Israelis love sparkling wine.
It has taken time to acquire the taste, but now Israelis of all ages like nothing more than to pop a cork.
Champagne, the most famous sparkling wine, is the ultimate symbol of success and happiness. It is the wine of fashion and celebration.
Whether on New Year’s Eve or at a wedding, it remains the classic wine with which to make a toast. More and more Israelis are following the habit of starting a meal in a restaurant with a glass of bubbly. This may be a Cava from Spain, a Prosecco from Italy or a semi-sparkling Lambrusco, also from Italy. Fortunately, there are some excellent Israeli sparklers to ward off the invasion, and Israel now makes an excellent range of sparkling wines of all styles and at every price.
There are basically three levels of quality in making sparkling wine.
The highest-quality method is when the second fermentation takes place in the bottle the wine is served in. Once known as the champagne method, it is now more commonly known as the traditional method.
Champagne, the king of sparkling wines, is made this way, and the finest sparkling wines around the world follow suit.
The next level of quality is what the French call the Cuve Close or Charmat method, when the secondary fermentation takes place in a tank and the wine is then bottled under pressure. The third method, which is really to produce cheap fizz, is what I call the Coca-Cola method.
This is when an injection of carbon dioxide provides the bubbles.
Which level you drink depends roughly on the price you want to pay. However, whatever you buy, the basic rules of service are the same.
Be sure to put your sparkling wine in the fridge with enough time so it becomes ice cold. Take especially good care when opening the bottle.
Carefully undo and remove the wire that covers the cork while keeping at least a finger on top of the cork for insurance. There is a great deal of pressure in that bottle. Hold it so it is not pointing at anyone. This is important because a flying cork at high velocity could be dangerous. Then take hold of the cork in one hand and gently rotate the bottle with the other, while gradually easing the cork. The objective is to remove the cork with a noise approaching an erotic sigh, and not a loud pop with sparkling wine being spilt everywhere. The presentations after Formula One races are not the example to follow.
Serve sparkling wine in flute or tulip glasses only.
These tall, narrow glasses preserve the bubbles and aromas.
Avoid the flat coupe glasses, reportedly shaped by Marie Antoinette’s breast, which are more suitable for ice cream. When you attempt to pour the sparkling wine, you will find it easier if you tilt the glass.
You then stand a chance of finishing with a glass of wine rather than froth! Sparkling wine is the most classic and perfect aperitif. It is never the wrong choice pre-meal or before a party as you welcome your guests. It is also the perfect accompaniment to fish, smoked salmon and sushi. In my view, sparkling wine goes with everything. If the mood takes you, go with it throughout the meal. This is the perfect reminder to match wine to mood, not just to food! The main Israeli sparkling wines of today do not suffer by comparison with all the imported sparkling wines.
Local sparkling wines
Yarden Blanc de Blancs
This is a traditional-method sparkling wine, made 100 percent from Chardonnay grapes grown on the highaltitude northern Golan Heights.
It is a vintage wine. The grapes are hand picked in whole clusters. The wine is delicate, with tropical fruit notes, a toasty backdrop and a very clean, citrus finish. This is Israel’s finest sparkling wine. Without doubt, it matches the quality of the finest champagne. It is made completely authentically and represents excellent value.
Gamla Brut is made by the traditional method from 50% Chardonnay and 50% Pinot Noir, grown in the cool climate of the Golan Heights. The wine is left to age for at least one year before disgorging. The wine is bone dry, with good berry aroma and bracing acidity. Very refreshing.
A bottle-fermented sparkling wine made 100% from French Colombard grapes, grown in the Samaria Region vineyards, close to Binyamina and Zichron Ya’acov. It is a gentle, elegant sparkling wine.
Private Collection Brut This sparkling wine is made by the Charmat method.
It is made from Colombard and Chardonnay grapes. Five percent of the Chardonnay is fermented in small French oak barrels. The wine is refreshing, with an aroma of lime, green apple, with hints of lightly toasted bread.
Private Collection Brut Rose
A sparkling rosé wine with a beautiful pink color, this refreshing wine is made from Colombard and Syrah. It is made by the Charmat process.
It has a strawberry aroma with a clean lime finish.
This is an effervescent and lively sparkling wine, which also has a hint of sweetness. It has an attractive tropical fruit nose with a clean finish.
There is a red version, as well as the white. The word pninim translates as “pearls,” which is a description of the string of bubbles that rises to the top of the glass. Both these wines are pleasantly aromatic, slightly sweet and lively.
This is an “extra dry” sparkling wine made from Colombard and Sauvignon Blanc grapes. It is light and fruity with a delicate and not too obvious sweetness.
Selected Sparkling Rosé
A beautiful blush-colored sparkling wine with a delicate berry aroma, it is made from Colombard and Merlot grown in the coastal regions of Israel.
Selected Sparkling Lite
This is in an alternative style for those who find sparkling wines too acidic. It is an aromatic, grapey semi-sweet sparkling wine with only 7% alcohol. It is made from Colombard and Muscat of Alexandria grapes.
Don’t forget all the Moscato style wines, which are lightly sparkling. These are low-alcohol wines, usually between 5% and 6% alcohol, which is similar in strength to a beer. They are made in the style of a Moscato d’Asti in Italy.
They tend to be very light, frothy, grapey, sweet and slightly frizzante. There is the Young Selected Moscato & Carignano (which is red), Teperberg Moscato, Golan Moscato and Dalton Moscato.
These are wines for a picnic or brunch. They are fun, should not be taken too seriously, and even the person who hates wine will like them!
Adam Montefiore works for Carmel Winery and regularly writes about wine in Israeli and international publications. firstname.lastname@example.org