Friday, October 12, 2012

Leftover Sparkling Wine

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After writing a recent WineMaker Magazine blog post entitled “Getting to Know Sparkling Wine” I had quite a bit of additional material to share. I’ve tasted more sparkling wine this year than any prior year in my wine-drinking life, and the range of styles and background I’ve come in contact with has been both educational and fun. So here's my leftovers, I hope you enjoy them!

More on Sparkling Wine Styles

Cremant was a term I came in contact with looking through different resources on sparkling wine. The word is used to identify non-Champagne sparkling wine produced using the traditional method in France and other EU countries. Ultimately I would be best to understand that the difference in these wines will be more like any other regional distinction, including the grapes used, soil composition and climate.

I picked this bottle up from the local state store because I was curious what if anything I might detect about a Cremant differently from other sparkling wines. I didn't discern anything specific, but since I am not that familiar with regional differences in traditional sparkling wine, what do I know?

This wine is made from 80% Pinot Noir with the remaining 20% made of up Gamay and Chardonnay. It pours a deep pink color and has red, and even dark red fruits, like raspberry and currant on the nose. In the mouth the wine is tart, dry with plenty of small bubbles that create a pleasant texture. From a performance perspective this wine does pretty well. The regular retail is $19.99 but it seems to be on sale for $16.99 pretty frequently. At either price I see pretty good value and in my final post (next week) on sparkling wine I will share tastings on a couple more rose sparklers for comparison.

Cava in particular performed well when compared to many of the other sparklers I tasted this year. Spanish wines overall offer plenty of value, lots of $15-20 high quality offerings,  where I saw difficulty in even finding Champagne or worthy domestic bottlings in the same price range.  

Cava showed up three times in a lineup of sparkling wines that I selected for a month long celebration of our 15th wedding anniversary, the subject of my third and next post on sparkling wine.  We finished that celebration with a sentimental one which I will share the story and thoughts on next week. What did I think of the other two?

I nabbed this guy from for 19.99. I found it dry and slightly minerally with restrained fruit in both the nose and mouth. It is very crisp and clean making it a great social wine or one that would pair with a wide range of foods. This wine has beautiful texture, the prickly carbonation is buffered with just a little creaminess. I was surprised at how simple, yet beautiful this wine was for the price.

Another find at 18.99, and one I have had before. This one pours a deep gold color, darker than most sparkling wines I have experienced. The nose projected tropical fruits which were married with tart citrus in the mouth. 

Margot and I both found this Cava to be particularly refined and Margot liked it more than many of the others we ended up trying. There is some complexity here, something that might not make it as universal, non-aficionados might not appreciate it for what it is, which is only a lost opportunity and not the end of the world. I do like to pair wine with people so such scenarios concern me.

Grower Produced Champagne

Earlier this year I attended a tasting hosted by friend and fellow wine-blogger Adam Japko who writes the WineZag. Adam had assembled two flights of Champagnes that had been produced by the grape grower rather than a negociant, famous house or vanity label. Not knowing much about this category of wine it was hard to decide what to expect. In doing some research I came across plenty of vigorous debate about stylistic differences,  variation, performance and value, but nothing that could make sense of it in any concrete way. Read Adam's post "Grower Champagne Makes Sense" for more information on this class of wines, the flight list and his thoughts on some of those we tasted.

What I experienced was most instructive. First, there was plenty of variation amongst the different bottles, something atypical to big name Champagne, but what struck me was how exciting some of the nuances were.  Pear, quince, mushrooms, graphite, yeast, smoke, lemon, peach and guava were some of the specific aromas and flavors that I wrote on my tasting sheet. Some of the wines tasted wild, inferring that the producer wasn't trying to produce a house style, rather was letting the grapes and yeast do what they were inclined to do that year.  I like exciting wines and sometimes just being a little different is all the excitement I need!

On the value front my conclusions were mixed. Many of the bottle prices were in the range that while you get what you get with a big name house at the same price, I wouldn’t say either wins a hands down fan vote of everyday consumers. The favorites trended in the $45-50 range, and taking the nuances as a good thing they all performed well at those prices. Those with developed Champagne palates will definitely find lots to love in those wines, and potentially even more in a few beyond $50 amongst those we tasted.

I can't tell you what my favorite was because I can't find that page of my notes! What I can tell you is that is if, and more so when, I want to spend $40-$50 on a bottle of sparkling wine I would definitely look at grower produced Champagne before deciding what from my available options I will take home. Depending on the people and the setting a wine with more unique character might actually be a better fit!

The Show Goes On

I hope you enjoyed my sparkling wine leftovers. Next week I be posting on the sparkling wines that I enjoyed in June to celebrate my wedding anniversary. I know that I said in my WineMaker Magazine article (linked above) that sparkling wine wasn't just a celebratory drink and I can assure you that while I chose my anniversary as the backdrop to try a bunch of different sparkling wines, the specific tasting scenarios were very pedestrian. The list included those reviewed here, several domestic versions, and sparkling wines made in France, Spain and Italy.



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