Updated: Sep 5
Spain does not have many kosher wines, but a new kosher winery, Vina Memorias, is making waves with the relatively unknown bobal grape, and a wine named after Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon
By ADAM MONTEFIORE JULY 23, 2021
There are not many kosher wineries in Europe, though there is a large quantity of kosher wine produced there. This is often made by regular wineries deciding to also produce a kosher cuvee.
Spain, which has a tiny Jewish community, does not produce much kosher wine, but the wineries that do are pretty good. “Celler de Capcanes” from Monsant and Elvi, a family-owned negociant company, are good examples. They are making truly quality wines. Capcanes’ Peraj Ha’abib is legendary and Elvi’s Herenza brand is very good value. Their respective flagships La Flor del Flor de Primavera and Clos Mesorah are outstanding wines with deep complexity. Then there is the value brand Ramon Cardova, produced by Royal Wine Europe, whose wines are very drinkable.
Vina Memorias is the newest kid on the Spanish block. The winery represents a reasonably unfashionable wine region, a heavily planted, but relatively unknown grape variety and a family new to wine. It is a blend, or let’s say, “a paella” made up from a smidgen of France, Spain and Judaism, served up on the same plate. Paella is of course the iconic Spanish dish originally from Valencia and this region is only 75 km. from Utiel-Requena, where their vines are situated. This region has a long history, but it is not that well known.
THE UTIEL-REQUENA wine region is 70km from Valencia
I first came across the wines a year or two ago when Armando Caracena-Molcho, the foreign minister so to speak, came to present them in Israel. I was not sure whether there was a market for the unknown Bobal grape variety, nor did I believe there was a need for more kosher wine in Spain. However, most of all, I thought it was prudent to wait and see, as it was a brand new winery.
However, Armando, who in Israel is known as Yitzhak, did impress me. He was tall, good-looking and confident, but respectful, as well as passionate, thorough and knowledgeable. I thought then that I would like to return to their wines at a later date. Now the time has come, as the wines really merit attention. The timing is right as the world is newly interested in unfashionable wine regions, in part as a rebellion against globalization. With Cabernet and Merlot seemingly growing everywhere, there is a new fetish for local, indigenous grape varieties.
ARMANDO IS one of three sons of Annie Molcho; each one is a valuable part of the family initiative, but have other interests spread over the globe. Armando is the one who came to Israel, fell in love with an Israeli and got married. His mother, Annie, is French, with Tunisian roots, with an emotional connection to Provence. She is a determined matriarch with a dream in her eyes, combined with an iron will and the drive that was not to be denied.
ANNIE MOLCO & Enrique Caracena-Murciano: Long-term vineyard owners became hands-on winemakers
Armando’s grandmother was the one who owned vineyards. These were inherited by his father and the grapes were sold to the local cooperative, where they were lost in amorphous blends. They had old vine vineyards, but as is the case with old vines, there were increasingly low yields each year. Harvesting became less and less cost-effective and what they thought of as high-quality grapes, were not being appreciated or used as such.
In 2015 they reached a crossroads. Was it worth continuing? Should the vineyard be sold or the vines grubbed up? On the other hand, the vines were gold dust; old maybe, but brimming with unfulfilled potential. It was a no-brainer. They decided, or rather Annie decided, to open a winery, and her family supported her wholeheartedly. From being distant owners of vineyards, they became hands-on winemakers.