Wines of celebration

Cheers. L’chaim. Skol. Prosit. No matter how you say it, the toast of the town this time of year is a chilled bottle of sparkling wine. Here are some of our local vintages.

Champagne 311 (photo credit: MCT)
Champagne 311
(photo credit: MCT)
Sparkling wine is the wine of fashion and celebration. Whether on New Year’s Eve or at a wedding, it remains the classic wine to make a toast with. It is also symbol of success and happiness. Although it is a type of wine that has taken Israelis time to learn to appreciate, sparkling wine has become very popular here. The number of imported sparklers, mainly Cava from Spain or Prosecco from Italy, has increased dramatically. To counteract the invasion and for those who want to drink “blue and white,” Israel makes an excellent range of sparkling wines of all styles, at every price point.
Sparkling wines are the perfect aperitif. They accompany most first courses better than most wines, are ideal with fish or smoked salmon and go well with cold meats. Some people will even open a bottle of it at the end of a big meal because it gives a very clean, refreshing finish to close the festivities.
Israeli sparkling wines can more than fulfill the needs of any party, wedding or celebration. They come in a variety of styles and price points. (Note: The initials NV stand for non-vintage.)
ENTRY LEVEL – Up to NIS 30 Young Selected Moscato, Golan Moscato, Young Selected Carignano – all 2010 Each of these three wines is light, fruity, and easy to drink, with a touch of sweetness and with a slight sparkle. The two Moscatos are white; the Carignano is red. These gently sparkling, low alcohol wines (under 6 percent) are ideal for those who do not like too many bubbles.
BEST BUY – between NIS 30 and NIS 50 Best value for money Selected Sparkling NV An “extra dry” sparkling wine made from Colombard and Sauvignon Blanc grapes grown in the coastal regions of Israel. It is light, fruity with a delicate and not too obvious sweetness. The wine represents excellent value for money. It is proving especially popular for banquets and large events. Selected, produced by Carmel Winery, is the largest-selling brand in Israel.
Tabor Pninim Tabor produce two semi-sparkling red and white wines. The white is made from Gewurztraminer and Viognier grapes, and the red is made from Merlot. The wines have less alcohol (9.5% – 10%) than most sparkling wines. Both are semi-dry, easy to drink and may be described as fun wines to be enjoyed without pretension.
BEST QPR – between NIS 50 and NIS 75 Best quality to price ratio.Private Collection Brut NV This sparkling wine is made by the charmat, or cuve close, method. It is made from Colombard and Chardonnay from the Judean Hills. Five percent of the Chardonnay was fermented in small French oak barrels. The wine is refreshing, with an aroma of lime, green apple and hints of lightly toasted bread. The quality to price ratio is excellent, and it is as good as any Cava.
Tabor 652 Brut NV A new sparkling wine made by the charmat process. It comes in a white and a red version. The reason for the number in the name is that Mount Tabor is at an altitude of 652 meters. The red wine is Israel’s first genuine sparkling red wine and is made from Barbera grapes. It is fruity with a refreshing cranberry finish. The white is made from 80% Chardonnay and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon.
Gamla Brut NV Gamla Brut is made by the traditional method from 50% Chardonnay and 50% Pinot Noir, grown in the relatively cool 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 refreshing acidity.
Tishbi Brut NV A bottle fermented sparkling wine made 100% from French Colombard grapes, grown in the Shomron region vineyards, close to Binyamina and Zichron Ya’acov. This was a style of wine previously made by Tishbi Winery. They then stopped for a few years and have now decided to reintroduce it again. Clean with a good lemony finish.
LUXURY – Over NIS 90
Yarden Blanc de Blancs 2005 Israel’s finest champagne method sparkling wine, made 100% from Chardonnay grapes grown in the high altitudes of the northern Golan Heights. This is a vintage wine. The grapes are hand picked in whole clusters. The wine rests four years on its tirage yeast before release. The wine is delicate with tropical fruit notes and a toasty backdrop. It is of the quality of the finest champagne and is made totally authentically but is a great deal better value.
Pelter Blanc de Blancs NV (NK) A tiny production of traditional method sparkling wine, made from Chardonnay grapes grown in the Galilee and the Golan. The wine rests for three years on its yeasts. The result is a fresh, aromatic and intense wine. Pelter is one of Israel’s best small wineries.The wine is rare, exclusive and very expensive.
NK = not kosher
Adam Montefiore works for Carmel Winery and regularly writes about wine for Israeli and international publications.