Friday, October 19, 2012

Sparkling Anniversary

In two previous posts, "Getting to Know Sparkling Wine" and "Leftover Sparkling Wine", about sparkling wine I shared what I have learned this year from a closer inspection of sparkling wine. In the first post, for the WineMaker Magazine blog actually, I teased readers with a list of bottles my wife and I had enjoyed around our wedding anniversary this year. All of those bottles are reasonably accessible to people who live near us and make use of the NH state system, and/or can direct ship to home. None of the wine are really bank breaking purchases for those who want to try them. It's not a snobby or specialty list, and I'm not advertising it as such. It covers a range of styles from both well known to smaller regional producers and gave me a lot of new information to consider about sparkling wine.

With "Getting to Know Sparkling Wine" I also shared my concerns that in my experience sparkling wine enjoyment was too often relegated to special occasions and not everyday drinking. There is no reason for this these days, sparkling wine pairs well with so many foods and there are values out there to suit all budgets. Steve Heimoff touched on this same thought last week in "Sparkling wines for the holidays: why not all year long?" After such a profession some of you might be thinking that ending that very article with my own plan to consume a variety of sparkling wines around my wedding anniversary was a conceit to my assertions. Maybe, and I can only say that we enjoyed these wines during what we called our "Sparkling Anniversary", where most were enjoyed with everyday dinners, or snacks; and even popcorn whilst watching TV. No special occasions there! We did indeed take some bubbly in the limo as we rode to our actual anniversary dinner, and I'll explain the significance and sentiment of those bottles a little bit later.

In "Leftover Sparkling Wine" I share my experiences with a grower Champagne tasting which constituted my first formal experience with Champagnes made by the grape grower. My thoughts and those of the host, Adam Japko of the WineZag, are interesting reading for anyone not familiar with the category.

As I alluded to above we didn't really do anything special with the wines for our Sparkling Anniversary and by the time we were through the best pairings we had experienced were with either buttered popcorn or French Fries. We also made cocktails with several of the bottles, both to experiment with different flavors and textures and put wines that didn't pop for us to good use.

Here's that Sparkling Anniversary list again (and in no particular order):
  • Chateau Frank Célèbre Rose
  • Chandon Blanc de Noirs
  • Cuvée Aurora Rosé Alta Langa
  • Mumm Napa Brut Prestige
  • Gruet Blanc de Noirs
  • Fox Run Blanc de Blancs
  • Lafitte Brut
  • Banfi Rosa Regale
  • Raventós i Blanc Reserve Brut
  • Mionetto Moscato Dolce
  • Veuve Cliquot Ponsardin Brut
  • Segura Viudas Brut Reserva Heredad
  • Cuvée y Camps Brut Nature
  • Montsarra Cava
Best of the Best

It would be hard not to share which of these wines we liked best and why, but since tastes vary and I don't rate wines, take it for what it's worth.

Cuvée y Camps Brut Nature - For both Margot and I this was the most refined of all the sparklers we tried. The nose is tropical with tart citrus in the mouth and through the finish. This is one of the best dinner party or entertaining-worthy sparkling wines I have ever had.

Chateau Frank Célèbre Rose - This is a medium-dry rose colored sparkler that is just simply easy to drink. It is well balanced, delicious and should appeal to both dry and sweet sparkling wine drinkers. It was summer when we drank these wines and this one really pulled off the role of refreshment.

Mumm Napa Brut Prestige - I really liked the balance of fruity and tart character in this wine. The slight creamy texture brought the whole package together. This is another fantastic wine to use for entertaining and a slam dunk with appetizers, including fried ones!

Honorable Mentions

Gruet Blanc de Noirs - This wine was notable for me because of the pronounced strawberry and citrus that actually came off like berry lemonade. This is a fairly full bodied sparkling wine and was a departure from some of the others in the lineup.

Montsarra Cava - Cava performed well in the tastings, but wasn't entirely new to us as a style, and this wine was the first one we tried. Fruity with hints of almonds a slight creaminess, this wine piqued our interests for more.

Cocktail Experiments

Passion Fruit Cocktail - we used the Fox Run Blanc de Blancs for this drink, combining it with passion fruit puree, Cointreau and bitters. The dry sparkling wine lightens up the puree nicely and the blend of fruits in the puree and wine showed nicely in the nose. It's a sweet cocktail, but if that is your thing this one might give you a smile!

French 75 - I fall on the Cognac side of the French 75 debate and thus I make mine with it. These are a potent cocktail with a nice balance of tart and sweet. The texture is best with a good sparkling wine with lots of small bubbles.

Champagne Cocktail - This simple concoction using a bitters infused sugar cube and sparkling wine is both tasty and fun to drink. Watching the bubbles ribbon off the sugar cube and head to the top of the glass provides the entertainment. We tried these with both domestic sparkling wine and Cava.

Sentimental Bottles

I'll finish with a few of the bottles that have special meaning for us. Two of them are part of our "wine personality" and elicit great memories any time we drink them.

( We dined at Top of the Hub in Boston for our anniversary dinner. The subset was beautiful! )

First, and maybe the most comical to wine aficionados, is Banfi Rosa Regale. We just like this wine. It's sweet, sparkling and super fruity. I bought it for Margot as a gift a few years ago and she absolutely loved it. Margot calls it a panty remover, which from experience isn't a bad way to describe its merits beyond a beverage. We buy a few bottles of this several times a year. When paired with dark chocolate this wine makes an excellent dessert.

Veuve Cliquot Ponsardin Brut - we received this wine as a gift from friends and chose to enjoy it on the night of our anniversary dinner to honor the joy we take in having such great friends. The wine is also very good.

Segura Viudas Brut Reserva Heredad - This is our anniversary wine. I was looking for a delicious bottle of bubbly to celebrate our tenth anniversary in 2007 and came across this one. The bottle is actually a collectible, hand blown and emblazoned with a pewter crest and base. I snapped one up and we enjoyed it the weekend of our anniversary party that year. This is a complex sparkling wine, projecting citrus, peaches, minerality and a touch of graphite or smoke. It has a full bodied feel, but is rather a light, refreshing wine. We opened this bottle in the limo on the way to Boston for dinner this year, and it didn't disappoint once again. I purchased several bottles this time and can't wait to try one with a bit of age at our next milestone anniversary!

Drink More Sparkling Wine!

I hope these three articles on sparkling wine have inspired somebody to crack open a bottle of bubbly and enjoy it with friends (or family or a significant other, all of which are friends to me) just because you can. The diversity in styles, textures and flavors offers a world of possibilities for us to explore.



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