I was up on the Golan this week visiting the Pelter winery at Kibbutz Ein Zivan and learning about the traditional way that Pelter makes his sparkling wine (in France it’s called champagne). The cuvée is a Chardonnay grape grown at Neve Atiq that is picked early so that it is tart, the grapes are pressed and centrifuged to get rid of the skins and pips and then sugar and yeast are added, the concoction is called the tirage and the mixture put in special, thick glass bottles with a cap. These bottles are stored upside down for 3 years in a cool place so that they ferment slowly producing alcohol and carbon dioxide. Since the bottle is sealed, the carbon dioxide cannot escape, producing the sparkle. The yeast eats the sugar for about 6 months and then dies ending the fermentation. The dead yeast cells are removed by a process called riddling where the bottles are rotated everyday until the yeast drops down into the neck of the bottle. The final step is to freeze the neck in an ice bath at -25ºC for 4-5 minutes resulting in a frozen plug. The bottles are then opened and the pressure pops out the plug (with the yeast). The bottles are then adjusted topped off with a dosage, a mixture of sugar, sweet wine, grape juice. Pelter adds champagne from previous years. The final alcohol content is 10.5%.
Pelter is able to produce between 1000 and 2000 bottles of sparkling wine. Only 3 wineries in Israel produce sparkling wines and only Pelter and the Golan Heights Winery do it in this tradional way (though Golan is much more automated).