Making Kosher Wines in Italy and Israel Review - Terra di Seta and Capsouto Wineries

It may be hard to believe, but not so long ago kosher wine in the United States was a thick jammy beverage made from red grapes grown in upstate New York. In the 1800’s, Jewish winemakers had limited  time and choice in producing wine for holiday observance and settled on what was available, jammy Concords which are made from native American grapes. It was the expedient alternative for the period. The wine was often sweetened with corn syrup or cane sugar.


The only completely Kosher winery in Italy

Tradition set in and it wasn’t until late in the last century that producers mastered the rigid rules for kosher wine and kosher wine production boomed.  Today wineries in almost every country in the world produce kosher wine from European varietals such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Chardonnay.


Terra di Seta is the only fully kosher winery in the Tuscan wine area

Most kosher wines are a second line for wineries. Terra di Seta in Italy is believed to be the sole winery in Italy, perhaps in Europe and the United States, making only kosher wines.  At home base in the Chianti Classico region of Tuscany, Daniele Della Seta and his wife Maria Pellegrini, currently produce wines for the international market as well as the home trade. Husband and wife have deep roots in Italy, he as a member of an ancient Roman family and she as a native Tuscan raised in the Grosseto area.


Maria Pellegrini and her husband own Terra di Seta



Daniele Della Seta

The family name and the winery name share a relationship.  Terra is interpreted as soil, land and earth, while Seta means silk, which is also part of the family name. Their basic Chianti Classico DOCG  is made from Sangiovese with a small amount of Cabernet Sauvignon. Only Tuscan wines from grapes grown on the absolute best vineyard land in Chianti can carry the "Classico.” designation. Terra di Seta Chianti Classico is a blend of 95% Sangiovese and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine is medium-bodied and bright ruby red, combining softness and elegance. 


In 2008, Daniele Della Seta and Maria Pellegrini set out to create wines that would be strictly kosher, starting with a new cellar and new technologies and adhering to organic standards. They also produce extra virgin olive oil and honey for the Jewish holidays.


Terra di Seta Winery

Following the dietary laws for kashruth (kosher food) requires strict adherence to laws set down more than 3,000 years ago.. Sabbath-observant Jews must be involved in the entire winemaking process and ingredients must adhere to biblical commands. Wine that is described as "kosher for Passover" must have been kept free from contact with grain, bread and dough.  Italy has a small Jewish population and if the Della Seta brand is to survive, it must develop followings in other lands.


To be kosher, equipment and machinery must be used exclusively for the production of kosher products. From grape crushing to the bottling line, only Sabbath observant Jews may physically handle the grapes, production equipment and wine. Only certified kosher products (yeast, filtering agents, etc) may be used in processing.  No foreign elements and no artificial preservatives may be employed. Italy now has about a dozen facilities producing kosher wine.


Jacques Capsouto, winemaker

In Israel, wine has been produced for several centuries.  Production boomed in recent decades  and today that small nation has several hundred wineries. One of the newest was founded by an entrepreneur who developed a strong following in New York as a restaurateur.  Jacques Capsouto and his brothers, Sammy and Albert, who created the very popular restaurant Capsouto Freres in 1980.  The food was good, service excellent, wine list easily accessible, the soufflé was unmatchable in Manhattan, and all went well until 9/11 and the havoc that ensued.  The brothers opened their doors to feed firemen and police and rescue crews, while slowly rebuilding their business in what was then an almost deserted neighborhood.  After 33 years as a beacon for a neighborhood rapidly gentrifying, Jacques and Sammy closed their doors.


Two wines among many Kosher wines

Jacques Capsouto was the wine maven and he set out a few years back to find an ideal vineyard location in Israel. He had been thinking about a winery since visiting in 2004 and he returned in 2008 to search for a new vineyard. After two years of searching, he found a site in Peki’n. Capsouto turned to the Mediterranean region of France for varietals that would prosper in his fields. He chose Grenache, Mourvedre, Syrah and Cinsault red grapes, and Grenache Blanc, Clairette, Roussane and Marsanne for his whites. In 2014 he completed his first harvest and now has several labels in the market.


The Galilee in view


The lineup includes Cuvee Eva, white and rose’, honoring his mother and Cuvee Samuel, honoring his grandfather, Cuvee Albert named for his youngest brother, who died in early 2010. Top of the line is cuvee Marco, named for his father, a blend primarily of Grenache, Mourvedre and 18% Syrah.


Cote de Galilee



Wines from Terra de Seta can be ordered online


More about Capsouto Wines

 and on facebook

Photos: Courtesy of Millissime, Ltd and Terra di Seta Winery


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