“The Hecks kept the name and the winery, and have added extensive vineyard plantings. In the course of time, and with the held of innovative technology, Korbel has become the country’s largest producer of this bottle-fermentedsparkling wines, with 75 per cent of the market. It also continues to make the still wines, with which the founding brothers began in the 1880s (today sold only at the winery and in a few northern California retail outlets), and brandy.
“It’s an awkward phrase, but what ‘fermented in this bottle’ means is worth noting. Connoisseurs consider that what is distinctive in the process of making any sparkling wine, a second fermentation, is best done in the bottle which it is sold. Traditionally, this had been labor-intensive, and so champagne has always been costly. In this century or technological triumphs, however, Korbel has been a leader in bringing cost and price down through the development of remarkable production methods; even if you’ve seen lots of wineries, a visit to Korbel, in an idyllic setting on the banks of the Russian River, is a revelation of staggering proportions.
Still more recently, the company has become a model of astute marketing. Sparkling wines are made in a variety of basic styles, ranging from the very dry natural through brutto sec, the sweetest of all.
Champagne is popularly associated with celebration and celebrities, so that Krobel celebrates great occasions.
At the Passover seder, Jews celebrate the delivery of their ancestors from the oppression of Pharaoh; like marriage and Bard and Bas Mitzvah, it is a joyous occasion, a very special religious holiday. Because the wine used in the ritual by American Jews has long been pedestrian quality, even as American taste has become much more discriminating, making a kosher champagne seemed a sensitive development, one that at least two great French champagne houses, Perrier-Jouet and Laurent-Perrier, also have done, at much higher cost.
Korbel’s preparation for making kosher champagne required scrupulously careful planning. Only Jews, under rabbinical supervision, may manage the process, from the first crushing of the grapes through a flash pasteurization to the final sealing of the bottles, an inhibition reflecting a long history of persecution. Distinctively labeled with the symbol ofOrthodox Union certification, this well-balanced, medium dry sparkling win, redolent of fruit, sells for about $12. In contrast, the Laurent-Perrier kosher cuvee is priced at $45.
In addition, of course, several kosher still wine choices are available. Some come from Israel, where Baron Edmond Rothschild sponsored the beginning of a wine industry late in the last century, western Europe — including two Bordeaux chateaux, Giscours, and La Gaffeliere — and, to be sure, from California. Mazel tov!