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!
Recanati 2018 Shiraz (Upper Galilee); $17, 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, plum and raspberry tones as well as seductive hints of violet and pepper, 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.
Luis Felipe Edwards 2014 Dancing Flame Llaima Red (Colchagua Valley); $15, 90 points. As the festival of lights, it’s only fitting to enjoy a wine that pays tribute to the flickering beauty of a lit menorah. This Chilean red blend, dominated by Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon, reminds you to bask in the glow of the dancing flames and listen to what the Hanukkah candles are saying, including messages of resolve, faith, radiance and enduring light. Best Buy.
Tribute 2019 Sauvignon Blanc (Monterey County); $17, 90 points. The name “Hanukkah” is actually derived from the Hebrew verb for “to dedicate,” so get your own tribute in order by pouring this bright and fruit-forward white wine from California. With a vibrant mix of stone, tropical and orchard fruit and ample acidity, it’ll be an ideal partner for roast chicken and latkes with apple sauce.
Indaba 2018 Chardonnay (Western Cape); $12, 88 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—a portion of the brand’s global sales are allocated to the Indaba Foundation, a non-profit that supports education efforts and infrastructure throughout South Africa’s Cape Winelands. Best Buy.
Château Ksara 2017 Sunset Rosé (Bekaa Valley); $13, 88 points. Considering that the menorah is typically lit at dusk, popping this rosé will help to keep things bright alongside the Hanukkah candles. Plus, the wine’s bright fruit and ample acidity will be a perfect match for freshly fried latkes and tomato-braised brisket. Best Buy.
Shafer 2016 Relentless Syrah-Petite Surah (Napa Valley); $95, 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, structured California red brimming with ripe plum and cherry flavors spiced by hits of pepper and licorice.
Château de Chatelard 2017 Cuvée Terre de Lumière (Moulin-á-Vent); $25, 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. This Beaujolais beauty, a Gamay from the Moulin-á-Vent appellation, will help you see the light, with rich yet juicy fruit flavors that flood the plush yet gripping texture.
Bailly-Lapierre 2013 Vive-la-Joie Brut Rosé (Crémant de Bourgogne); $33, 93 points. Congratulations! You made it to the last night, so celebrate with this extremely decadent bubbly from Burgundy, with notes of strawberry shortcake and cream. 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 the year.