Better Wine

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I placed myself in an interesting dilemma on Shabbos. For kiddush, we had on our table our regular red wine, which had already been poured partially into the kiddush cup, and white wine our guests had brought before Shabbos. The white wine was slightly better so perhaps it should have been used for kiddush. However, the red wine was red, which is preferable (see Mishnah Berurah 272:10,12), and had already been partially poured so I decided to say kiddush on the red wine.

After kiddush I poured myself some white wine and was suddenly unsure whether to recite the blessing “ha-tov ve-ha-meitiv.” The Gemara (Berakhos 59b) states (Koren tr.): “Although [the Sages] said that [in the case of] a change [in the type of] wine one need not recite a [second] blessing [over the wine], he does recite: Blessed… Who is good and does good (ha-tov ve-ha-meitiv).” On your first wine, you recite borei peri ha-gafen. On your second wine (and all subsequent), if it is better than the prior you recite ha-tov ve-ha-meitiv (if you are drinking with at least one other person from the same bottle and the original bottle still has some left).

However, what if that second wine was on the table when you said borei peri ha-gafen? Does that original blessing apply to the second wine also, removing the need for ha-tov ve-ha-meitiv? There are three views in the posekim about this:

  1. The Shulchan Arukh (Orach Chaim 175:3) quotes the Mordekhai that if you have two types of wine on the table, you must recite borei peri ha-gafen on the better wine. And therefore you need not recite ha-tov ve-ha-meitiv. However, earlier (ibid., par. 1), the Shulchan Arukh states that even if you have two types of wine before you from, you recite ha-tov ve-ha-meitiv on the second wine. While the Rema has a different understanding, the Magen Avraham (ad loc., 2) explains that if you incorrectly recite borei peri ha-gafen on the lesser wine, you then recite ha-tov ve-ha-meitiv on the second wine. The Arukh Ha-Shulchan (ad loc., 6) suggests that when two wines are different but equally good, you recite borei peri ha-gafen on one and ha-tov ve-ha-meitiv on the other.
  2. The Taz (ad loc., 4) disagrees with the Shulchan Arukh and says that if you have two types of wine on your table, you should recite borei peri ha-gafen on the lesser wine so you can then say ha-tov ve-ha-meitiv on the better wine.
  3. The Divrei Chamudos (Berakhos, ch. 9 no. 47) rules that as long as you have the second wine prepared for drinking when saying borei peri ha-gafen on the first wine, you do not say ha-tov ve-ha-meitiv on the second wine. Even if the second wine is outside the room, you still don’t recite the additional blessing.

The Mishnah Berurah (ad loc., 5, 14) rules like the first approach: you should recite borei peri ha-gafen on the best wine on the table but if you didn’t, you recite ha-tov ve-ha-meitiv on better wines even if they were already on the table. (In the prior note, Mishnah Berurah quotes the view of the Divrei Chamudos but does not conclude like him. See R. Chaim Kanievsky’s Shoneh Halakhos 175:1.)

The Kaf Ha-Chaim (ad loc., 9) follows the third approach: you should not recite ha-tov ve-ha-meitiv if you had prepared the better for drinking, even if it wasn’t on the table.

Piskei Teshuvos (175:1), based on Minchas Yitzchak (9:14), explains the common practice to never recite ha-tov ve-ha-meitiv. If you piece together all the strict opinions, you will almost never find a situation in which you may recite the blessing. However, he concludes, those who say the blessing have authorities on whom to rely. I found this surprising because, in my experience, people say this blessing on new, better wine.

In my situation, R. Mordechai Eliyahu (Responsa Ma’amar Mordekhai, vol. 3 no. 13) follows Kaf Ha-Chaim and would not approve reciting the blessing. R. Eliezer Melamed (Peninei Halakhah, Berakhos 7:7-8) dismisses the strict opinions because most authorities rules in practice to recite the blessing. Therefore, since he follows the Mishnah Berurah, he would suggest that I recite ha-tov ve-ha-meitiv on the better white wine. And that is what I did.

About Gil Student

Rabbi Gil Student is the Editor of TorahMusings.com, a leading website on Orthodox Jewish scholarly subjects, and the Book Editor of the Orthodox Union’s Jewish Action magazine. He writes a popular column on issues of Jewish law and thought featured in newspapers and magazines, including The Jewish Link, The Jewish Echo and The Vues. In the past, he has served as the President of the small Jewish publisher Yashar Books and as the Managing Editor of OU Press. Rabbi Student has served two terms on the Executive Committee of the Rabbinical Council of America and currently serves as the Director of the Halacha Commission of the Rabbinical Alliance of America. He serves on the Editorial Boards of Jewish Action magazine, the Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society and the Achieve Journal of Behavioral Health, Religion & Community, as well as the Board of OU Press. He has published five English books, the most recent titled Search Engine volume 2: Finding Meaning in Jewish Texts -- Jewish Leadership, and served as the American editor for Morasha Kehillat Yaakov: Essays in Honour of Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks.

17 comments

  1. “Therefore, since he follows the Mishnah Berurah, he would suggest that I recite ha-tov ve-ha-meitiv on the better white wine. And that is what I did.”

    if you drank the red wine for kiddush in part because it is preferable (and cite the MB for that judgement), had you not already decided that the red wine is better?

  2. Didn’t you have the both in mind. You seemed to because you had intention to drink the white wine. Does the hefsek break that intention?

  3. given btaam vareach ein lhitvakeach, is the slightly better determination made on an individual or community basis, or just price per ounce?(which may also vary by location or other reason)
    KT

  4. Joe in Australia

    Perhaps you should ask your guest to conceal any bottle of wine he brings next time he visits, and only bring it out after you make kiddush. That way you will be yotze all opinions, plus have an extra brocha.

  5. What is your definition for a “better wine”?

  6. “The white wine was slightly better so perhaps it should have been used for kiddush”

    A common practice is to make kiddush own grape juice or “sweet” wine (some call,it ritual wine) and not on the best wine at the table. Many times, children and adults do not like the taste of good red wine – the common custom is that everyone gets a taste of the kiddush wine.

    “if it is better than the prior you recite ha-tov ve-ha-meitiv” – many only recite this beracha on exceptional wine – castel, yarden katzrin, or yatir forest perhaps. From the post it implies that if I make kiddush on an $8 and then I need to make a Tov v’hamativ on a $12 bottle – I believe this is not the custom today.

    “if it is better than the prior you recite ha-tov ve-ha-meitiv” – isn’t this subjective ? And does on have to first drink and then determine that a Tov v’hamativ is justified – perhaps bad bottle etc so no beracha l’vatala?

  7. ses: if you drank the red wine for kiddush in part because it is preferable (and cite the MB for that judgement), had you not already decided that the red wine is better?

    No. You make kiddush on red wine because wine is referred biblically as being red.

    Isaac Balbin: Didn’t you have the both in mind.

    I had both in mind for the borei peri ha-gafen. But that says nothing about the ha-tov ve-ha-meitiv, which is an entirely different blessing.

    Joe: Perhaps you should ask your guest to conceal any bottle of wine he brings next time he visits, and only bring it out after you make kiddush

    We don’t use the local eruv so that isn’t possible. He brought it before Shabbos.

    joel rich: is the slightly better determination made on an individual or community basis, or just price per ounce
    Simcha: What is your definition for a “better wine”?

    There are many objective measures of wine quality but I don’t think they are relevant here. It is a personal measure. The Shulchan Arukh (OC 175:2) says that you say the blessing even if you are unsure whether the second wine is better. As long as you are sure it isn’t worse, you say ha-tov ve-ha-meitiv.

    Ruvie: many only recite this beracha on exceptional wine – castel, yarden katzrin, or yatir forest perhaps. From the post it implies that if I make kiddush on an $8 and then I need to make a Tov v’hamativ on a $12 bottle – I believe this is not the custom today.

    I find this strange (given the Shulchan Arukh mentioned above) but I also find the Minchas Yitzchak/Piskei Teshuvos’ approach strange.

    isn’t this subjective ?

    So?

  8. did you say it with shem v’malchus?

  9. Here is a practical tip I use. There is a white wine I really like. My children all prefer grape juice.

    I pour a small amount of grape juice (Kedem regular, the thick, dark kind) in the bottom of the kiddush cup, and then for the rest pour white wine The resulting mix basically tastes like the white wine, but the color is quite reddish, more so than Tokay which R. Moshe Feinstein says qualifies as red.

    Kiddies fill their cups with grape juice, then can pour a few drops from my kiddush cup.

  10. Yes, after seeing R. Eliezer Melamed’s section in which he makes clear to recite the blessing. After later seeing the Shulchan Arukh and commentaries, I feel even more confident in that conclusion.

  11. I believe the Beis HaLevi (al haTorah at the end of Beraishis – parshas vayigash IIRC) where he has his famous piece on shomea ke-oneh — raises a different question, which is whether you should make hatov vehameitiv when you drink the wine during a meal with bentching or does the hatov vehametiv cover that as well.

  12. That way you will be yotze all opinions, plus have an extra brocha.

    I’m curious what our priorities here should be. Is an extra bracha to be considered a good thing? A bad thing?

  13. (in case the justification for the latter is not obvious – see ברכה שאינה צריכה)

  14. MiMedinat HaYam

    “You make kiddush on red wine because wine is referred biblically as being red.” is it biblical, or mi’derabbanan (based on standards of talmudic times, in talmudic geography?)

    2. so you made kiddush on wine you did not prefer? you did not honor the shabbat, did not honor the kiddush. this pesach, make a bracha on overbaked matza you do not like. eat lettuce you dont like, instead of horseradish some say is not desirable. (of course, diff ppl have diff preferences for mitzva marror, based on non mitzva concerns, such as the lettuce bug issue.) make a bracha on tu be-shvat fruit you dont like (provided its a sheva minim, another issue.)

    3. did you cut the challah on the overbaked part of the challah, per MB? or the reg baked part everybody prefers today?

  15. Allow me to have a rant on the subject of fine wine.

    The overbearing hubris of so-called wine connoisseurs really turns me off. Especially those snobs that flaunt their supposed expertise on which type of wine to pair with which type of meat, fish or fowl.
    And what about the aroma or so-called “bouquet” and the least little trace of various flavors and sensations which are stimulated by the exotic fruit of the vine and can be identified and named with total accuracy?
    Don’t you just love being invited to wine tasting parties -usually served with a variety of smelly, old, hard, cheeses laid out on a wooden board and listening to the raptures of the self-proclaimed oenophiles?
    Also vacations to wineries where the main activity is to taste as many different wines as possible and then rate then in terms “superiority”.
    And how about eating at a fancy restaurant with a pricey wine list, when a very expensive bottle from a excellent region and very good year is brought to your table at just the right temperature by a usually swarthy sommelier who professionally and expertly uncorks the bottle, lets the wine “breathe” for the proper length of time and them pours you a small sample to inhale, then sip and swirl, to see if it meets with your satisfaction. Bah,humbug.Give me a break.

  16. As an avid wine-drinker I have no patience for the type of pompous sillyness Mair Zvi caricatures, but there is some science behind all of this too: e.g. http://www.scientificamerican.com/podcast/episode.cfm?id=red-wine-with-fish-iron-ic-answer-09-10-22

    By the by, no wine drunk from a silver cup will taste good. Use glass for anything “good”; or, if it must be metal — titanium.

  17. Oh no, soon it will be expected for frum Jews to buy titanium kiddush cups. Passing through Geulah last week I saw an ad: “No more outrageous streimel prices! Now starting at just $450 each.” Don’t give anyone the idea that they need titaniums kiddush cups too 🙂

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