May 15, 2016

kashrut fraud: Lot Winery Syrah Reserve 2013

***important update at the bottom of the post

I wrote to the Rabbanut about a bottle of wine I came across whose label triggered a warning light in my head.

As you can see from the pictures, the wine is from the Lot Winery, Syrah Reserve 2013. On the back label it says, along with the hechsher that the wine is hetter mechira.

There are a couple of things strange about this.

First of all, the way it is written. It says "kosher for Pesach via the hetter mechira". That makes no sense, and looks like whoever wrote the label was confusing hetter mechira of shmitta and mechiras chametz, and combined the two on the label.

Second, 2013 was not a shmittah year, so how could this wine possibly be hetter mechira?

Third, in small letters on the back label it says the date of filling the bottle was August 2015. Is the categorization as hetter mechira based on that date? It would be wrong if it did, as the date the bottle was filled should have no bearing on its shmitta status. However that is the only mention of anything that might connect this wine to the shmitta year, so is that what it is based on?

So, is this wine kosher via use of the hetter mechira? Is it kosher and not connected to shmitta in any way? Is it shmitta and not hetter mechira?

So, I wrote to the Rabbanut email address with which I am familiar - the address of the kashrut fraud department. I sent the pictures to them and asked for an explanation.

My email was forwarded to the relevant people, and I was responded to by the rav of the Ramat Hanegev regional council, Rav Meir Suissa. His logo and signature is on the bottle as certifying its kashrut status, hence they forwarded it to him for confirmation.

Rav Suissa wrote back to me saying that he has never seen such wine before. He point sout further that no wine manufacturer keeps the details of the winery secret on the label, and on this label there are no details of the winery. Rav Suissa goes on to say that the Lot Winery has regularly produced less than desirable issues, and this is a definite forgery of the kashrut. They will deal with this and register their complaint.

My point in posting this is not to say don't buy this wine, though you should not if you care about kashrut, but to say that you should pay attention to the information on the labels when you come across an item you are not familiar with. Sometimes everything is in good order, and sometimes things just look strange and trigger warning lights. If something does not make sense, ask. They are normally pretty good about labeling things properly, and if the information on the label is weird, it should trigger a warning. And you can ask. And they will deal with it and respond.

Personally, I have written to the Rabbanut a number of times in the past, usually about imported products with questionable labels, and they have always responded, clarified, and thanked me for pointing out the problem.

UPDATE (May 19, 2016):
The Rabbanut just wrote back to me with the results of their investigation.
If I understood correctly, the story is:
the label was printed without going through the proper channels, but the wine was bottled in the presence of the mashgiach. The label was used, as the mashgiach did not realize the label had not been approved, and the rav of the rabbanut initially thought it was a forgery because he had never approved or even seen this label for this wine. The relevant parties have been reprimanded about that.

Regarding the heter mechira issue, he tells me that this wine is a blend of a number of other wines and some of them are from hetter mechira wine from 2015, though the main wine is from 2013. Therefore, even though the wine is labeled as 2013 vintage, it is hetter mechira because of some of the wine it is mixed with.

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  1. so if its not his hechsher, what are they going to do about it?

  2. I dont know but there are legal steps to take against fraud, and more specifically kashrut fraud. at a minimum they can force this company to stop using the hechshers logo without authorization.

  3. what about the bottles at the shop?

  4. I dont know. Maybe they can force a recall of all bottles with such labels

  5. I know for a fact that brand in a number of varieties is on the market... and while I don't care about kosher, I do care about truth in labelling - and if they lie about one label, who knows what else they're lying about.

    It's the same thing at resteraunts that refill hienz ketchup bottles with off brand ketchup - if they're going to cheat on pennies, I can't trust their food.

  6. Thanks for the post! Davka, the name "Lot," should be a "red light."

    1. And the possuk they use as a slogan even more so!


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