In recent years, global consumption of sparkling wine has risen dramatically, perhaps due to the increased accessibility of such wines and also the acknowledgment that there’s never a wrong moment to bring out the bubbly.
The origins of sparkling wine can be traced back to the Champagne region in Northern France. The unique method of wine production which defines the region was perfected by the region’s most notable vintner, the Benedictine monk Dom Perignon. The main tenets in Champagne’s production were to mix grapes from different plots of land, from different harvests, and from different varietals in order to fight the high acidity of the grapes growing in the harsh cold. By following this logic, in addition to adding sugar and a second fermentation, the goal was to create a balanced and quality-consistent wine.
The Champagne (or traditional) method includes hand picking the harvest, pressing whole clusters of grapes, and using three specific grapes: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier. The Champagne method also involves a secondary fermentation in the bottle, aging the wine on the lees for at least 12 months, remuage (tilting the bottle), disgorgement (a special technique that separates the liquid from the lees), and dosage (the final addition of sugar and wine before the final corkage.)
The name Champagne is reserved for those wines produced in the Champagne region and made according to the traditional method. But, just as not all Champagne wines ooze quality, there are plenty of superb sparkling wines giving Champagne a run for its money.
Outside of France, Spain is a leader in the production of traditional sparkling wine often known as Cava. Across the sea in Italy, sparkling wine goes by the familiar names of Franciacorta, Prosecco, Asti, and Lambrusco. Sparkling wine production also flourishes outside of Europe in New Zealand, South Africa, America, Australia, and Israel.
Choosing a sparkling wine calls for a different consideration from that of table wine. In sparkling wine, it is important for the consumer to pay attention to the different levels of “dryness” in the wines and to understand the wine lingo.
Brut. Sparkling wines which are dry.
Sec or Demi Sec. Generally refers to sweeter sparkling wines.
Doux. Refers to the highest level of sweetness present in a sparkling wine.
NV or Non Vintage. Generally the main sparkling wine for a winery. It refers to a sparkling wine without a specific vintage, as it is often a blend of several different vintages and grape varietals. The advantage of this kind of wine is that the winery is able to produce a uniformly successful wine year after year and it can be drunk as soon as it reaches the shelves.
Vintage sparkling wine. Refers to those wines from a specific, normally extraordinary vintage year.
Pink Champagne. Looks like a rose wine. Unlike ordinary Champagne, a small percentage of red wine is added to the bottle, or the red grapes undergo a short maceration on the skins to extract color.
Blanc de Blancs. A sparkling wine produced from Chardonnay grapes only. It is considered one of the finest and most elegant Champagne-style wines.
Blanc de Noir. A sparkling wine produced from black grapes only (Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier). It is very rare and is produced in relatively small quantities.
In Israel, sparkling wine production has really taken off. Israel’s Northern Golan Heights area was discovered to be the perfect location for growing Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes of the highest quality, suitable for producing Champagne-style sparkling wine. There are a number of fantastic Israeli bubblies in stores around the world.
Gilgal Brut. This sparkling wine is a pleasingly drinkable wine designed to be popped open on every occasion. It is produced using equal quantities of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes and is aged for a year. The Gilgal Brut is a non-vintage sparkling wine which presents bright lemon, floral, lime, green apple, and pear notes. Fresh and invigorating, the wine is wonderfully drinkable.
Yarden Blanc de Blancs. This top-of-the range sparkling wine is produced exclusively from Chardonnay grapes and only during an especially high-quality vintage. It is an elegant wine that wows Champagne lovers and was recently named the best sparkling wine coming from outside the Champagne region. In addition to its fresh citrus and floral notes, the Yarden Blanc de Blancs is rounded out by a subtle toasty flavour and slight creaminess. The Yarden Blanc de Blancs is aged for five years and will age for a further 10 years in the bottle.
Bringing a pop, sparkle, and some Israeli cheer to your table has never been easier. Whatever the occasion, whatever your budget, there is never too ordinary a moment to pop open a bottle of Israeli bubbly. v