For years Champagne and other sparkling vinos are seen as celebration wines and come New Year’s Eve, sparkling vinos are uncorked the world over. The name ‘Champagne’ can legally appear only on sparkling vinos produced in the Champagne region in France, and today there are some fine sparkling wines coming out of most wine regions, including Israel.
A friend recently asked me “how do they get the bubbles into the wine?” thinking that the process is similar to producing Coca Cola or 7-UP. While there are several ways to produce sparkling vinos, one of which indeed involves artificially inserting CO2 into the wine, my personal preference are wines produced in the traditional method, also known as méthode Champenoise In the méthode Champenoise, a secondary alcoholic fermentation takes place in the bottle resulting in focused, delicate and balanced bubbles. Another popular production process is known as méthode Charmat (AKA Metodo Italiano), here the wine undergoes secondary fermentation in stainless steel vats rather than in individual bottles, and bottled under pressure in a continuous process. This process is easier to control and somewhat cheaper than the traditional method but nevertheless, it is also capable of showing very good and enjoyable results. If you are looking for an off-the-beaten track Champagne, importer Eldad Levi imports some excellent bubbly from smaller/boutique producers from France’s celebrated wine region.
Over the years Israeli wineries have also began producing sparkling wines of their own, using both traditional and modern production methods. Today, alongside celebrated, and often pricey, French Champagne brands including Krug, Lanson, Billcard Salmon and a wide variety of Cava, Proseco and Lambrusco wines, usually offering very good value for money, the Israeli wine consumer can find a growing number of Israeli bubblies:
Last week I attended a launch of event for Golan Heights Winery’s new (and first) Yarden, Rose, Brut, 2008 – if sparkling wines are considered celebration wines, Rose sparkling wines are considered the ultimate romantic celebratory vino. Produced in the traditional method, this is a very enjoyable wine produced from 70% Chardonnay and the balance Pinot Noir. Clean and focused bubbles, refreshing notes of red apples, strawberries, flowers and a touch of yeast. While I always enjoy the winery’s Blanc de Blanc 2007, I was very pleasantly surprised by the Gamla, Brut, Non Vintage (NV) – a very refreshing sparkling wine, produced from 50 % Pinot Noir and 50 % Chardonnay grapes suggesting pleasant fruity aromas and a clean finish.
Carmel Winery’s Private Collection, Brut, NV – is a blend of French Colombard and Chardonnay with a lemony-green apple profile and a clean finish. Pelter winery from the Golan Heights produces a Blanc de Blancs (NV) – 100% Chardonnay grapes, Pelter's sparkling wine is produced in the traditional Champagne method. Overall a very good bubbly (though rather pricey) suggesting hints of yeast, lemon zest, white peaches and a pleasant finish.
The Tabor winery produces several sparkling vinos - the 562, Blanc, NV – named after the altitude of the Tabor Mountain situated at 562 meters above sea level, is produced from Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes with pleasant fruity notes and balancing acidity. Another sparkling vino from Tabor is the Pninim pomegranate wine – I recently gave a bottle to a friend in Asia and it turned out to be a great success. While I am personally less fond of non-grape based vinos, if you are looking for something different offering good value for money, this is an excellent choice.
Happy New Year's!