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The Men Who Make Sure Manischewitz Wine Is Kosher

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Rochester: The Men Who Make Sure Manischewitz Wine Is Kosher
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The local Jewish community will begin celebrating Hanukkah beginning at sundown Saturday. For many, kosher wine may be part of their holiday celebration. That kosher wine may have been produced in Ontario County.

Rabbis Samuel Schlagman and Alan Rosenzweig work for Constellation Brands. Rosenzweig has been with the company for 15 years and Schlagman for nine. They supervise its Manischewitz line of kosher wines.

"Kosher means that it adheres to Jewish dietary laws dating back to the Old Testament. All the laws can be found there somewhere and we just make sure that it's kosher," Rosenzweig said.

With Hanukkah beginning this weekend, Manischewitz may be on many holiday menus. However, it is not one of the bigger wine consuming holidays for those of the Jewish faith.

"The big holiday that wine is currently being produced for is Passover, which occurs in March. One of our big productions is for Passover wine," said Schlagman.

Passover wine can only be consumed during that holiday. Sabbath wine is for the rest of the year.

They are pretty much the same as far as taste. The only difference is in the ingredients used to make the wine.

"The main difference is that during the year we use corn syrup. And for Passover we use pure cane sugar like beet sugar or something like that," said Rosenzweig.

Constellations Brands is one of the largest makers of kosher wine. It's produced under the supervision of the Orthodox Union.

The Union of Orthodox Rabbis is one of the largest kosher certifications. Schlagman and Rosenzweig are directly responsible to the Union to certify that the wine is kosher.

"We're just certifying that all the ingredients are kosher and that the sugar's kosher and whatever it is that goes into it. No blessings or anything like that," Rosenzweig said.

The Rabbis say that grapes used in all wines are kosher, but once the grapes are crushed and made into juice, the Rabbi's have a designated process which doesn't necessarily occur for other foods. That's because Kosher wine is used for sacramental purposes.

"From the time the grapes are actually crushed, you have to have Orthodox Jews actually run the machinery and do the entire process until it's boiled or pasteurized. Once it's pasteurized, then under the supervision of an Orthodox Jew other people can produce the wine," Schlagman said.

The Manischewitz line is a major part of the Constellation Brands portfolio of wines.

"Manischewitz product is very popular. It is the number one selling kosher wine in the category. In fact, we command over half the share of that category. The brand's been around for a very long time, dating back to just post prohibition," said Amy Martin, Constellation Brands Marketing Director.

Constellations Brands purchased the Manischewitz brand in 1986. The entire line is produced and bottled in Canandaigua and is sold worldwide.

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