Sparkling wine remains the classic wine to make a toast with, be it on New Year’s Eve or at a wedding. It is also a symbol of success and happiness.
Champagne is the byword for quality in sparkling wines.
It is made in the Champagne region in northern France in the most expensive, time-consuming way. It can be bone dry, crisp with mouth-puckering acidity or rich with a bready, yeasty aroma. If it is image you want, then champagne is the only answer.
However, champagne made by the champagne method, now more correctly known as the classic or traditional method, is no longer confined only to champagne. Today, many countries produce wine in this way. For instance, California, Australia and New Zealand have flavorful sparkling wines that rival champagne for quality. The best sparkling wines are produced in cooler climates, and it will certainly be a surprise to many that England today has some very high-quality sparkling wines. The soils of southeast England and Champagne are similar.
The language of sparkling wines can be confusing.
“Brut” refers to a dry or very dry wine. The term “Sec” or “Extra Dry” refers to an off-dry wine. “Demi Sec” is semi-dry to semi-sweet, and “Rich” is sometimes used to denote sweet.
A Blanc de Blancs is a sparkling wine made 100 percent from white grapes, usually Chardonnay. It will be lighter, with a more delicate aroma than the others.
Blancs de Noirs is a sparkling wine made only from black grapes, usually Pinot Noir or Pinot Meunier. It will be more full bodied, with some berry notes in the aroma. The three grapes together make up the traditional champagne blend.
There are other sparkling wines that are particularly popular in Israel. Cava is Spain’s national sparkling wine, which is made in the Catalonian region. It provides quality and is made in the traditional way, but at a lower price than the French version.
Cava is in fact so popular, that it has become the slangin Israel for any sparkling wine.
Prosecco is the latest rising star. This is a light, soft, fruity and slightly creamy sparkling wine made in the Veneto region of Italy. It is usually a little cheaper than Cava, and so it is attractive for those buying on price.
Asti Spumante from Northwest Italy has a frothy, grapey sweetness and is a full-fledged sparkling wine. For those who like a more delicate fizz, try the lightly sparkling Moscato d’Asti.
Lambrusco is a semi-sparkling wine, with a slight fizz.
These are known as frizzante in Italian. It may be red or white and in any style from dry to semi-sweet. The sweet ones are glugging wines, but the drier wines can be bracing and refreshing.
Sparkling wine is the classic aperitif and goes with all mezze, hors d’oeuvres, fish dishes, sushi and poultry. In fact, champagne goes with anything and everything, and there is nothing wrong with drinking it throughout a meal.
It is even a good way to end a meal after the dessert wine, providing a clean, fresh finish.
The versatility of sparkling wine is best summed up by Lily Bollinger, the legendary owner of the Bollinger Champagne House. I have this memorable quote framed in my office: “I only drink champagne when I’m happy and when I’m sad. Sometimes I drink it when I’m alone. When I have company I consider it obligatory. I trifle with it if I’m not in a hurry and drink it when I am, otherwise I never touch the stuff, unless I am thirsty.”
Israel produces a full range of sparkling wines, from the lightly sparkling Moscatos to the finest champagne method wines.
For those who want to drink blue and white instead of imported wine, these are the wines that are recommended:
Dalton Moscato, Hermon Moscato, Selected Moscato, Teperberg Moscato and Red Moscato, Young Selected Moscato and Carignano.
These are light, fruity, easy drinking wines, with a touch of sweetness and a slight sparkle.
They are also low in alcohol. Most of the Moscatos by definition are white, but the Red Moscato and the Carignano are red.
Selected Sparkling, Sparkling Rosé and Sparkling Lite. The regular “extra dry” white sparkling wine is made from Colombard and Sauvignon Blanc. It is light, fruity with a delicate and not-too-obvious sweetness.
The Selected Sparkling Rosé has a delicate berry fruit nose, is deliciously balanced and has an attractive salmon-pink color.
Selected Sparkling Lite is a semi-sweet sparkling wine with only 7% alcohol.
Tabor Pninim White, Red, Rosé and Pomegranate. Tabor Winery makes three semi-sparkling wines, a white, red and rosé. They are semi-dry, quaffable and may described as fun wines, to be enjoyed without pretension. Pninim means pearls and is so named for the string of bubbles that constantly rise upwards in the glass. It also has a Pnimim Rimonim, a sparkling blend of wine and pomegranate juice, which is original if you are looking for something different. It is sweetish but refreshing.
Private Collection Brut and Brut Rosé. The Private Collection Brut sparkling wine is made by the Charmat method from Colombard and Chardonnay.
The wine is refreshing, with an aroma of lime, green apple, with hints of lightly toasted bread.
The Private Collection Brut Rosé is made from Chardonnay, Colombard and Syrah. Delicate pink in color, with a strawberry nose, this wine will be a good accompaniment to a wide range of first-course dishes.
Teperberg Brut. A frothy sparkling wine made from Chardonnay and Colombard grapes. The aroma is aromatic, with notes of peach and pear and a hint of the morning bakery.
There is a touch of sweetness, so the wine is not bone dry, and it has a refreshing finish.
Tabor 562 White and Red. The Tabor sparkling wines come in a white and red version. The red wine is the first genuine sparkling red wine in Israel and is made from Barbera grapes. It is fruity, with a refreshing cranberry finish and is a fun, slightly unusual sparkling wine option. The white is made from Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon and has a refreshing citrus character. 562 is said to relate to the height of Mount Tabor (in meters).
Gamla Shmura Brut is made by the traditional method from 50% Chardonnay and 50% Pinot Noir, grown in the relatively cool climate Golan Heights. The wine is left to age for one year at least before disgorging.
The wine is bone dry, with good berry aroma and refreshing acidity.
Tishbi Brut. A bottle-fermented sparkling wine made from French Colombard grapes, grown in the Samaria region. The wine is aromatic, fruity, with a nice clean good lemony finish.
Yarden Blanc de Blancs. This is Israel’s finest champagne method sparkling wine, made 100% from Chardonnay grapes grown on the Golan Heights.
The wine is delicate, with tropical fruit notes and a toasty backdrop. It is of the quality of the finest champagne but is a much better value.
Pelter Blanc de Blancs. A tiny production of traditional method sparkling wine, made from Chardonnay grapes grown in the Galilee and Golan. The wine rests for three years on its yeasts. The result is a fresh, aromatic and intense wine. The wine is rare, exclusive and very expensive.
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Adam Montefiore works for Carmel Winery and regularly writes about wine in Israeli and international publications. email@example.com