Ask the rabbi

  • Halacha
  • Gentile Cooking, Wine and Milk

(koshered) wine press


Rabbi David Sperling

Elul 6, 5774
Dear Rabbi, I’m interested, how kosher wine is made, especially outside of Israel. I remember reading (I hope that I understood correctly) that a wine press becomes treif if it has come in contact wine that has been used for idol worship. Since -I suppose- today the quantity of wine that is used in idol worship is not usually put back in the press, I was interested how the wine/grapes that were put in the press were used for idol worship. I was wondering if the press is made treif by grapes/wine of which a portion will Later be used for idolatry. If grapes were harvested under Jewish supervision but then put into a (so far kosher) wine press, but part of the wine that comes out of the press is to be used for idol worship, does that render the entire quantity of wine that comes out treif? And does it also render the wine-press treif? In the growing of grapes, it is important that there is no intention that wine would ever be used for idol worship? I suppose, wine grown in a catholic monastry could never be kosher... Thank you very much in advance
Shalom, Thank you for your question. The process of kosher wine making is an interesting and involved one. (There are several good articles on the subject on the internet – see for example Let me just give a quick overview that might be a good start for you. (Taken partly from an article by my farther in law, Rabbi Apple) – Kosher wines need rabbinic supervision. Originally there was a problem of yayin nesech, wine consecrated for heathen worship. Not only was a Jew not permitted to use such wine, but could not even derive any benefit from it. This is a Torah law, and only applies to wines actually used in heathen worship. There are very few wines made today for such purposes. At a later stage there came the further prohibition of s’tam yeynam, wine made or handled by gentiles. Wine drinking was part of social gatherings and there was a fear of mixed marriage. Hence wine had to be manufactured by Jews, or at least the crucial stages had to be performed by Jews and kosher wine had to be served by Jews. This is a Rabbinic law, and applies to all non Jewish wines. However kosher wine used at Jewish functions is often yayin m’vushal, “boiled (pasteurised) wine” and does not need to be served by Jewish staff. The basis of this rule is that boiled wine was apparently not used by heathens in idolatrous worship. Bases on this, you can see that the manufacturing of kosher wines will need to be done by Jews (at least up to after it is boiled). The essential stages that involve the pressing of the juice from the grapes must all be done by Jews. As the Star-K website (a major kashrut organization on the USA) writes – "From the moment that the grapes are brought to the winery, the Mashgichim (kashrut supervisors) have to be on constant alert to prevent an inadvertent irreparable Hamshacha, thus disqualifying the total winemaking process. Hamshacah is defined in the Talmud (Avodah Zarah), as the separation of the juice of the grape from the grape skin. In production terms, any movement of the grape juice along the production line, initiated by the non-Jew, qualifies for Hamshacha. If this Hamshacha is done by a non-Jew anywhere along the line, whenever the juice is pressed, sampled, conveyed into the plant, or pumped by hose, the production is disqualified. An observant Jew must initiate, activate, or operate every essential step of the crush, including the fermentation, standardization, and sample taking for quality control. For this reason, the winery must be manned by a sizable crew of qualified Mashgichim (kashrut supervisors) throughout the duration of the crush and a smaller crew during standardization operations." The thoughts of the grape grower generally will not affect the kashrut of the grapes, however, as you can see, the production of kosher wines needs to be very carefully supervised. For this reason only wines that have a kosher certification on them are kosher. Luckily, in Israel today we produce some of the world's best wines – and they are all kosher! Look at the P'sagot winery which makes wine from the grapes of the Samarian hilltops, ( - who win world medals for their top wines. Truly a fulfillment of the words of the prophets who told us that one day the Jewish people would return to their land, and it would produce again wine as in the days of old. L'Haim!
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