Kosher Certification on Wines

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Arutz Sheva reported that Rabbi Rafi Yochai gave a statement concerning a problem on the kosher status of vineyards. He said, “There is a growing phenomenon in which, even if the vineyard itself has a kosher certificate, one must check if there is kosher certification for the restaurant and visitors center,” He further said that the Bahat vineyard has lost its kosher certification after a visit from personnel of the rabbinate’s kashrus division. “During an inspection non-kosher items were found, including non-kosher meat,” he said.

So what’s with wine and kosher? It all started when wine was used as an offering to idols long ago. Since Judaism does not allow the worship of idols, wine made by non Jews were all together strictly prohibited. Everything in the process of making wine and all the materials used in the process must be supervised to have kosher certification.  Everything must be clean including all the utensils and machines.  All the workers involved must be Sabbath- observant Jews. For the ingredients, only kosher enzymes and ingredients can be used. Some wine ingredients are in big question  like gelatin, casein, bull blood and isinglass because gelatin is usually taken from a non-kosher animal like pig skin while isinglass comes from a non-kosher fish. In accordance to the law of separation of meat and milk, casein must also be noted because it comes from a dairy derivative. Therefore wine containing casein should not be used with meat.

Bottles for wine should only be used once or not filled many times.  Since hybridization is prohibited, grapes also should not be cross-breed with other plants. Also, wine used for the passover must definitely be free from grain, bread and dough.

Kosher certification in the making of wine is important. The seal of approval of a certifying organization along with the proper kosher symbol will only be awarded in a product if everything in the vineyard complies with the kosher laws. If the vineyard will not maintain the kosher standard then there is a tendency that the kosher certificate will be forfeited just like what happened to the Bahat vineyard.

Laws on the Kosher Certification Process

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The Kosher certification entails a lot of process. For the animal meat to be kosher, the animals must be slaughtered in a way that follows the kashrus laws. Shechitah is the term for the ritual slaughter and the Shochet is the person who slaughters the animal. He must make a quick but deep stroke across the throat using a very sharp blade having no unevenness. In this way death is almost instantaneous and painless because severing the sources of blood and oxygen to the brain causes unconsciousness within seconds. It is believed to be the most humane way of slaughter.

Then the Shochet will examine the carcass (especially the lungs) to ensure that it was healthy before it was slaughtered. Before it is cooked, all the blood must be drained by using a special salting and rinsing method. This is called “koshering”. The meat can also be roasted over an open fire for the blood to be drained. Following the traditional Shechita process can ensure that the blood is completely drained out of the meat. Some fats and body glands are not permitted to eat so the meat must be purged by an expert before cooking and eating.

The fish does not need the above process to be kosher. There is no specific way of “slaughtering” the fish and the blood of the fish is not considered forbidden. There are also no forbidden parts of a fish so it needs no purging.

Fresh fruits and vegetables are kosher by default including some fungi like the mushroom species and algae but they must be inspected for any infestation by bugs and insects. However there are some exception to these rules that pertains to all fruits and vegetables that come from the Land of Israel. Unless the the fruits and vegetables are tithed they can’t be eaten. Fruit juices and pulps are considered kosher (except nectars that contain many non-kosher additives and ingredients). Some kosher authorities advise on the kosher certification of pure fruit juice and pulps because the the utensils like the pasteurisers are probably used also to process non-kosher products. Kosher supervision is needed for the manufacture of wines, grape juices and grape derivatives.

All processed foods must be kosher certified. The products must have the logo of the kosher certifying agencies as well as the kosher symbols. The ingredients, additives and the processing equipments needs to be carefully inspected. If the main ingredients of the product is kosher but the minor ingredients are non kosher, the food product is still considered non- kosher. Example: Carmine, a red colouring food ingredient is non kosher because it is derived from beetles. An emulsifier can be made from a non-kosher animal fat so it is also non-kosher. Calcium Stearate is non-kosher because contains ingredients that maybe derived from animal fat. Food additives should surely be considered because they may contain products like gelatine, glycerine, mono and di glycerides which came from non-kosher animals.