More than 3 years ago, an interesting tradition was born in the world of wine blogging (a brainchild of The Drunken Cyclist, with the help of the supporting cast of characters) – the Monthly Wine Writing Challenge. Every month or so, wine bloggers en mass subject themselves to the masochistic practice of taking a random word and creating a soulful connection from that word to the beloved world of wine – all of it on a tight deadline.
Writing a post for the Monthly Wine Writing Challenge (MWWC for short), I always want to put out a regular post, and then at the end, simply state “and by the way, this was written for the MWWC, ha”- just to show how easy it was. Of course, this practically never happens – like today, with the theme of our epistolary exercise been “Bubbles“, and my writing taking place during the very last hour (sigh).
When oenophile hears the word “bubbles”, the first reaction it triggers is “Champagne!”. It gives us such a pleasure to write about the world of “Sparklers” – the ingenuity of Dom Perignon, the resourcefulness of Widow Cliquot, the battles of I-was-the-first-to-make-my-wine-sparkle.
There are many other connections of the bubbles to the world of wines – think about bubbles you see on the surface of the juice during fermentation – those are some bubbles! Or think about simple, tiny bubbles of oxygen, making it through the cork and allowing the wines to age gently and gracefully – these bubbles are critical. And then there are maybe bubble issues for the wine collectors? Will that price of DRC or Petrus ever come down?
Yes, I will take my own, different course, and will not write about Champagne or Sparkling wines. For sure.
Do you believe me? Who said “no”? How did you guess?
Banal or not, but I have a good reason to write about sparkling wines – Prosecco, to be more precise. A few weeks ago, I was offered to review some Prosecco wines. At first, my reaction was “I’ll pass”. But reading the email more carefully, my interest piqued. I always thought of Prosecco wines made from 100% of grape called Glera (yes, there are few exceptions, like Bisol, but just a few). These three Prosecco wines were all blended – Processo DOC rules allow up to 15% of other grapes in the blend – and the blends were all unusual, so the intrigued brain said “why not”?
As we are talking about Prosecco, I need to share some fun facts with you – who doesn’t like statistics, right?
French Sparkling wine and then Champagne had been around for a bit less than 500 years. Prosecco’s history is only a bit longer than 100 years, and only in 1989 (27 years ago!) Prosecco made it for real outside of the Italy (here is the link to my post about it, in case you are interested in history). However, according to Nielsen report, Prosecco sales in US in 2015 grew by 36% (Champagne – 8%). In 2015, Italy produced its largest Prosecco crop ever with 467 million bottles – that is triple of only 7 years ago; out of this amount, 48 million bottles were exported to the US – and still US is only #3 importer of Prosecco behind UK and Germany.
Moving right along, let me decipher a cryptic title of this post for you (not that you cared much, right?).
Zonin family got into the wine business in 1821, almost 200 years ago. Now in the 7th generation, the family manages about 5,000 acres of vineyards, mostly in Italy. Zonin had been making Prosecco for the very long time, but considering the ever growing interest, they decided to offer a new line of Prosecco wines, called “Dress Code”, suitable for different mood and a company. The “Dress Code” colors include white, grey and black, so you can wear a different color every day. Of course, these are only colors of the bottles, nobody added squid ink to the wines… yet? Hmmm, note to self…
Here are the notes for the wines I tasted:
Zonin Prosecco White Edition Prosecco DOC (11% ABV, SRP $16.90, 91% Glera and 9% Pinot Bianco cuvée): simple overall. On the nose, touch of white fruit. Good creaminess on the palate, touch of white fruit, very restrained, good acidity, but again, overall is a very muted expression. 7/7+, Decent everyday glass of bubbly.
Zonin Prosecco Grey Edition Prosecco DOC (11% ABV, SRP $16.90, 87% Glera and 13% Pinot Grigio cuvée): white stone fruit on the nose, white flowers. Palate: light, creamy, effervescent, refreshing, distant hint of sweetness, round, good acidity. 8-, nice upgrade from the “white”.
Zonin Prosecco Black Edition Prosecco DOC (11% ABV, SRP $16.90, 90% Glera and 10% Pinot Noir cuvée): promising touch of fruit with lemon and rocky minerality on the nose. Perfect acidity, elegance, finesse on the palate, touch of white stone fruit, lime and noticeable nutmeg. Most elegant out of three, a “little black dress” if you will. 8/8+, one of the most elegant Prosecco I ever had.
So, what color are your bubbles? My favorite was black. Cheers!
This post is an entry for the 27th Monthly Wine Writing Challenge (#MWWC27), with the theme of “Bubbles”. Previous themes in the order of appearance were: Transportation, Trouble, Possession, Oops, Feast, Mystery, Devotion, Luck, Fear, Value, Friend, Local, Serendipity, Tradition, Success, Finish, Epiphany, Crisis, Choice, Variety, Pairing, Second Chance, New, Pleasure, Travel, Solitude
One of my favorite ways to start a conversation is to ask a trivia question, so here it is. We all take Prosecco for granted – if one wants to casually have a glass of wine with bubbles, Prosecco would handily beat any other sparkling wine as a top choice, no matter where in the world you are. Now, for the trivia part: do you know when Prosecco first appeared in London? I will give you few moments to ponder that question. Meanwhile, few basic facts: Prosecco hails from the hills of Veneto, where wines (still wines, it is) were produced for more than 500 years; Charmat-Martinotti method, used in the production of Prosecco, with the secondary fermentation taking place in a steel tank instead of the bottle (“secondary fermentation” is what produces those adorable bubbles), was first created in 1895. So when do you think Prosecco showed up in London?
The answer: 1989. And all due to the tenacity and passion. Bisol family had been producing the wine in Veneto for more than 20 generations (yes, I do call this a passion). When Gianluca Bisol approached his father and said that he wants to bring Prosecco to London, the father’s response was very quick (cue in Italian pronunciation and emotional hand gestures): “you are crazy!”. That didn’t stop Gianluca, and to London off he went. It appears that his father was almost right – selling unknown sparkling wine, door to door, in the downturn economic times, was not going swimmingly well, by any measure. Until a lucky coincidence (well, people would call it “luck”, but we all know that luck usually works best after applying lots and lots of hard, dedicated effort), when at one of the best restaurants in London, Gianluca met wine director who was not only Italian, but also born and raised in the same Veneto region, and was extremely happy to see his beloved Prosecco. As they like to say it in the books, the rest was history. Today, Prosecco outsells Champagne in UK 3 to 1. And annual production of Prosecco hit 540 million bottles in 2015. Just to finish with historical references, Prosecco made it to the US in 1992/1993 (in case you are wondering).
I had a pleasure of meeting Gianluca Bisol at lunch at Marta restaurant in the New York City, and we spend two hours talking, tasting wines and of course, eating tasty food (detailed account follows). This is where I heard the story of Prosecco concurring the UK, as well as many other interesting facts which all together can be summarized in one single word – passion. Passion for the land, vines and wines. Passion for the whole Veneto region. Passion for the traditions which are more than 20 generations strong. But also a passion for the not stopping, for continuing to innovate and to create – new wines and also new wineries.
Our tasting included 7 different wines, out of which 4 were Bisol wines, but 3 were from the winery called Maeli Colli Euganei, the winery which Gianluca helped to start in 2010. Actually the plan was that at the lunch, Gianluca will be joined by Elisa Dilavanzo, the owner of Maeli winery – unfortunately, Elisa got sick and had to stay behind, so Gianluca had a duty of representing both wineries – which he completed with flying honors, as you can imagine.
We started our tasting with 2014 Maeli Fior d’Arancio DOCG Sweet (6% ABV, SRP $27, Residual sugar 115 g/l, 100% Fior d’Arancia, a.k.a. Yellow Muscat) – nice sweetness, clean, minerality, beautiful sweet nose, bright white fruit, nice honey notes. The grapes for this wine come from volcanic soils, which gives it an interesting complexity, saving it from been “one singular note sweet bore”. It is not surprising that last year this wine was selected as “Best in Class” by Tom Stevenson in the UK in the sweet sparkling wines category. Another interesting fact is that in 2015, Maeli winery started Maeli Chef Cup competition, which will be now an annual event, where world-renown chefs compete to create the best dish pairing for Maeli Fior d’Arancia – if you are interested, here is the link detailing the 2015 competition.
Our next wine was NV Bisol Cartizze Valdobbiadene Superiore di Cartizze D.O.C.G. Spumante Dry (11.5% ABV, SRP $42, Residual sugar 23 g/l, 100% Glera) – some sweetness on the nose, but body very restrained, creamy mouthfeel, delicious aftertaste, beautiful supple palate. The wine can age – Gianluca had an opportunity to taste 20 years old Bisol Cartizze wine – it retained bubbles, but obviously acquired aromas of more mature fruit. As you can see, this wine is designated as Superiore di Cartizze D.O.C.G – Cartizze is a single vineyard, 106 hectares (about 255 acres) in size , one of the best vineyards in Italy (most expensive for sure). 139 families own parcels of the Cartizze vineyard – Bisol family owns their parcel for 21 generations. The cost of land on Cartizze is $2.5M per hectare, or $1M per acre – not sure if anyone is selling though.
Time to eat something, right? The first two wines were paired with the selection of appetizers:
Suppli Cacio e Pepe (Risotto Croquettes, Pecorino, Black Pepper) – nice crust, tasty, works the best with the wine.
Bietole Ai Ferri (Plancha-seared Forono Beets, Ricotta, Hazelnuts) – good, nice flavor, good acidity, hazelnuts work well to complement the wines.
Nebrodini Arrostiti (Wood-fired Mushroom Salad, Kale, Mustard Greens, Thyme, Lemon) – nice, good flavor.
We continued our tasting with NV Bisol Crede Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore D.O.C.G. Spumante Brut (11.5% ABV, SRP $25, Residual sugar 7.5 g/l, blend of Glera, Pinot Bianco and Verdiso). “Crede” is a “type of clay-laden soil with particular characteristics that greatly benefit the grapes”, according to the wine’s tech sheet. The wine had delicious nose, touch of fruit, fine mousse, perfect acidity, crisp, clean finish.
Now we go back to Maeli with our next wine, which was also the only still wine we had in the tasting. 2014 Maeli Colli Euganei Bianco Infinito ∞ Veneto IGT (12.4% ABV, SRP $24, Yellow Muscat 60%, Chardonnay 40%, aged 5 month in steel tanks, 3 month in the bottle) had nice aromatics, touch of lemon on the nose, vanilla, nice complexity on the palate. The name of this wine (infinito) comes from the accident – one of the workers called Elisa to inform her that one of the barrels needs attention, and when she asked which one, he said “infinito”. As she couldn’t understand what the worker was talking about, it appeared that the number “8” was written on the barrel at an angle, and so from there on the wine took the name “infinito”.
Now, the dishes which were paired with these two wines deserve their own commendation. You see, I rarely eat pizza. When I do, my absolute preference is that the pizza would have crisp, crunchy, literally paper-thin crust. This is exactly what I got at Marta – three pizzas, one better than the other (Funghi was my absolute favorite):
Stracciatella (House-made Stracciatella, Basil, Olio Verde) – perfect pairing. Delicious pizza – very thin crust.
Funghi (Fontina, Mozzarella, Hen of the Woods, Hedgehogs, Red Onion, Thyme) incredible, amazing flavor mushrooms and thyme. Great pairing with Bianco Infinito
Porri e Pancetta (Leeks, Bacon, Fontina, Scallion) – great flavor, very good pairing.
Last three wines were truly special and unique – but none of them are available in the US at the moment, unfortunately. 2015 Private Cartizze Zero Dosage Brut Valdobbiadene Superiore di Cartizze D.O.C.G. (second fermentation in the bottle, 12 month on the lees) – first Classic Method sparkling wine from Cartizze, 2015 vintage was bottled 45 days ago, 2011 was the first year of production, 3000 bottles produced in 2015 – classic champagne, yeast, outstanding.
Then we had 2011 Maeli Colli Euganei Rosévento IGT Spumante (12% ABV, Residual sugar 6.9 g/l, 100% Pinot Nero, 36 months on the lees) – another Classic method sparkling wine, yeasty, classic Rosè champagne nose with strawberries, delicious!
The last wine was truly unique – NV Jeio noSO2 Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG Spumante Extra Brut (100% Glera) – this innovative wine was produced without any added sulphur dioxide (hence the name), made specially for the sensitive consumers. The wine is packaged in the clear bottle wrapped into the foil, to protect it from the sunlight (the wine we were tasting was brought by Gianluca directly from the winery, so it didn’t have any foil or labeling, except the small pieces of paper around the bottle’s neck. The wine had an amazing nose, floral with a touch of white fruit, very dry and again, floral on the palate – very unique compared to any sparkling wine I had before. Delicious – you need to try it for yourself (well, you might have to visit the winery for that).
Our last two dishes were Pollo Ubriaco (Chicken Breast, Charred Cabbage, Brussels Sprouts, Fresno Chili, Mint), perfectly executed, and Salmerino (Arctic Char, Crispy Potato Cake, Horseradish Crema) – delicious, potato cakes were outstanding ( I would eat the whole plate alone), and the fish was cooked perfectly.
That’s all I have for you, my friends – a wonderful encounter with passion, great people, unique wines and delicious food. Next time you are in a mood for some bubbles in your glass, Bisol and Maeli offer a great range, suitable for any palate and taste. And even if you are not craving pizza right now, go visit Marta in New York – I’m sure you will be happy. And by the way, feel free to ask your friends if they know when Prosecco was first sold in London – you might become a party star, at least for one night. Cheers!
at Martha Washington hotel
29 E 29th St
New York, NY 10016
It’s being a couple of weeks since we watched (and judged, of course) some wine commercials. Continuing that thread (I hope you find it entertaining!), I would like to offer you two videos to compare.
First one is a commercial for Domaine Chandon, makers of California Sparking wine:
And the second one is a commercial for Italian sparkler – Zonin Prosecco:
Which one is your favorite? Let me know! Cheers!
Yesterday I shared with you my perspective on sparkling wine from 5 years ago. What happened in the past 5 years in the world of bubbly? Champagne is still a Champagne, as invented hundreds years ago, right? I would like to summarize the differences in two words: diversity and abundance.
Of course nobody invented Cava, Prosecco, Sekt or Cremant in the past five years – those sparkling wines had been around for hundreds of years. But never before were sparkling wines so abundantly available in United States – lots of them of a great quality and finesse, rivaling Champagne in taste and even more certainly, in price (average price of Champagne increased by about $5-$10 per bottle, depending on the brand and the actual wine store).
Diversity is another phenomenon in the world of sparkling wines – each and every category of the sparkling wines, including Champagne, has a lot more brands and styles widely available in many wine stores. Talking about Champagne, have you heard of Growers Champagne five years ago? I’m sure you did, if you are in the wine trade, but very unlikely if you are not. As we discussed before, majority of the Champagnes is produced by few big Champagne houses. For the most cases, those Champagne houses are not growing their own grapes, they are buying them from the growers. Some of the growers are also started making Champagne, which can be very distinctive and of a very good quality – I mentioned my experiences with Growers Champagnes a number of times before (you can find old posts here and here). Also increasingly available French sparkling wines made outside of Champagne appellation – they are often called Cremant and you can easily find Cremant de Alsace, Cremant de Bordeaux, Cremant de Bourgogne, Cremant de Jura, Cremant de Loire in many wine stores around you.
Going outside of France, more and more sparkling wines are made all over the world. While Italy, Spain, Germany and US where always on the bubbly’s map, during the last couple of years I was able to taste sparkling wines from Argentina, Australia, Georgia (Georgian Sparkling wine, called Bagrationi, was our favorite wine during blind tasting, beating out classic Champagne and many other – you can read about it here), South Africa, Switzerland and Uruguay. Next to this geographic diversity is number of grapes used nowadays for production of the sparkling wines. Traditional Champagne, as well as many of the Cremant wines and sparkling wines made in US and Italy, are made out of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier – however, in addition to this short list I tried sparkling wines made out of Chasselas, Chinebuli, Gamay, Malbec, Shiraz and Vidal (here is the post). A number of sparkling wines were also made using natural and biodynamic methods – I had a number of outstanding French sparkling wines made from Gamay (here is the post). If you are interested in this particular category ( natural Sparkling wines), I would highly recommend checking PJ Wine web site, which boasts excellent selection.
No matter what you are celebrating, there is always a special bottle of sparkling wine waiting for you. There is also nothing wrong with celebrating just another day. But considering that tomorrow is a New Year, make sure you have a good supply of the bubbly – no matter where it is from or what grape it is made out of, it is guaranteed to make your moment special. Happy New Year! Cheers!
Champagne! Of course, Champagne. No celebration is complete without the toast of “bubbly” – New Year’s arrival, wedding anniversary, winning of the Grand Prix, christening of a new ship, and many other occasions, big and small are acknowledged with Champagne.
Champagne is a very interesting subject in general, but even more so when New Year’s arrival is around the corner. You can find articles and blog posts about Champagne everywhere – here is a good example, post by Dr. Vino. Well, let’s join the conversation about Champagne.
Champagne is a wine which belongs to the group of so called “sparkling wines” – the wines with many tiny bubbles (there are at least 49 million bubbles in a bottle of champagne – feel free to count yourself if you don’t believe it). As many other things in life, discovery of Champagne is a combination of accident and luck – on a very primitive level, not fully fermented bottle of wine was frozen, then temperature rose, fermentation restarted (this time, in a bottle) – voila, you got a bottle of Champagne.
Well, small clarification will be appropriate – Champagne is both a wine and a place – in France, of course, where else. Are Champagne and Sparkling wine synonyms? No. Any Champagne is Sparkling wine, but not any sparkling wine is Champagne. Only sparkling wines produced in Champagne region in France using so called méthode champenoise can be called Champagne. All other sparkling wines produced outside of the Champagne region, even using the same method, can only be called Sparkling Wine.
Let’s play a little game which we will call “what is in the name”. Champagne only comes from Champagne, what about about other sparkling wines? Today sparkling wines produced everywhere, from wide variety of grapes and at ever increasing pace. Only this year I had sparkling Malbec (very good) and sparkling Shiraz (don’t do it). In United States sparkling wines are produced in California (lot’s of good wines), Oregon, New Mexico (surprisingly good), New York and many other states. Traveling through the world, a lot of sparkling wines have their own names. Let’s see if you will recognize some of them:
Prosecco – sparkling wine from Italy
Sekt – sparkling wine from Germany
Cava – sparkling wine from Spain
Cremant – sparkling wine from France (Cremant d’Alsace, Cremant de Bourgogne, Cremant de Loire, Cremant du Jura and many others)
Blanquette de Limoux – comes from Limoux in Languedoc, France with the claim of being the first Sparkling Wine, before Champagne became Champagne.
Champagne is endless subject – no way to cover it in the short blog post. Let’s stop our world tour right here, and let’s talk about the celebration “at hands” – New Year 2011. What bottle are you going to open to celebrate arrival of the New Year? How about a little dream? Again, you said? True, just a few days ago I wrote a post about the wines to dream of. Something was missing in that post, I think – and that “something” is … Champagne! There was no Champagne mentioned in that list. So we need to fix it. And if you need a Champagne to dream of, I have only one recommendation – Krug.
If you wonder why I so focused on one and only one Champagne, I can tell you – I had a chance to try it, and I was blown away. At the PJ Wine Grand Tasting event in November 2009, Krug 1996 was served among others, no doubt excellent Champagnes (Veuve Clicquot Rose, Dom Perignon 2000, …). I made a mistake – pretty much fatal, as it appeared – to start tasting from the Krug 1996. I had vintage champagnes before, and never really appreciated them. Krug 1996 was something else – with richness of freshly baked bread, nutty and creamy, fine-tuned refreshing acidity, ultimately balanced – it was incredible. All the Champagnes in that tasting, with pedigree or not, literally tasted like water next to Krug 1996. Yes, this wine is expensive (about $300+, you can check the price here), but it worth every penny – and worth dreaming about. And if you need to expand your Champagne dream list, you can find a lot more recommendations here.
There are few days left before we will toast new hopes, new dreams, new desires with the New Year 2011. No matter what will be in your glass, I wish for your wildest dreams to become reality. Raise your glass To Life, and keep dreaming!