LINCOLN PARK, N.J. - A ShopRite liquor store here plans to expand a novel wine-tasting program at a local synagogue to a second place of worship.
The store has conducted kosher wine samplings at an area synagogue for the last three years before the start of the Passover holiday. At each event, several dozen selections are poured for a crowd of about 200 people.
The tastings have been so successful that ShopRite is now looking to bring them to another community synagogue for this year's Passover season, according to Keith Johnson, store manager. ShopRite is part of the Wakefern Food Corp. in Elizabeth, N.J.
"This is a way to expand our business, and shed the stigma that supermarkets don't carry fine wines," Johnson told SN.
The synagogue-sampling event is one of several ways the store is building category sales. To better highlight kosher, one of its biggest growth areas, it merchandises the assortment in a prominent 8-foot section in the front of the store.
"It's one of the few areas that's gaining shelf space, rather than losing it," he said.
Tastings are important not only to show that ShopRite is active in the kosher wine business, but also to dispel the notion that kosher wine isn't good, Johnson said.
"When people think of kosher wine, many think of bland, boiled wines," he said, stressing that kosher wine has made strong advancements in quality and variety.
Eitan Segal, director of public relations of Kedem Group's Royal Wine Corp., Bayonne, N.J., concurred that the status of kosher wine, especially authentic Israeli wine, is rapidly improving as more Israeli wineries export for the first time and existing exporters strengthen the quality of their offerings.
"Wine producers have hired new winemakers and sourced grapes from high-quality vineyards in northern Israel," Segal said. Likewise, the market for kosher wine is growing as Jewish Americans, regardless of their level of religious observance, purchase kosher wine as a way to support the Israeli economy.
"It's a unifying bond," Segal said.
Royal Wine Corp. has responded to heightened demand by expanding its kosher wine offerings, featuring new brands from high-profile wineries like Carmel and Herzog, Segal said.
Retailers are following suit. It wasn't too long ago that ShopRite stocked only a few kosher brands, such as those from Kedem and Manischewitz, and merchandised them in an off-aisle "where you put things that you didn't know where else to put," Johnson said.
Today, along with getting front-end placement, the assortment boasts about 40 kosher wines from around the world, including, Israel, Italy, Argentina and Chile.