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Rabbi Dovid Cohen
Administrative Rabbinical Coordinator of the cRc
Over the years, there has been considerable debate regarding the bracha on grape juice produced from concentrate, and whether such juice is suitable for Kiddush and daled kosos. As many consumers use grape juice for exactly those purposes, it is crucial that any certified grape juice be suitable for those mitzvos. This document will review the highlights of the primary opinions regarding this issue.
A major proponent of the position that reconstituted grape juice isn’t suitable for Kiddush and possibly doesn’t even deserve the bracha of borei pri hagafen, was Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Minchas Shlomo I:4).1 He reasoned as follows:
In summary, pasteurized or concentrated grape juice cannot ferment and therefore does not have the full status of wine. As a result, the bracha on it is hagafen but water added to it doesn’t require that bracha. Seemingly, the bracha on reconstituted juice shouldn’t be hagafen but even if it is, it isn’t suitable for Kiddush.
Rav Belsky and Rav Felder
In response to Minchas Shlomo, Rav Yisroel Belsky7 suggests a proof from Tosfos in Shabbos,8 which shows that reconstituted wine is suitable for Kiddush. The Gemara9 rules that one who carries a kezayis-sized piece of congealed (i.e. concentrated) wine outdoors on Shabbos has violated the issur of hotza’ah since that amount of concentrate can be reconstituted into a revi’is of wine. Tosfos explains that although the person carried the concentrate without the vital water needed for reconstitution, a kezayis of concentrate is still a meaningful amount because when the water is added to it the resulting cup of wine will even be suitable for a kos shel bracha. Clearly, Tosfos is assuming that reconstituted wine can satisfy all the requirements of wine, including Kiddush, and the bracha on them is obviously hagafen.
Although this proof is ironclad, at first glance it seems to not address the question at hand. Minchas Shlomo readily agreed that water added to wine takes on the characteristics of wine, and his thesis is that water added to concentrated grape juice which isn’t alcoholic and can never ferment, doesn’t take on the status of wine! If so, what proof is there against Minchas Shlomo from a Gemara which is discussing concentrated wine?
Before giving a possible answer to this question, it is worthwhile to consider a similar proof offered by Rav Gedalia Felder10 from a Tosfos in Yoma,11 which must be introduced by citing two Gemaros. Gemara, Succah 12a understands that the items suitable for S’chach are referred to in the posuk12 באספך מגרנך ומיקבך , and in discussing that posuk the Gemara asks whether “wines” is limited to a specific kind of dried wine from S’nir that is as pasty and dense as dried fig cakes and is solid enough to span the top of one’s Succah as S’chach. The second Gemara (Yoma 76a-b) is searching for a source which proves that the word “אכילה ” includes not only eating but even drinking, and cites a proof from a posuk which uses the word “אכילה ” to describe what one does with wine.
On this proof, Tosfos asks whether the posuk is referring to the dried out, pasty wine described in Gemara, Succah which is clearly so thick that it must be eaten rather than drunk? One of Tosfos’ answers is that while in the pasty form, the concentrated wine is inedible (such that the posuk can’t be referring to eating it in that state) and can only be eaten after being mixed with water and reconstituted to a beverage. Rav Felder points out that Tosfos seems to have no issue with such a reconstituted beverage being referred to as “wine” by the posuk, and this indicates that reconstituted grape juice is considered wine for all halachos.
Rav Felder isn’t addressing Minchas Shlomo’s points, but can we use his proof from a case of pasty wine to discover what the halacha would be regarding concentrate grape juice? It would seem that in fact we can, as follows. Minchas Shlomo suggests that although raw grape juice is considered “wine”, when it can no longer ferment it loses that status. The art of producing this pasty, dried wine has possibly been lost for thousands of years,13 but it seems rather clear that whatever method was used to remove so much moisture from the wine would have also caused the alcohol to evaporate. If so, the dried out pasty wine is something that was once halachically considered “wine” but has now lost its alcoholic content and has no possibility of fermenting once again. Yet Tosfos holds that if water is added to such an (inedible) product, the resulting beverage is, in fact, considered wine. If so, the exact same should be true of pasteurized or concentrated grape juice; although they can no longer ferment, they retain their status as wine and can even pass on that status to water added for reconstitution.
We can consider explaining Rav Belsky’s proof in a similar manner, after giving some background regarding concentration. The congealed wine described in Gemara, Shabbos is actually quite similar to the grape juice concentrate that’s produced nowadays in that 83-89% of their beverage’s moisture was removed (see the footnote)14 which is just a bit more than the approximately 80% which is commonly removed nowadays. Secular sources indicate that in the times of the Gemara people performed this type of concentration by heating the wine until sufficient water evaporated or boiled out of it, and we have no reason to assume some other method was used.15
Let us now consider what happens when wine is concentrated in this manner. It is well known that although water boils at 212° F (and begins to quickly evaporate at temperatures approaching that level), alcohol boils at approximately 173° F which means that as the wine is heated to evaporate/boil out the water, the alcohol will evaporate first. Thus, if we accept the theory that the Gemara’s wine was concentrated through heating, by the time the product lost 83-89% of its moisture it would surely be 100% alcohol free! As such, we can conclude the proof from Tosfos, Shabbos just as we did above; if Tosfos rules that a beverage reconstituted from such a concentrate is considered wine suitable for Kiddush even though the concentrate had no alcohol and couldn’t ferment, so too, grape juice reconstituted from concentrate that can’t ferment is also suitable for Kiddush.
Furthermore, once we’ve established that the Gemara’s concentrate was quite similar to ours, we can use Tosfos to resolve an issue mentioned at the end of Rav Auerbach’s teshuvah. He suggests that since grape juice concentrate is inedible it isn’t suitable for Kiddush, and a proof is required to show that it can regain that suitability by merely adding water. It would seem that Tosfos can serve as that proof because we’ve seen that the concentrate in Gemara, Shabbos had even less moisture than modern concentrate does and Tosfos still maintains that after reconstitution it can be used for Kiddush.
There is however, one question on the above. There is a machlokes as to whether the bracha on cooked wine is hagafen or shehakol, and the crux of the question is whether wine is or isn’t negatively affected by the cooking.16 The halacha is that the bracha on cooked wine is hagafen17 which indicates that we assume cooked wine isn’t significantly ruined by the cooking. Is the same true of wine or grape juice cooked until it becomes the type of concentrate we’ve been discussing? We’ve noted that when one cooks wine, the alcohol boils out before the water, and the same is also true of what scientists refer to as the “flavor essence”. The most flavorful portions of the juice are so volatile, that even in modern concentrators, which are carefully controlled to operate under vacuum and at relatively low temperatures, the flavor essence escapes from the juice long before most of the moisture does. It seems clear that juice which is missing that flavor essence would be considered to have been “ruined via cooking” and its bracha would be shehakol. In modern concentrators, this isn’t an issue as the flavor-laden vapors are captured, condensed and added back into the concentrate such that the reconstituted juice tastes reasonably similar to juice that isn’t from concentrate. The taste is similar enough that Rav Auerbach and Rav Belsky both note that the concentration process doesn’t ruin the taste enough to affect the bracha. However, if wine was concentrated in the days of the Gemara via heating and the bracha on the reconstituted juice was hagafen, must we assume they had developed a method of essence recovery? If not, one would have to surmise that they had an unknown alternate method of concentration (e.g. freezing) that didn’t force the flavor essence or the alcohol out of the juice. If so, there is no proof from Tosfos, Shabbos to the questions raised by Rav Auerbach. This requires further consideration.
In summary, Rav Belsky and Rav Felder cite proofs from unrelated statements in Tosfos which indicate that the bracha on reconstituted wine is hagafen and that such wine is suitable for Kiddush. A careful analysis shows that although both Tosfoses are discussing concentrated wine they serve as proofs against Rav Auerbach’s position regarding reconstituted grape juice.
Another proof against Rav Auerbach’s assertions comes from a halacha which Rav Auerbach himself cites. Rav Auerbach contends that pasteurized grape juice is only hagafen because it had been fit for fermentation before pasteurization. If this contention is true, it should follow that if grapes were cooked before they excreted their juice, the bracha on juice squeezed from those grapes should not be hagafen. [In fact, if this was true, much of the kosher grape juice on the market wouldn’t be hagafen as the system described above is commonly used to avoid concerns of stam yayin]. However, Rav Auerbach himself cites Shulchan Aruch 202:11 who rules that in exactly this case where grape or raisins cooked in water until juice is extracted, the bracha is hagafen. This leads to one of two conclusions:
Rav Auerbach suggests that concentrated grape juice retains some characteristics of wine, but may not be able to project those characteristics to water used for reconstitution and is not suitable for kiddush. Others have suggested proofs that appear to disprove some of Rav Auerbach’s assumptions, and after careful analysis there appears to be merit to their claims.
[In a reversal of a longstanding position], Rav Schwartz has accepted these proofs and arguments, and ruled that the proper bracha on grape juice from concentrate is hagafen, and that such juice may be used for kiddush and daled kosos.
Postscript – Grape Juice that is Not from Concentrate
We have seen above that in the closing words of his teshuvah, Rav Auerbach suggests that even if the bracha on grape juice from concentrate is hagafen, it is not usable for kiddush because there was a time when it was inedible (while it was concentrate). In this context, it is worth noting that potassium metabisulfite is a common preservative used in grape juice and a few parts per million of it is commonly found in all grape juice sold for retail consumption. However, in order to store single strength (i.e. non-concentrated) grape juice for many months, many companies add as more than 100 times this amount of potassium metabisulfite to the juice to prevent spoilage, and that much potassium metabisulfite renders the juice inedible! Although the potassium metabisulfite is safely removed before the juice is bottled for retail use, according to Rav Auerbach’s logic the juice should be unfit for kiddush since there was a time when it was inedible. Thus, those who accept Rav Auerbach’s line of reasoning might also be restricted from using certain brands of grape juice that is not from concentrate for kiddush.
1 In addition to the Poskim cited in the coming document, this issue is also discussed in Minchas Yitzchok VIII:14 and Ohr L’tzion II:21.
2 Rema O.C. 204:5.
3 Rashbam, Bava Basra 97b s.v. yayin.
4 The words “maybe” and “possibly” written in the text are taken from the Teshuvah which states:
ואע”ג שהתם הוא רק לענין נסכים דכתיב נסך שכר, מ”מ יבואר להלן שגם לענין ברכה יתכן שהוא רק מפני שראוי להיות שכר…נראה דאף שהתמצית עצמו אע”ג דכמו שהוא לא חזי לשתיה וגם אינו ראוי לתסוס ולהיות יין טוב אפי”ה מסתבר דלא פקע ממנו שם יין, אבל מהיכ”ת נימא שגם על הד’ מדות מים יכול לחול שם יין בגלל זה שטעמם שוה לטעם של מיץ ענבים רגיל אשר גם הוא עצמו אינו חשוב.
The words “יתכן ” and “מהיכי תיתא ” reflect Rav Auerbach’s humbleness but also highlight the lack of sources to prove these critical parts of the argument. Proofs against these assumptions will be presented later in the document.
5Shulchan Aruch 202:1 & 202:11.
6 Rav Auerbach answers the question from kunditin (where the minor but prime ingredient is hagafen), by stating that the bracha is only hagafen in that case because the prime ingredient is a true wine, as opposed to our case where the hagafen ingredient has lost that status. The question on this is that the halacha of kunditin would appear to be a mere example within the rules of ikar v’tafel in Berachos rather than a special halacha related to “wine”. Therefore, in the case of reconstituted grape juice where the concentrate is obviously the ikar ingredient, the bracha should be hagafen.
It appears that his answer to the second question is that water used to extract juice is automatically considered part of the juice due to its crucial role in converting the fruit into a juice, but when water is used to reconstitute concentrate it can only adopt the status of a concentrate which is truly wine (or if the newly created juice ferments into wine). This answer requires further consideration.
7 Printed in Mesorah volume 12 (page 75), available online at http://www.ou.org/pdf/mesorah/mes12.pdf.
8 Tosfos, Shabbos 77a s.v. v’od.
9 Gemara, Shabbos 76b-77a.
10 Yesodei Yeshurun vol. 3** pg. 220.
11 Tosfos, Yoma 76b s.v. gamar.
12 Devarim 16:13.
13 See Sotah 48b.
14 Earlier in the document, we noted that Gemara, Shabbos 77a says that a kezayis-sized piece of concentrated wine could be reconstituted to a revi’is of single strength wine. Gemara, Pesachim 109a-b calculates that a revi’is has the same volume as 1.5 beitzim, and there is a machlokes as to whether a kezayis has the volume of half or a third of a beitzah (see Mishnah Berurah 486:1). We can therefore extrapolate that according to those who hold a kezayis is half of a beitzah, a kezayis is 1/6 of a revi’is and the concentrated wine described in Gemara, Shabbos had lost 5/6 (or 83%) of its moisture, and if a kezayis is a third of a revi’is then a kezayis is 1/9 of a revi’is and the concentrated wine had lost 8/9 (or 89%) of its moisture.
15 In fact, to this day a similar product known in Arabic as dibbs is produced in the Middle East in exactly this manner.
16 See Mishnah Berurah 202:4 & 272:19.
17 Shulchan Aruch 202:1 & 272:8.