For the first time, kosher wine will be sold in supermarkets and other retail outlets in Montreal, with the blessing of the Société des alcools du Québec (SAQ).
A red and a white wine from Italy’s Abruzzo region, which is being marketed under the label Mitzvah, should be appearing in certain IGA and Metro stores about a month before Passover, as well as some fine food shops and convenience stores, said Mitchell Weitzman, vice-president of Allied Foods, the distributor of the wine.
The wines’ kashrut is certified by Rabbi Shalom Elmaleh, a Chabad emissary in Milan, who has been supervising the production of kosher wine and other foods in Italy for many years, said Weitzman. “Rabbi Elmaleh of the Naar Israel Congregation has certified that the wines comply with the highest standards of kashrut.”
The wines are also certified organic, bearing the Ecocert Canada seal, as well as one from Italy.
Allied – a Montreal-based, family-owned company founded about 70 years ago – is the Canadian distributor of other kosher food brands, such as Steit’s and Osem, as well as non-kosher food. In launching the Mitzvah line, it has partnered with Agence PF, a promotional agent of the SAQ for privately imported wines and the owner of a number of brands of wine that are mainly sold in Quebec grocery and convenience stores.
Kosher wine consumers in Montreal have long complained of the limited selection and high prices at the SAQ, which only carries kosher wines at certain outlets.
Weitzman said this initiative offers consumers a wider selection of products at a reasonable price. Mitzvah is also the first organic kosher wine available in the province, he said.
This initial import has been limited to 600 cases, he said. About 20 retail outlets in total, in areas with a Jewish presence, will carry the wines.
Rabbi Elmaleh has been to Montreal several times to oversee the process of taking the bulk wine from the SAQ to the Allied Foods warehouse for bottling, Weitzman said, along with Allied Foods’s frum employee, Moshe Perl.
The wine has been shipped in bulk and bottled in Quebec, Weitzman said, a condition for wine sold in convenience stores that was set by the SAQ.
Mitzvah wine is kosher for Passover and will sell for under $20, Weitzman said.
The label designates both the red and white as a 2016 “small batch artisanal Italian wine.”
Weitzman notes that the wines are non-mevushal, which means they can only be used in the home, not in restaurants or by caterers. Mevushal, or boiled kosher wines, can be handled by non-Jewish staff, but many connoisseurs find that the process adversely affects the flavour.
The goal is to further develop the Mitzvah label by bringing in kosher wines from other countries, as well, Weitzman said. An arrangement with a winery in France is close to being finalized, he added.
He credits Agence PF founder France Lamoureux, an award-winning sommelier, with bringing the Italian wines to his attention. She describes them as being of a “superior quality.” Agence PF specializes in organic wines.
The red wine is made from the grape varietal Montepulciano Nero and the white from Trebbiano.
“Both are fresh and aromatic and taste of ripe fruits with a silky, delectable finish,” she said.