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Bubbles for the New Year 2019

January 9, 2019 2 comments

I pride myself with not discriminating against any type of wine – white, red, sparkling, Rosé, dessert, fortified, $2, $10, $100 – doesn’t matter.

In theory.

In reality, most of the days, I drink red. And wish that I would drink more white and bubbles. Especially bubbles.

But luckily, we have at least a few holidays in the year, where the only appropriate choice of wine [for me] is bubbles. New Year’s Eve is absolutely The One – bubbles all the way.

As with all the holidays, a little prep is involved – the word “little” is a clear exaggeration, as deciding about the wine is mission impossible around here. However, this year it was easier than usual. Shortly before the New Year day, I received a special etched bottle of Ferrari Trento, the oldest Italian traditional method sparkling wine and one of my absolute favorites (I wrote about Ferrari many times in the past), so it was an easy decision regarding the bubbles to ring the New Year in with. I also wanted to start the evening with some vintage Champagne but considering that nobody was thoughtful enough to send me the gift of Krug Vintage, I had to settle for whatever I already had in the cellar. And then there was a bottle of generic French sparkler (non-Champagne) “just in case”.

2008 Philippe Fourrier Cuvée Millésime Brut Champagne (12% ABV, $29.99 WTSO) was outstanding, just a perfect sip to start the holiday evening right. It had just the right amount of yeast and toasted bread notes on the nose, just enough to enjoy without going overboard. Apple and lemon notes on the palate, round, fresh, elegant, perfect balance – just a beautiful wine (Drinkability:  8+). It was also a steal at the price (seems that the wine is no longer available at WTSO).

The vintage Champagne disappeared in no time, it was still long before the apple would start its slide down in the Times Square, so the generic French sparkling wine was next. The weather outside was far from ideal for the New Year’s Eve (non-stop heavy rain) but it didn’t stop me from the pleasure of sabering the bottle into the darkness – worked like a charm even with the wine glass, unlike the #$%^ (insert your favorite expletive) with the saber at the French Laundry.

The NV Prince d’Estivac Blanc de Blancs Brut Vin Mousseux de Qualite (12% ABV, $13.99 WTSO, Melon de Bourgogne 50%, Ugni Blanc 25%, Chardonnay 25%) was excellent in its own right – fresh and vibrant, with rich mouthfeel, touch of a fresh apple, a bit bigger body than a typical Champagne – delicious in every drop (Drinkability: 8). It was also interesting learning for me as I’m not really familiar with “Vin Mousseux de Qualite” designation. It can be used for any French sparkling wine made with the traditional method. I’m assuming with the Vin Mousseux de Qualite designation the grapes can come from anywhere in France, where all of the Cremant wines (Cremant de Alsace, Cremant de Loire, …) require the grapes to be from the defined geographic area – if I’m wrong, please let me know in the comment.

Last but not least the time has come for the NV Ferrari Brut Trentodoc Emmys’ Special Edition (12.5% ABV, $24, 100% Chardonnay, 24+ month on the lees). Ferrari wines generally don’t disappoint, and this one was not an exception – crips, bright, bubbly (pun intended), good minerality, cut through acidity – sparkling wine worth any celebration (Drinkability: 8).

Of course, there was more than just the wine – New Year’s Eve is calling for a full table – here is a fragment of ours.

How did you celebrate the arrival of 2019? What were your bubbles of choice? Cheers!

Sparkle Your Holidays!

December 23, 2015 7 comments

The holidays are still upon us, and nobody would argue that bubbles in your glass make you feel excited and festive, and that is exactly what we want for these special days.

Bubbles – let’s properly call them “sparkling wines”, so nobody would think that we are talking about condiments for your bath time – come today absolutely from everywhere. Forget the times when Champagne was one and only, and Cava and Prosecco were known only to a few professionals. Now literally each and every winery offers at least one sparkling wine, even if it is produced in a few hundred cases for the tasting room only.

Such an abundance is great for the oenophiles, as you always have something new to try. Today I want to bring to your attention few of the sparklers I tried recently, which would go great with whatever holiday festivities you are planning. As an extra bonus, these sparkling wines can also serve as a perfect illustration to diversity of places and production methods.

Sparkling wines

Let’s start from Champagne’s homeland, France – however, this wine is not produced using Méthode Champenoise. NV Coté Mas St. Hilaire Blanquette de Limoux Méthode Ancestrale (7.5% ABV, $15.99, 100% Mauzac) is produced using so called Méthode Ancestrale, which is very close to traditional method and most definitely precedes it. In case of Méthode Ancestrale, first fermentation is stopped before all sugar is converted into alcohol, and then secondary fermentation takes place in bottle with additional only of the yeast (no sugar is added). Unlike Champagne, Méthode Ancestrale sparkling wines undergo very short bottle ageing (3 month versus minimal 12 month and typical 2-3 years for Champagne). This Paul Mas’ sparkler had light golden color, showing yeast with touch of apple, good intensity, promise of a classic sparkling wine on the nose, and then touch of honey and honeysuckle, hint of ripe peach on the palate. As one would expect from only 7.5% ABV, it was quite sweet (similar to spatlese level of Riesling), but with the help of fine mousse, perceived very light and refreshing. I would serve it at the end of a good meal with a sharp cheese, they should go together very well. Drinkability: 7+

From south of France, it is short trip east to Italy, where outstanding sparkling wines are crafted in the northern region called Trento. Here the wines made using “metodo calsssico“, which an Italian name for Méthode Champenoise/Méthode Traditionelle. The requirements for metodo classico wines are even stricter than those for Champagne, with minimal bottle age starting from 15 month to the 10 years for the Riserva. And who can represent Trento DOC better than Ferrari – pioneer in both Chardonnay plantings and classic wine production in the region (Ferrari winery started in 1902). NV Ferrari Brut Metodo Classico Trentodoc (12.5% DOC, $25, 100% Chardonnay) had delicious nose of yeast and fresh apples, and clean acidity on the palate, with lemon and green apple. Classic, classic classic – clean, crisp and refreshing. Drinkability: 7+

Conversation about Sparkling wines would be incomplete without mentioning Cava – Spanish wine produced using classic Méthode Champenoise. Production of Cava is every bit as laborious as classic Champagne, with main differences been slightly shorter minimum bottle ageing requirements (9 month) and typical use of Spanish indigenous grape varietals. Anna Codorniu is one of the best representations of Cava and Spanish winemaking overall, producing wine since 1551 and pioneering Cava production in 1872. I wrote about NV Anna de Codorniu Brut Rosé Penedes DO (12% ABV, $14.99, 70% Pinot Noir, 30% Chardonnay) a few month ago – the wine is delicious, fresh, with fine mousse and pleasant body weight – it will complement any of your holiday festivities perfectly well. Drinkability: 8-

Now, I have two more interesting sparklers for you to consider, both coming from the USA. However, the place is rather unexpected – Finger Lakes region in New York. First one is made using the classic Méthode Champenoise2006 Glenora Brut Métode Champenoise Sparkling Wine Finger Lakes (12% ABV, $29.99, 52% Chardonnay, 48% Pinot Noir). Wine had light yellow color, fizz of light intensity. Classic nose – yeast, fresh bread, overall delicate. On the palate, it showed Granny Smith apples, touch of lemon, good acidity, fresh, clean. Overall, it was a good rendition of classic sparkling wine, however, to be consumed in one single day, as it lost all fizz by the second day. I can’t help to mention that at $29.99, QPR is not great. Drinkability: 7+.

To round off, while our last wine is also produced in Finger lakes, it is made using one more significant sparkling wine production technique – Transfer method, where after second fermentation in the bottle (6 month minimum), the wine is transferred to the pressurized tank, thus greatly reducing cost and labor which go into production of Méthode Champenoise wines. Italian Prosecco is made in somewhat similar way (sans the second fermentation in the bottle), and this Finger Lakes wine was modeled exactly after the Prosecco. 2013 Damiani Bollicini Bottle Fermented Sparkling Wine Finger Lakes (12.4% ABV, $15.99, 47% Cayuga, 35% Chardonnay + Pinot Noir, 16% Chardonnay, 2% Pinot Meunier) had straw pale color, touch of tropical fruit on the nose, complemented by a hint of gunflint. Nice creaminess on the palate, delicate fizz, clean, refreshing, crisp. Excellent overall, pleasure to drink, and would complements lots of different foods. Drinkability: 7+

That’s all I have for you for today. I wish you sparkling holidays, whatever bubbles tickle your fancy. Cheers!

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