Wine Talk

The Jerusalem Post - The Jerusalem Post Magazine - - CONTENTS - • ADAM MONTEFIORE The writer has ad­vanced Is­raeli wine for over 30 years. He is re­ferred to as the English voice of Is­raeli wine. www.adammon­te­

Whether we call it New Year’s Eve or Sylvester, this is ex­actly the time for a party. The wine that sym­bol­izes hap­pi­ness, suc­cess and cel­e­bra­tion is sparkling wine. Though it is a style of wine that has taken Is­raelis time to learn to ap­pre­ci­ate, sparkling wines have be­come very pop­u­lar here.

The num­ber of im­ported sparklers, mainly Cava from Spain or Pros­ecco from Italy, has in­creased dra­mat­i­cally. In fact, any­thing with bub­bles is “in.” In restau­rants and bars through­out Is­rael, peo­ple are or­der­ing Cava, which has be­come the Is­raeli slang for any sparkling wine. Cham­pagne is the ul­ti­mate ex­pres­sion of the art, which is repli­cated by “tra­di­tional method” sparkling wines made else­where. This means the sec­ond fer­men­ta­tion, which pro­duces the bub­bles, oc­curs in the same bot­tle in which it is even­tu­ally sold.

The his­tory of sparkling wine here matches the story and de­vel­op­ment of Is­raeli wine as a whole. In the 1960s and ’70s, Carmel pro­duced gen­uine tra­di­tional­method sparkling wines. It was an ex­pen­sive un­der­tak­ing need­ing a spe­cial work­force, as ev­ery­thing was done by hand. There was no mar­ket for ex­pen­sive sparkling wine in those days, so they even­tu­ally stopped production. The old sparkling wine racks (pupitres) that could be seen around Ris­hon Lezion Cel­lars gave a hint of a sparkling wine past. Now Ris­hon is no longer. The win­ery lies empty and for­lorn, turned into a car park no one uses. Trag­i­cally, much wine mem­o­ra­bilia, in­clud­ing his­tor­i­cal doc­u­ments and ar­ti­facts, went with it.

In those days, the main wine fly­ing the flag for Is­rael was Pres­i­dent’s Sparkling, made pri­mar­ily from Colom­bard grapes. It was ini­tially made by the tra­di­tional method, and later by the char­mat process. It was sold abroad as Brut Cu­vée. Con­fus­ingly, and this sym­bol­ized the old Is­raeli wine in­dus­try, Carmel sold Pres­i­dent as a tra­di­tional method sparkling wine for years, when it was re­ally made by the cheaper tank method. This dam­aged the cat­e­gory.

The new Is­rael wine in­dus­try was sym­bol­ized by the Golan Heights Win­ery, who were the pi­o­neers of qual­ity wine in Is­rael. This was es­pe­cially true of sparkling wines. In 1991, a young be­spec­ta­cled wine­maker from Cal­i­for­nia joined the Golan Heights Win­ery as as­sis­tant wine­maker. Show­ing the plan­ning, se­ri­ous­ness and pro­fes­sion­al­ism that char­ac­ter­ized the win­ery, they sent him to the Jac­ques­son Cham­pagne House for six months to learn the se­crets of the “Cham­p­enoise.” The young man was called Vic­tor Schoen­feld, who in 1992 was ap­pointed chief wine­maker. He is still the wine­maker there 26 years later.

The Golan Heights Win­ery then in­vested in all the mod­ern equip­ment to make tra­di­tional method sparkling wine. This time, the process was mech­a­nized and gyro-pal­lets were used in­stead of man­ual re­muage. Their ef­forts re­sulted in three tra­di­tional-method sparkling wines: Yar­den Blanc de Blancs, Yar­den Brut and Gamla Rosé.

At the 1996 In­ter­na­tional Wine & Spirit Com­pe­ti­tion in Lon­don, Is­raeli sparkling wine ar­rived on the in­ter­na­tional stage. Yar­den Blanc de Blancs, then a non-vintage wine, won the Tro­phy for The Best Bot­tle Fer­mented Sparkling Wines at the In­ter­na­tional Wine and Spir­its Com­pe­ti­tion in Lon­don.

It was a sem­i­nal mo­ment, be­cause it was in­ter­na­tional recog­ni­tion for Is­rael but also il­lus­trated that the Golan Heights Win­ery way for in­vest­ing in qual­ity and not cut­ting cor­ners paid off big time. I was proud to be there at the gala din­ner at the Guild­hall in Lon­don when the tro­phy pre­sen­ta­tion was made.

This high-pro­file award was re­peated in 2003 when Yar­den Blanc de Blancs 1997, by then a vintage wine, won the same tro­phy. Then, in honor of win­ning this tro­phy twice, the win­ery was in­vited to spon­sor the sparkling wine com­pe­ti­tion at the IWSC, in it­self an honor. It be­came known as The Yar­den Tro­phy for Best Bot­tle Fer­mented Sparkling Wine. This in­ter­na­tional suc­cess gave the Yar­den Blanc de Blancs an in­ter­na­tional name.

TO­DAY, PRES­I­DENT’S, Brut Cu­vée, Yar­den Brut and Gamla Rosé are his­tory. They are no longer made, but the Golan Heights Win­ery still pro­duces three sparkling wines of the high­est stan­dard: the afore­men­tioned Yar­den Blanc de Blancs, Yar­den Rosé and Gamla Brut. All the wines are pro­duced from fruit grown in the Golan Heights, Is­rael’s coolest wine re­gion. They are all made strictly ac­cord­ing to the tra­di­tional method, in­clud­ing press­ing of whole clus­ters and sec­ondary fer­men­ta­tion in the bot­tle. Be­fore dis­gorg­ing, each bot­tle is aged for a pe­riod on its tirage yeast.

If I may use bas­ket­ball ter­mi­nol­ogy, wine lovers may put many Yar­den red and white wines in the first five of sim­i­lar wine cat­e­gories in Is­rael. How­ever, if we are talk­ing about Yar­den Blanc de Blancs in re­la­tion to other Is­raeli sparkling wines, then we are talk­ing about Michael Jor­dan. Del­i­cate, creamy and ele­gant with great pu­rity and a cit­rusy fin­ish. This is the finest ex­pres­sion of the art of sparkling wine in Is­rael and as good as many cham­pagnes.

Other sparkling wines are pro­duced by the likes of Carmel, Pel­ter, Tishbi and Teper­berg. Some are made by the tra­di­tional method and oth­ers are made by the Char­mat process. It is a cat­e­gory full of new in­ter­est as other winer­ies ru­mored to be mak­ing sparkling wine for the fu­ture in­clude Ella Val­ley, Psagot and Sphera. Ar­guably, the best bar­gain is the Gamla Brut, which is very dry, with­out the fra­grance and fi­nesse of the Blanc de Blancs, but rep­re­sents great value. How­ever, it is a cat­e­gory that of­ten falls be­tween two stools. Peo­ple want ei­ther real cham­pagne, or the cheap­est fizz (made by what I call the Coca-Cola method.)

There is no lack of au­then­tic cham­pagnes to choose, if that is your choice. The Cham­pagne House Drap­pier is in its eighth gen­er­a­tion as a fam­ily-owned and man­aged win­ery. The Drap­pier Carte D’Or rep­re­sents qual­ity and con­sis­tency. It has aro­mas of pear backed by brioche and is clean and re­fresh­ing. A new­comer to cham­pagne is the world’s No. 1 wine fam­ily, the Roth­schilds. The three fa­mous wine branches of the fam­ily (owners of Chateau Clarke, Chateau Lafite and Chateau Mou­ton) have com­bined for the first time to pro­duce Cham­pagne Barons de Roth­schild. The Roth­schild Brut and Rose are both out­stand­ing, wor­thy of the name. Both Drap­pier and Roth­schild make high-qual­ity au­then­tic cham­pagnes and they also make kosher cu­vees for the Jewish com­mu­nity.

How­ever, any sparkling wine will do. Choose one to match your bud­get and taste, not one de­signed to im­press some­one else! It may sur­prise you, even though I am con­sid­ered a wine snob, I love Lam­br­usco. Wine can be fun and for drink­ing… it does not al­ways have to have a medal and story. Some­times we like to drink rather than just taste. If you like Lam­br­usco, as my late wife did, you won’t be made to feel in­fe­rior by me. Gi­a­cobazzi is one of the bet­ter ones in the mar­ket. Al­ter­na­tively, there is no end of Moscatos. These are fruity wines that peo­ple love, sim­ply be­cause they are tasty. There is al­ways a de­bate whether they are re­ally sparkling wines be­cause they are friz­zante, or dessert wines, be­cause they are sweet. In fact, be­cause they are low al­co­hol, they are not truly cat­e­go­rized as wines. The Ta­bor Har Moscato is ar­guably the best ex­am­ple. It is grapey, fla­vor­ful, lightly sparkling with a del­i­cate sweet­ness, but there are many oth­ers. There is noth­ing wrong with drink­ing Moscato, ei­ther. How­ever, if it is bub­bles you want, you may find some­thing like Martini Asti more ap­pro­pri­ate. It has the same aro­mas as Moscato but has more qual­i­ties of a sparkling wine. These re­mind us that wine can be fun, make you smile and should not be taken too se­ri­ously. OPEN­ING A bot­tle of au­then­tic sparkling wine is dan­ger­ous. The pres­sure in a bot­tle is sim­i­lar to the pres­sure in the tire of a dou­ble-decker bus. The cork also is a pro­jec­tile that can fit into the eye socket and do untold da­m­age. So take heed and be­ware. Hold the bot­tle at 45° and be sure it is not pointed at any­one. Gen­tly undo the wire sur­round­ing the cork, keep­ing a fin­ger on top of the cork. Hold the cork and gen­tly turn the bot­tle. Con­trol the ef­fect of the pres­sure so it comes out with an erotic sigh rather than an un­con­trolled pop.

Use only flute or tulip glasses. Pour gen­tly and steadily with the glass on a slant, so it does not froth over. Most peo­ple do not have proper sparkling wine glasses, but don’t panic. Serv­ing the wine in a white wine glass is OK. Nowa­days, with spe­cial­ist cham­pagnes, it is trendy to serve wine in a glass with a larger open­ing than has been de rigueur in the past, to make the most of the aro­mas. Just avoid the flat, coupe glasses, which are more suit­able for cock­tails or ice cream.

Sparkling wines are tra­di­tion­ally served as an aper­i­tif. The French serve it bone dry and young with the pro­nounced acid­ity at its fiercest. The Brits, large con­sumers of cham­pagne, serve it with a lit­tle more bot­tle age to bring out the com­plex­ity. It is of­ten their pre­ferred choice at the end of a ban­quet af­ter many cour­ses and wines.

Sparkling wines go with any­thing that are good with white wines (and are per­fect with sushi). I have never found it out of place drink­ing through­out a meal. You can toast any­thing with a sparkling wine. It is a style of wine that sim­ply makes you feel bet­ter. So at the turn of the year, I rec­om­mend you spend time with your fam­ily and friends, drink the sparkling wine of your choice and make a l’haim for health, wealth and hap­pi­ness for the com­ing year.

(Photos: Cour­tesy)

SPARKLING WINES from the Golan Heights Win­ery.

(LEFT TO right) Roth­schild Brut Cham­pagne; Drap­pier Carte d’Or Cham­pagne; Ta­bor Har Moscato; Martini Asti; Gi­a­cobazzi Lam­br­usco.

CHAM­PAGNE BARONS de Roth­schild – a Cham­pagne of the high­est qual­ity.

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