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 2014 Yarden Syrah (Galilee); $28, 90 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.
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.
Fielding Hills 2015 Estate Tribute Riverbend Vineyard Red (Wahluke Slope); $38, 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 blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot and Cabernet Franc from Washington. It’s a woody, dark cherry-fueled pour, with bold structure and warmth that befits the holiday.
Indaba 2017 Sauvignon Blanc (Western Cape); $12, 89 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.
Domaine de la Verde 2016 Royal Sunset Rosé (Vacqueyras); $20, 87 points. Considering that the menorah is typically lit at dusk, popping this Rhône 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.
Shafer 2014 Relentless Syrah-Petite Surah (Napa Valley); $92, 93 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 2016 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.
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.