Sparkle Every Day

December 19, 2021 Leave a comment Go to comments

Ohh, festive times… Bubbles, laughter, smiles, more bubbles, and more laughter and smiles.

We still think of bubbles as a holiday or otherwise celebratory wine, but it doesn’t have to be like this – every day is worth celebrating, and good bubbles bring something special – they have a magic power to make things better.

But now the bubbles are on everyone’s mind – the last two weeks before the New Year celebration, bubbles need to be consumed and gifted. Very appropriately, I’m inviting you on a trip around the world, to taste some sparkling wines, and maybe even find new favorites or discuss the old and familiar.

You can’t beat the classics, so let’s start in the place which started it all (I know it is contested, like everything else nowadays, but let’s just skip that discussion) – the Champagne, of course.

I’m starting today with Champagne which is unique and different, and in reality should warrant a full post, as this is Champagne with the story. In 1975, Bruno Paillard, tracing his family grower and negociant heritage back to 1704, started working as a Champagne negociant. In 1981, at 27 years of age, Bruno sold his old collectible Jaguar and started his own Champagne company with the vision of producing a different style of Champagne. In 1984, he designed a unique above-ground cellar to be able to fully control temperature during the production of Champagne. By 1988, he already was collecting raving reviews from the critics such as Hugh Johnson, and others.

Bruno Paillard calls his approach to Champagne production Multi-Vintage, as even non-vintage-designated wines still have known proportions of reserve (vintage) still wines used during production. Also, every bottle of Bruno Paillard Champagne carries a disgorgement date on its back label. I had an opportunity to taste Bruno Paillard Premiere Cuvee Champagne, which comprises 35 out of 320 Champagne crus, with up to 50% of the wine coming from 25 reserve vintage wines since 1985:

MV Bruno Paillard Premiere Cuvée Champagne (12% ABV, $60, 45% Pinot Noir, 33% Chardonnay, 22% Pinot Meunier, 36 months on the lees, 5 months in the bottle, disgorged in June 2020)
Fine mousse, crisp
Classic nose – toasted bread, very clean, delicate
Classic palate – toasted bread, minerality, a hint of apples, fresh, round, great energy, cut-through acidity, delicious overall
8+, superb. If you can drink it every day, more power to you – but it is well worth at least an occasional celebration.

As we are in Europe, let make another stop along the way – all the way down to the South of Italy – in Sicily.

Italy is no stranger to spectacular classical style (method Champenoise) bubbles – powerful Ferrari and others up north in the Trentodoc, majestic Franciacorta in Lombardy, and more classic sparkling wines everywhere in between. However, this was my first encounter with the classic-style bubbles from Sicily.

Not to be overdone, this wine comes from Planeta, which is one of the most famous and best producers in Sicily – still, I never heard of their sparkling wines. This wine was made out of the local white grape called Carricante, but if you would try it blind, it would be very hard to distinguish this wine from an actual classic Champagne.

NV Planeta Carricante Brut Methodo Classico Sicilia DOC (12% ABV, $42, 100% Carricante)
Light Golden color
Beautiful intense nose, minerality, a touch of gunflint, toasted notes
A touch of green apple, minerality, toasted bread, good acidity, medium to full body.
8+, outstanding. Mostly available in restaurants, but you still can find it in a few liquor stores.

Now, let’s cross the Atlantic all the way and then some, going to the west side of North America – we are stopping by in California, to be precise. Here I have two wines to offer to your attention.

If you like California sparkling wines, then you don’t need an introduction to Scharffenberger. Found in 1981 by John Scharffenberger, the winery was built from the get-go for sparkling wine production, showcasing the terroir of Mendocino country.

In 2004, the winery became a part of the Roeder Collection. Overall, it continues the same traditions as 40 years ago, and today the 120 acres estate is sustainably farmed and Fish Friendly Farming certified.

Scharffenberger produces a range of Non-Vintage sparkling wines, all made using the classic method, all made from various proportions of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. The wine I want to offer for your holiday festivities and casual daily life celebrations is Brut Rosé:

NV Scharffenberger Brut Rosé Excellence (12.5% ABV, $26, 55% Chardonnay, 45% Pinot Noir)
Salmon pink
Toasted bread, brioche, a touch of strawberries
Tart strawberries, hazelnut, freshly baked bread, crisp, generous, invigorating
8+, excellent bubbles for any day

Now, we are still staying in California, but moving about 2 hours south and east from Mendocino to the Russian River Valley. Here, in 1984, Judy Jordan started her J Vineyards and Winery (at the age of 25). Throughout the years, Judy acquired 9 vineyards, managing 300 acres of vines around the area. Her brother John Jordan manages the eponymous Jordan winery in Sonoma, producing “Chardonnay, Cabernet, and Hospitality” (I really love this quote of his as I had an opportunity to experience all three at the wine bloggers conference 2017).

During my first wine bloggers conference in 2014 in Santa Barbara, I attended joint Jordan reception, hosted by J Vineyards and Jordan Winery, creating the most magnificent experience between delicious J Vineyards bubbles and Jordan Cabernet verticals.

Why am I telling you all of this and how is it relevant to the J sparkling wine I tasted? Actually, there is no real connection, except the sad feeling of the loss of true authenticity, after J Vineyards was sold to E and J Gallo in 2015. If you visit the J Vineyards website today, it is all about selling the wine. There is no “about” section. There is no history of the estate. Just buy, buy, buy. Buy this or buy that. Okay, okay – I get it – wine is a business. But it can be a business with soul – sadly, I don’t think E and J Gallo know how to operate one.

This J Vineyards Cuvée 20 was originally produced to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the winery but then became a standard feature in the sparkling wine lineup.

NV J Vineyards Cuvée 20 Russian River Valley (12.5% ABV, $38)
Straw pale, fine mousse
Gunflint is a primary element
Toasted bread, gunflint, a touch of lemon, crisp, energetic, perfect cleansing acidity
8/8+, needs food – oysters, cheese, steak – any food.

Let’s now take a long flight down south, to the Argentinian desert, to visit Domaine Bousquet in Tupungato.

Actually, I already wrote a long post about Domaine Bosquet sparkling wines, at the beginning of this year. These are essentially the same wines I tasted before, only with the new labels. If you are interested in learning more about Domaine Bousquet, please refer to the post above, and I will just share my latest tasting notes here:

NV Domaine Bousquet Brut Tupungato Argentina (12% ABV, $13, 75% Chardonnay, 25% Pinot Noir, Charmat method, organic grapes, vegan)
A yellowish tint in the glass
A hint of apple, fresh, clean
Perfectly round, good acidity, a touch of toasted notes, apples, easy to drink
8-, very good

NV Domaine Bousquet Brut Tupungato Argentina (12% ABV, $13, 75% Pinot Noir, 25% Chardonnay, Charmat method, organic grapes, vegan)
beautiful salmon pink
fresh, a touch of strawberries
more strawberries on the palate, fresh, clean, good acidity, nice body
8-, perfect for every day

And we are done. I’m leaving you here with a few of the options for your festive and daily bubbles – different prices, different wines, but all worthy of a life celebration as it happens. Cheers!

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