I recently returned from a trip to Asia and in the course of my travels passed through 7 or 8 airports and quite a few duty free shops. While most of these countries do not celebrate the religious aspects of Christmas and New Year, many take the commercial aspects to the next level. Almost every airport had shopkeepers dressed up in festive holiday costumes and featured tastings of excellent Champagnes and Cognac Champagne.
Cava, Champagne and other sparkling vinos are seen as celebration wines and come New Year’s Eve, sparkling vinos are uncorked the world over and an increasing number of bottles are uncorked in Asia. The wineries and producers also noticed this trend and many offer special editions and labels targeting the Chinese and other Asian consumers.
While prices of Champagne in Israel have dropped over the years and there are an increasing number of labels available in the local market, they are still relatively expensive and most of the local bubbly consumption is of more affordable Spanish Cava and sparkling wines than Israeli wineries,
For those who aren’t familiar with this beverage, Cava is a sparkling Spanish wine that is produced using the same methods as in the production of French Champagne. Since the title “Champagne” can only be given to wines produced in the Champagne region of France, other European wine producing countries were forced to come up with different names for their sparkling wines. Cava is produced using several different grape varieties, including: Macabeo, Xarello, Parellada, Subirat and Chardonnay which are white grape varieties as well as Red Grenache and Monastrell.
Sparkling wines are available in various styles and levels of sweetness. These range from “Brut Nature” (very dry) to “Dulce” (sweet) and are categorized based on the amount of sugar content per liter of wine.
When visiting one of the big wine shops, one can be dazzled by the selection of sparkling wines available and also tempted by the low prices. Cavas can be found on sale at 3 bottles of even 4 bottles for NIS 100 but I would suggest to try to avoid the temptation and spend a bit more for a much better wine.
A good option is the Non Vintage, Bodegas Faustino, Cava Extra Seco imported by the Shaked Bros. and available at the Wine Route (Derech HaYain) stores throughout the country. Produced from Macabeo and Chardonnay grapes and hailing from the Rioja wine region, the wine is light golden in color suggesting pleasant notes of apples, citrus zest and flowers leading to a clean and dry finish. NIS 60. Like all sparkling wines, this one should be served chilled and if you have them, try using a flute shaped glass which preserves the bubbles and enhances the aromas.
There are also several sparkling wines produced by Israeli wineries, including Tishbi, Pelter, Tabor, Golan Heights, Carmel Winery and others. I recently had the opportunity to taste a couple:
Golan Heights, Yarden, Rose, Brut, 2009 – if sparkling wines are considered celebration wines, Rose sparkling wines are considered the ultimate romantic celebratory vino and their price is often a bit higher than their white counterparts. This is the second sparkling Rose from the Golan Heights and the result is very enjoyable. The wine comprises 70% Chardonnay and the balance Pinot Noir which also provide the pinkish-salmon color. Good structure on the palate, focused bubbles, the wine suggests refreshing notes of red apples, ripe strawberries, flowers and a touch of yeast leading to a clean finish. NIS 130.
Carmel Winery’s Private Collection, Brut, NV – is a blend of French Colombard, Viognier and Chardonnay produced in the Charmat Methos.Good balancing acidity, the wine suggests bright citrus notes, green apples, flowers and a clean finish.
Happy New Year's!