I write an article about kosher wines and ask for help. Tell me, in the production of grapes, the agricultural laws of the Torah operate only on Israeli soil? If in another country the wine producer wants to produce kosher wine, should he comply with them? I'm talking about the laws of the Orlah, Shmita, Ma'aser, Kilayim. Since when can only a Jew touch the grape? From the moment of harvesting or from the moment of entering the grapes into the wine press? Can a Jew trust not Israeli producers of kosher wine?
If you're writing an article, the best thing to do is speak to a real-life expert. I'd recommend calling the Orthodox Union, Star-K, or the like and they should be able to put you in touch with someone actually responsible for certification. (Or if you want a more European angle, try the London Beth Din.)
But broadly speaking:
- Shmitah and Ma'aser apply only to Israeli soil. If you pick up a bottle of kosher wine made in Israel and read the label carefully, there will usually be additional information near the kosher certification saying that these issues have also been addressed.
- The requirement for kosher wine to be made by Jews starts from when it's "grape juice", i.e. pressing the grapes. Plain old table grapes bought at any grocery store (assuming they didn't grow in Israel) are kosher, no matter who handled them; and kosher wine producers don't have to worry about who picked or handled the grapes.
- "Non-Israeli producers of kosher wine" -- if the wine is properly certified kosher, that means that it was handled by Jews from pressing until the bottle was sealed. There are kosher-certified wines available from France, Italy, Argentina, Spain, Australia, and the US, to name a few -- in all of those cases, there are Jews located there, making sure it's kosher. As long as you trust the certification, these are just as kosher as wine made in Israel (albeit they did not have the same tithing requirements). As many of these certifications are well-regarded, plenty of kosher wines are imported into Israel, with their French/Italian/Argentinian/etc. certifications then endorsed by Israeli certifiers. (It's similarly not uncommon, for example, if you're a US importer of Spanish wines, to talk to a US kosher certifier like the OU, have them check the Spanish kosher certification, and if they're satisfied, add the OU symbol, which the American consumer is used to seeing.)
(Source: Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 173)
- Most of the laws of Orla apply outside of Israel.
- Relevant to vines: if a branch of a vine was buried and a new vine grew where it protrudes, there is no problem of Orla on the new vine. However, in Israel, the new vine becomes Orla if the buried branch is cut. Outside of Israel the new vine will not be Orla in this case.
(Source: Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De'ah 296)
- One may not plant Kilayim anywhere, nor may one ask a non-Jew to plant Kilayim.
- To be considered Kilayim outside of Israel one has to plant 2 types of grains or vegetables together with the vine. In Israel the laws are stricter.
- Outside of Isreal one need not check that the grapes are fom Kilayim; unless one knows for sure they are, they are permitted.