.
Poggio al Tesoro 2012 Dedicato a Walter (Bolgheri Superiore); $90, 93 points. The name “Hanukkah” is actually derived from the Hebrew verb for “to dedicate,” so get your own tribute in order by pouring this stunning Cabernet Franc from the iconic Tuscan region of Bolgheri Superiore. It’s a woody, earthy, black fruit-laced pour, with bold structure and depth that befits the significance of the holiday.
Villa Russiz 2015 De La Tour Sauvignon (Collio); $55, 93 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.
Adirondack Winery 2015 Island Sunset Cabernet Franc Rosé (New York); $16, 88 points. Considering that the menorah is typically lit at dusk, popping this rosé from New York State will help to keep things bright alongside the Hanukkah candles. Plus, the wine’s earthy, spicy tones and ample acidity will be a perfect match for freshly fried latkes and tomato-braised brisket.
Shafer 2013 Relentless Syrah-Petite Sirah (Napa Valley); $87, 95 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 bold, silky-textured California red brimming with ripe strawberry flavors and shades of leather and licorice.
Christopher 2014 Lumière Unfiltered Pinot Noir (Eola-Amity Hills); $39, 92 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. J. Christopher’s Lumière, an Oregon Pinot Noir, will help you see the light, with rich yet juicy fruit flavors, a plush yet gripping texture and lingering accents of smoke and earth. Editors’ Choice.
Château Frank NV Célèbre Crémant Riesling (Finger Lakes); $21, 89 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 Hanukkah favorites—last call for all the jelly donuts you can eat!—leaving you with a sweet taste in your mouth for the remainder of 2017.