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Manischewitz is a company based in the United States which specializes in producing kosher foods and beverages. While they make a wide assortment of products, including matzo, the name Manischewitz is often used as a synonym for the sweet kosher wine they produce. Kosher food must meet a number of conditions to be considered in keeping with Jewish dietary laws. This means that the ingredients in Manischewitz, the equipment with which it is processed, and the way it is handled all must meet very specific requirements so that it is deemed kosher.
Manischewitz is made from the Concord grape, a red grape native to the United States. The family of grapes the Concord hails from, that of Vitis labrusca, is considerably different from the European varieties of Vitis vinifera, and is considered by many in the wine-drinking community to be inferior for use in wine. There is some evidence that Concord grapes themselves, which were cultivated in the mid-19th century, may actually have a small amount of Vitis vinifera, because of the nature of their flowers. Concord grapes are also often used as food grapes in the United States, and are characterized by their large seeds and very poignant aroma. This aroma translates through to wines, such as Manischewitz, made from the grape.
Manischewitz, like many kosher wines, is often noted for its intense sweetness. Early kosher wine-makers such as Manischewitz were faced with a dilemma in the New World, where they did not have access to high-quality grapes and often were rushed to produce ample amounts of wine in time for holidays such as Passover. With lower-quality juice to work with and insufficient time, the wines produced tended to be far too bitter for easy consumption, so sugar was added after fermentation to help the wines become more palatable. Not all kosher wine need be this sweet, however, and Manischewitz also produces a number of more traditionally-styled wines which are still kosher. The popularity of sweet Manischewitz endures, however, likely as a result of association between faithful Jews and the taste of sweet Manischewitz for ritual use.
While there are other kosher wineries in the United States, Manischewitz is far and away the largest producer. Rarely will one find a Passover celebration in which a wine other than Manischewitz is served. The symbol of the Manischewitz company, which may be found on all its wines, is a bundle of Concord grapes over a Star of David, with the word Manischewitz emblazoned on top.