Why are some wines kosher and some not?

5 Answers 5


The process from the harvesting of the grapes until the completed wine product is sealed in the bottle is performed by Observant Jews.


The Torah prohibits wine offered as a libation to idols (Shemos 34:15). Based on a generalization that non-Jews are devout practitioners of their religion, wine made, touched, poured, or tapped by someone who is not an observant Jew was prohibited by the Sages (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 123:1, see also Chochmas Adam 76:1) out of concern that it might have been offered to an idol. (Incidentally, in an unrelated discussion a certain work I read mentioned that the Greeks, whose culture was highly influential during the time when the Sanhedrin formalized many Rabbinical laws, held wine libations in particularly high esteem). Additionally the restriction was meant to restrain social interaction somewhat to lessen the possibility of inter-faith marriage (Taz 123:1, Shach 123:1, based on the Gemara)

Wine which has been cooked loses quality and is no longer fit for libation. As such the restrictions no longer apply once wine has been cooked (mevushal) provided it was still kosher up until that point (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 123:3).

  • 1
    I believe it's a matter of dispute whether the handling has to be exclusively by observant Jews or just by Jews.
    – Isaac Moses
    Apr 9, 2010 at 12:45
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    Touching is not the issue. Pouring is the problem. If an aku"m just touches or holds a bottle of non-mevushal wine it is still permitted.
    – Yahu
    Apr 16, 2010 at 17:15
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    Touching a bottle of non-mevushal wine may not be an issue, touching the wine, even by means of an object held in the hand (See Y.D.124:11), is.
    – Yirmeyahu
    May 11, 2010 at 6:25
  • I believe it's TOUCHING the wine itself, or MOVING (including pouring) an uncorked bottle.
    – Shalom
    May 11, 2010 at 13:57
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    wine today is yain stam not yain nesek, so this answer does not refer to wine sold today in American/Israeli wine stores
    – user1040
    May 11, 2012 at 9:39

The question and the answers mostly deal with the spiritual aspects of wine. I am not disagreeing with them. But, it should also be remembered that although wine is a vegetarian product, it still must be prepared in accordance with the laws of kashrus. In other words, all equipment and any additives need to be in accordance with kashrus. The equipment used must be kosher, just like any other food preparation equipment. Some wineries might use products that are not kosher in finishing and aging. Kosher wine will only be made using additives that are also kosher and when a kosher certification is present, we know that the wine was produced as a food product in accordance with laws of kashrus.

  • As far as I know, kosher certification is not ordinarily needed for drinks. There's no worry about non-kosher additives in, e.g., beer or vodka.
    – paquda
    Feb 3, 2016 at 14:28
  • Unlike beer or spirits wine made from grapes is nutrient defficiant on its own and requires additions to help healthy fermentation. One such example i have used is fermaid-k certified kosher by the ok. Not all wine nutrients are kosher though.
    – Laser123
    Jul 17, 2017 at 14:37

If the grapes are from Israel, the wine must have truma and maaser taken from it. If truma has not been taken from Israeli wine, it may or may not have the punishment of spiritual cutting off, depending on separate arguments. Thus perhaps drinking some non-kosher wines is worse than eating pig.

For all wines there is a rabbinical decree that a non-Jew cannot touch it. If it is cooked there is no decree on such wine, since it was not common to drink cooked wine. What is called cooked is of course a disagreement, and the OU has 3 different mevushal heckshers depending on how the wine was cooked. Also whether the wine or grape juice was cooked is called mevushal is another disagreement, which may or may not be a problem for Herzog wines. For wine made for idol worship which excludes most/all wineries today see Yirmeahus answer.

If a Jew breaks Shabbat in public, he has the halachic status of a non-Jew. What is called breaking Shabbat in public and where it does and does not apply is a separate argument.

  • 1
    "For all wines there is a rabinical decree that a non Jew cannot touch it."? Never heard of it. Did you perhaps mean to say there's a decree against a Jew's drinking it if a non-Jew touched it? Also, and more importantly, "If a Jew breaks shabbat in public, he has the halacic status of a non Jew."? So he's allowed to continue such activity, then? -1.
    – msh210
    May 11, 2012 at 15:38
  • Why the belligerence? And why are you asking - if he can continue his activity - on a wine question. Open up a new question if you want to know.
    – user1040
    May 13, 2012 at 13:21
  • I'm not sure who user1040 is or if he/she will ever see this comment, but a simple edit will make it clearer. A knowledgeable reader might understand the intended meaning, but a casual reader looking for information might not. I'd +1 this answer if it were improved.
    – Seth J
    May 23, 2012 at 14:03
  • @SethJ - Isn't user1040 the same as Will, who used to be a regular contributer to Mi.Yodeya? May 25, 2012 at 15:34
  • @AdamMosheh, I dunno, is he?
    – Seth J
    May 25, 2012 at 15:43

On one hand, I heard that some interpret the rabbinic decree as being that a non-Jew cannot even look at wine, or it becomes yayin nesech. That is a stringent opinion, which is supposedly observed by certain chassidic communities.

One the other hand, I heard the following leniency in the name of Rabbi Yaakov Etlinger: even if someone is not a sabbath-observer, it doesn't necessarily mean that he denies that Hashem created the world in six days and rested on the seventh. I believe that the Hebrew term for this is mumar leteiavon. Most people nowadays don't actually believe that there are other gods, so according to him, wine cannot acquire the status of "idolatrous libation wine," which really is quite a chiddush. You might have atheists nowadays, but they don't pour libations to gods that aren't.

(Similarly, this is why Rav Kook says that atheism is one step closer to Judaism than pantheism. Rabbi Chaim ibn Attar disagrees based on the verse (Deut. 6:4) Hear, O Israel: the LORD our God, the LORD is one, because first we should consider it as if there are other gods and that Hashem is our God, and then we reject that there are other gods and that Hashem is the only God, Hashem Echad).

  • @AdamMosheh Im not sure how this answers the question... May 25, 2012 at 6:36
  • I don't see a Nafka Minah between the two, sorry. It still sounds like there is a requirement for an atheist to (at least) be an idolater if he cannot be a monotheist.
    – Seth J
    May 25, 2012 at 11:12
  • @SethJ - So are you saying that all atheists are actually closet idolaters? May 25, 2012 at 15:30
  • Not at all. I'm saying the wording of the sentence makes it sound like idolatry should be encouraged because it's better than atheism. I'm just wondering if that's what R' Chaim ibn Atta actually meant or if a rephrasing of the sentence would help clarify some ambiguity.
    – Seth J
    May 25, 2012 at 15:32
  • Idolatry, kevayachol. May 25, 2012 at 15:33

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