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Posts Tagged ‘Sparkling wines’

Color of the Bubbles – Mine Were White, Grey and Black

September 13, 2016 6 comments

Champagne in the GlassMore 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 dress code prosecco

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

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!

Daily Glass: Summer Perfect

June 7, 2015 9 comments

Is there a such thing as “summer wines”? When I think about this subject, I’m always torn. I don’t have any problems drinking Provençal Rosé or crisp light white wine in the winter, and I would never refuse a glass of heavy and hedonistic California Cabernet in the summer. But is it only in my mind that I’m so open-minded (hmmm, was that a pun, and was that intended?) – in reality, I would usually gravitate towards reds in the winter, and Rosé and white wines as the temperatures starts rising. After all, there might some merit to the summer wines concept. Anyway, let’s proceed.

Today I want to bring to your attention a summer-perfect collection of White and Rosé wines – they were all samples I got recently (some are even not so recently), but most importantly, they will perfectly brighten up your summer day.

Let’s start with the two of the excellent Rosé wines from France – Domaines Paul Mas. Last year, I was lucky to taste through the Paul Mas portfolio of red wines, and after tasting Rosé wines this year, I can only say that it is not for nothing Paul Mas is considered a specialist in “Affordable Luxury”.  The first wine was 2014 Côté Mas Rosé Aurore Sud De France Pays d’Oc IGP (13% ABV, 30% Cinsault, 20% Syrah, 50% Grenache, $12.99 SRP, 1L bottle) beautiful concentrated pink color. Fresh strawberries, lemon zest and limestone on the nose, fresh strawberries and lemon zest on the palate, vibrant acidity, very balanced, medium finish – a perfectly refreshing wine for the hot summer day. This wine creates a feeling of a calm and relaxation, it is like a lazy summer day (Saturday!) distilled in the glass. (Drinkability: 8-/8) I have to add that I love the festive label, and of course the wine has an amazing QPR at $12.99/1L bottle.

The second wine was even more interesting – NV Paul Mas Cote Mas Cremant de Limoux Brut Rose, Languedoc-Roussillon, France ($18.99 SRP, 12% ABV, 70% Chardonnay, 20% Chenin, 10% Pinot Noir). This sparkling wine comes form the cradle of the sparkling wines winemaking – St. Hilaire, which claims to start production of sparkling wines in 1531. Well, this is not a subject of this post – the wine itself was outstanding though. Beautiful salmon pink color, touch of yeast and toasty bread on the nose. Perfectly present toasty bread on the palate, clean acidity, light creaminess. Right from the fridge shows very astringent. As the wine breathes and warms up in the glass, it shows more minerality while staying very dry. Drinkability: 8-

From France, let’s move two Italy – here I have two summer wines from the Banfi selection. First, NV Maschio Prosecco Brut Treviso DOC (SRP $13, 11% ABV, 100% Glera)- nice, clean nose of white peach. Palate restrained and quite dry, with touch of peach, light creaminess, very refreshing overall. The wine complemented well spicy food as well as chocolate dessert. Drinkability: 7+

Next wine – 2013 Fontana Candida Terre dei Grifi Frascati DOC (SRP $13, 13% ABV, 50% Malvasia Bianca di Candia, 30% Trebbiano Toscano, 10% Greco, 10% Malvasia del Lazio) – on the nose, touch of candied fruit, white flowers, touch of lemon, overall very pleasant. On the palate, lemon, candied lemon peel, touch of tropical fruit, good acidity, medium-long finish. Drinkability: 7

Continuing our European tour, we are now arriving to Spain. First up – delicious sparkling wine – NV Anna de Codorniu Brut Rosé Penedes DO (SRP $14.99, 12% ABV, 70% Pinot Noir, 30% Chardonnay). This Cava, a Spanish sparkling wine produced by the same method as Champagne, has very interesting story behind it. Anna was a name of the heiress of the Codorniu winemaking family which started making wines in 1551. In 1659 Anna married winemaker Miguel Raventós, and their direct descendant José Raventós was the first to commercially produce Cava in 1872 using méthode traditionelle. The wine itself was excellent – fresh, slightly yeasty nose, fine mousse, firm on the palate with crisp acidity and touch of strawberries. This wine would make a perfect sip any time, summer day or not. Drinkability: 8-

Next wine is another Spanish classic – 2014 CVNE Monopole Rioja (SRP $14.99, 12.5% ABV, 100% Viura). Monopole was the oldest white wine from Rioja, starting from 1915. The wine has dry and pleasant nose, with a hint of white fruit. On the palate – touch of the white stone fruit, lemon, and crisp and bright acidity. This wine needs time to fully develop in the bottle, so if you have some space in the cellar, throw a few bottles in and forget it for the next 5 years or even longer. Drinkability: 7+

Another wine from CVNE, which was a first time experience for me – 2014 CVNE Viña Real Rosado Rioja (SRP $13.99, 12.5% ABV, 85% Viura, 15% Tempranillo). The wine was perfectly Provençal in style – hint of strawberries on the nose, dry, crisp and restrained on the palate, steely acidity combined with firm structure, light but noticeably present wine. The wine would perfectly fit any hot summer day (and not so hot too). Drinkability: 7+/8-

Old York Cellars Pinot GrisI have one last wine to present to you. This time, we are crossing Atlantic ocean and arriving at New Jersey. Yes, New Jersey makes wines, and I wrote about them before. Today I’m bringing to your attention an excellent summer wine from the same winery – 2013 Old York Cellars Pinot Gris American Table wine, New Jersey (SRP $18, 12% ABV) – clean and crisp nose, touch of Chablis-like minerality. On the palate – restrained white fruit, crisp acidity, touch of minerality. Overall very refreshing. Drinkability: 7+/8-

And we are done here. Enjoy the summer with the glass in your hand. Cheers!

 

An Eventful Friday – Sparkling, Port, Radio Talk Show and more

December 7, 2014 10 comments

Writer's Block Cabernet FrancAs you probably noticed, the number of posts on Talk-a-Vino is down very significantly. There are many reasons for that – different workload from my day time job, few time consuming projects we tackle at home, and of course the plain familiar writer’s block. Yep, the writer’s block – when there is lots running in your head, and you have a great difficulty to put something out on  the “paper”. I tried to address the last one using the wine, I would hope specially made for such an occasion – the wine called Writer’s Block and made by Steele Wines in California. I first saw this wine mentioned in the blog I follow, called Mrsugarbears, and as you might see in my comment to that post, “Must. Find. This. Wine” was the first thing I said. I found the wine, and I got the Cabernet Franc and Grenache to try, out of the vast variety of the wines under that “Writer’s Block” label (you can see the full line of wines here).

We opened the 2011 Writer’s Block Cabernet Franc Lake County, California (13.8% ABV, $17) – it had eucalyptus, tobacco and fresh leaves on the nose. Palate was showing a medium body, tart blackberries, green bell peppers and more tobacco. On Friday, the characteristic cassis showed up, which made me happy while finishing the wine. Not sure it helped with my writer’s block, but I will gladly drink it again. Will try the Grenache next time. Drinkability: 7+

Let’s get back to that Friday. In the morning, the shipment of Horsepower Syrah arrived. I’m not sure how I managed to get on the list for this first release of super-highly allocated wine – but somehow I did, back in May. The wines comes from the legendary Christophe Baron (Cayuse, No Girls), from the tiny vineyards in Walla Walla Valley, all farmed sustainably and biodynamically (here you can read more about Horsepower Vineyards).

Okay, so it is all great, but not my main point here. I got a shipping notice from UPS at the beginning of the week, and then I got shipping delay notice from UPS, saying that the wine would be delivered only on Monday, which would be a problem as I’m traveling again next week, and there would be good chance that nobody would be able to sign for the wine during the day. This is why the delivery on Friday was so exciting that I even decided to share it in this post. This was also the first wine I received wine in the nice wooden box – so here are some pictures for you.

The next event on Friday was a really a double pleasure. At the beginning of the week, I connected to the @TheVineWineClub on Twitter, and then I got a note about possibly joining a radio talk show about the wine. Really? Yes, I can talk wine, I actually love to talk wine, so I said that I will be glad to do it – and it instantly happened, right on that Friday. At 3 PM, I was a guest at the regular radio talk show called “Off the Vine Radio Show with Benita and Terricinia“, hosted as you can tell from the name, by Benita and Terricinia. The theme was about the sparkling wines, so to support the conversation I decided to open a sample which I recently got – Ferrari Perlé from Trento in Italy. I almost feel guilty talking about Ferrari wine just matter-of-factly – the winery was founded by the Guido Ferrari in 1902; he was responsible for bringing Chardonnay grape into Italy, and he can be pretty much considered a father of Italian Méthode Champenoise wine industry. Full range of Ferrari sparkling wines is nothing short of spectacular and again, it really deserves it own coverage in a separate blog post.

This 2007 Ferrari Perlé Trento DOC, Italy (12.5% ABV, $35, 100% Chardonnay) was absolutely delicious – fine mousse, delicate aromas of apple and hint of toasted bread, perfect balance on the palate – apples, yeast, toasted bread, acidity – just very classic wine, making you say “ahh” after every sip. Drinkability: 8+

And the radio show – it was fun all the way! Benita and Terricinia were great hosts, very knowledgeable about the wine, so we definitely had a fun conversation (I really hope I didn’t overstepped my boundaries by talking to much)! I’m not going to recite our conversation here, but if you got a bit of time, here is the link for you for the broadcast. And if you will actually listen to the program – let me know (honestly!) what you think.

And the last highlight of the day – Port and Madeira tasting!

The tasting was focused on the Graham Port wines, one of the oldest Port houses in Portugal. There were 4 different ports presented in the tasting. The first one was really special, produced in the total quantity of 500 cases (less than 300 cases imported to US). This port was produced as part of the “Six Grapes” line, but for the first time in more than 100 years, it was done using the best grapes from 2011 and 2012 vintages, which were both simply outstanding vintages (some are saying that 2011 was one of the two or three very best over the last 100 years), and this is something never done before. You can read the full story here. Well, for what it worth, here are my notes:

Graham’s Six Grapes Old Vines Port ($34.99) – young and aggressive. Needs some time to mellow down – it has a sharpness of young fruit which still needs some polishing when it comes to the Port wine. After a bit of the breathing time, will perfectly finish a meal.

2011 Graham’s Vintage Port ($75.99) – again, this is the port from the amazing vintage, so it needs a lot of time to develop. Young bright fruit, blueberries and blackberries, firm and powerful body, excellent balance. Give it a 20 years, it will show what it is capable of.

Graham’s 10 Years Old Tawny ($27.99) – delicious. Dried fruit all over – figs, apricots, touch of hazelnut. And I love the bottle’s look and feel – this is a new packaging for this port which I think makes the wine shine even more.

Graham’s 20 Years Old Tawny ($45.99 – great price!) – make it double delicious. More dried fruit, nuttiness all the way, extremely complex. Thought provoking and might make you forget all the world troubles if you will be left alone with the bottle. My favorite from the tasting.

Last but not least – Blandy’s Malmsey 10 Years old Madeira ($23.99 – an amazing QPR) – a bit of sweet fruit on the palate, lots of complexity between nutty and salty profiles – delicious all the way.

Here we are, my friends – one eventful Friday. Writer’s blog, be bone – I can’t deal with you. Cheers and have a great week ahead!

Learning With #WineStudio – Coup de Foudre Pétillant Naturel from Vermont

August 7, 2014 4 comments

Coup de Foudre Bottle TopHave you tasted wines from Vermont? Do you know what Pétillant Naturel is, or have you tasted any of them before? Yep, me neither – until I joined the #winestudio event a few weeks ago. In case you are still not familiar with the concept (which you should be by now!), #winestudio events are intended to showcase unique and often lesser known wines and wine regions; these events are usually organized in series, take place every Tuesday on Twitter (just search for the hashtag #winestudio), and represent great learning opportunity.

The event I’m talking about was part of the series discovering lesser known wines of United States – Colorado, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Wisconsin – not a bad line up, huh? This particular session was dedicated to the wines of Vermont, and for me, there couldn’t be a better wine selected to represent the Vermont in the series. Just look at the bottle top in the picture – how many wines did you see with this type of closure? Yep, not many. And the learning? Wow, all the way!

Let’s start with Pétillant Naturel. It was the first time I encountered this type of wine, and looking for the information on internet, I discovered that I’m almost missing a train (well, I’m on it now). Classic méthode champenoise sparkling wines are made with the secondary fermentation taking place in the bottle. Pétillant Naturel wines are also sparkling wines, but made with the first(!) fermentation finishing in the bottle. No blending, not chaptalization, only the grapes and (usually) the natural yeast. The resulting wines are typically more fruit forward and expressive of the terroir, and also lighter than Champagne and such. They also develop only half of the pressure of the typical Champagne bottle, thus a standard “beer bottle” closure works quite well. Talking about “missing the train”, it appears that Pétillant Naturel wines are made all over the world and have quite a substantial following – here is an interesting article from the Wine & Spirits magazine.

Let’s continue with the learning and let’s talk about the wine. First, I love the name – French expression “Coup de Foudre” stands for “love at first sight” (unfortunately, the winery will not be able to use this name going forward, as there is now the winery in Napa Valley under the same name, so going forward the wine will be called “CdeF”).

I don’t want to use the term “natural wine” here due to the associated controversy in the wine media, but I will let you be the judge of it. The La Garagista winery is using organic methods and in the process of conversion to biodynamic. The grapes for this wine had been hand harvested and foot tread (!), and fermented with the natural yeast in the glass semijohn for about 5 weeks, then bottled to finish fermentation under cap as pétillant naturel. I think this is as natural as the winemaking can be.

And the love at first sight (and sniff and sip) it was for me! 2013 La Garagista Coup de Foudre White Pétillant Naturel, Vermont (11% ABV) had a yellow tingled color in the glass, quite intense. The nose was hard to describe – minerality was the first thing which was coming to mind, but also it was light, balanced, showing flowers and fresh bread, touch medicinal. On the palate, the wine was very refreshing, with herbs and touch of white stone fruit + minerality. If I can give you a frame of reference, the natural wines of Jean-Pierre Robinot and Frank Cornelissen come to mind, with their pure expression of terroir. I couldn’t stop drinking this CdeF wine, and the best overall descriptor I can come up with is “delicious”. Drinkability: 8

Added [personal] bonus – this wine is made out of the grape called Brianna, which is a cross between European varieties Bourboulenc and Tibouren Gris – this is a new grape for me, so I’m inching forward towards the coveted 500.

That’s all I wanted to share with you. If you like to learn more about unique wines and regions, do yourself a favor and join the #winestudio conversations, I’m sure you will be happy you did. If you can find this Coup de Foudre wine anywhere – buy a case (and send me a few bottles, will you?) Also, go and look for the Pétillant Naturel wines – you might discover the new love. Cheers!

 

Weekly Wine Quiz #102: Grape Trivia – Blends, Part 6

May 10, 2014 12 comments

two cremantsThe Wine Quiz series is not meant to intimidate. The whole idea here is to have fun and learn something new. When answering the questions, it is fully encouraged to use all available sources of information, including Google or any other search engine. There are no embarrassing answers – the most embarrassing thing is not giving it a try…

Welcome to the weekend and your new wine quiz!

We are continuing our grape trivia series,  focusing on the blends, even if it is a blend of 1. White, Red, Rosé, Sparkling, Still, Fortified and Dessert – all goes. Oh yes, and we will blend in some regions and even wineries as well, just to make it more fun.

Absolute majority of the wines are the blends of some sort, but there is one wine which to me is a complete standout in terms of the art of blending – I’m talking about Champagne. A typical bottle of the so called Non-Vintage Champagne is a blend of different wines from different vintages, all magically concocted together to achieve the consistent taste. As a special tribute to Champagne, I would like to focus today’s quiz only on the sparkling wines, which nowadays are produced absolutely everywhere.

And now, to the quiz!

Q1: French sparkling wines produced outside of the Champagne region are generally called Crémant. Today, the Crémant wines are produced in most of the well known regions in France, each region imposing its own requirements on the winemaking techniques. For one of sparkling wines below, if it is identified as Crémant Blanc, it is required for at least 50% of the grapes to be Chardonnay. Do you know which wine has this requirement?

a. Crémant d’Alsace

b. Crémant de Bordeaux

c. Crémant de Bourgogne

d. Crémant du Jura

Q2: Among other reasons, complexity of sparkling wines comes from the extended time the fermented juice have to stay in contact with the yeast (it is also called aging on the lees). Sort the list of the sparkling wines below based on the minimum time required for the non-vintage wine to be aged on the lees, from the longest to the shortest:

a. Cava

b. Champagne

c. Franciacorta

d. Trento

Q3: Dom Pérignon, a benedictine monk, largely considered to be the father of Champagne, had a very significant impact on creation the Champagne as we know it. From the list below, what do you think was Dom Pérignon’s major claim to fame?

a. He created the Champagne bottle

b. He discovered the Méthode Champenoise

c. He created the riddling table

d. He mastered the art of blending to improve the taste of the resulting wine

Q4: Below is the blend composition of the sparkling wine – can you name it?

Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Mauzac

Q5: As tomorrow is the Mother’s Day in US, here is probably an open ended and debatable question, but: Who would you call the Mother of Champagne and why?

Good luck, enjoy the quiz and your weekend! Cheers!

Trader Joe’s Wines Update

December 10, 2013 11 comments

Trader Joe's winesFew weeks ago, I wrote a post about noteworthy wine discoveries I made at Trader Joe’s store in California. As we visited our close friends in Boston for the Thanksgiving, I couldn’t miss the opportunity to explore the wine shelves at the nearby Trader Joe’s store, looking for great values. Once again, the mission was very successful – I can definitely recommend 3 wines out of 4 that I tried, which is an excellent outcome.

As we are now in the “holiday mood”, I’m trying to focus a bit more on the Sparkling wines of all sorts, so two out of four wines I want to present to you today are sparkling wines.

2012 Cecilia Beretta Brut Millesimato Prosecco Superiore Coneglian Valdobbiadene DOCG, Italy (11% ABV, $9.99) – I mentioned this wine already in my November “Month in Wines” update, so here are the same notes again – tiny refreshing bubbles, notes of fresh apple on the nose, round and roll-of-your-tongue on the palate with more of the fresh apple and yeast notes. Excelllent sparkling wine, and probably one of my very best in that price range. Drinkability: 8-

NV Trader Joe’s Reserve Brut Sparkling Wine, North Coast, California (12.5% ABV, $9.99, 62% Chardonnay, 26% Pinot Noir, 12% Semillon) – hint of fresh apples on the nose. Simple and clean on the palate, notes of white apples, good acidity. I would prefer a bit more substance in my glass (a bit heavier in the body and higher intensity of the bubbles), but this is definitely a very good wine for the money. Drinkability: 7+

2010 VINTJS Cabernet Sauvignon North Coast, California (13.5% ABV, $7.99) – I bought this wine based pretty much on the label alone – it looks very grand. Well, the content behind the label was not as grand as I would want it to be. Dark garnet color in the glass, dark fruit notes on the nose, hint of raspberries on the palate, medium to full body, good acidity – but no harmony, all the components where on their own. There are better choices at TJ’s at the same or lesser amount of money. Drinkability: 7-

2012 Marchigüe Carménère Reserva D.O. Colchagua Valley, Chile (13.5% ABV, $8.99) – quite honestly, I was craving Carménère for a past few month (I have none in my fridge), so when I saw this wine at the Trader Joe’s, it was an instant “yesss” decision. This is a very young wine for what it is, so if you want to enjoy it right away, I recommend decanting it – it needs to open up for at least 30 minutes to an hour. Dark ruby color in the glass. Perfect herbaceous hue on the nose – a hint of mint, so characteristic for the good Carménère. Sweet mint on the palate, cassis, a touch a eucalyptus, ripe raspberries, silky smooth texture, full body, excellent acidity and overall very balanced. This wine is definitely highly recommended. Drinkability: 8-

Here are all the wines I presented to you, now in pictures:

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Note: the same wines might have different prices in the different states. The prices mentioned above are all from the Trader Joe’s store in Massachusetts.

If you tasted or will taste any of these wines, let me know if you like them! Cheers!

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