Sunday, December 26, 2010

Champagne & Sparkling Wines, a comparative

     5 days before New Years - have you bought your bubbly? By bubbles I don't mean your Michael Bubble cd (his nickname is Bubbles) - I mean your sparkling wine and/or Champagne. 'Tis the Season and all that - right?


     But first we should explain what the difference is between Champagne and Sparkling Wine: geography. Pure and simple geography. If a sparkling wine is made in the region of France known as Champagne, then it is called Champagne. If sparkling wine is made anywhere else in the world it cannot be called Champagne. Many countries have their own names, however, such as Prosecco in Italy, or Cava in Spain. Many of these other sparkling wines are just as good as those made in France, and most sell for far less money.

     So! Let's explore!

N/V Sua Lemon, Argentina
10.5% ABV, $17 **Very Good Value**
  • visual:     clean, extremely light straw core with watery rim
  • nose:      moderate+ intense; youthful; oaky, leesy, lemon drop candies!
  • palate:   1 sweetness, moderate citric acids, moderate+ bodied with very creamy textured bobbles, moderate+ intense; youthful; flavors of vibrant lemons, lees, candied lemons, moderate structure/length on the palate
  • conclusion:    great value for $17, I would want to serve this in the hot summer as a white sangria... it seems made for adding ripe peaches, oranges, cherries & sipping under a pergola
N/V Sigura Viudas Rose Brut, Spain
11.5% ABV, $19 **EXCELLENT VALUE**
  • visual:   clean, pale cherry core with watery rim
  • nose:     clean, youthful and somewhat layered; moderately intense aromas of floral, yeast, light candied red berries such as red currants, cherries and early raspberries, a finish with some barnyard-like qualities of Spanish casking
  • palate:   0 dryness, moderate+ acids, light body with light creamy bubbles, moderately intense; youthful; flavors of red berries, florality with a mineral backbone, very quick and clean finish
  • conclusion:    Brilliant Cava for any number of occasions; I have served it for evening parties, and appero to open the palate as dinner, with a sweet dessert at the end of dinner, with chocolate, and at brunch all to marvellous success. This Cava has never let me down. Consistent product.
N/V Flor Prosecco
  • visual:     clean, pale cream core with watery rim
  • nose:      clean, moderate+ intense; youthful; somewhat layered; aromas of florals, creamy peaches (think peaches&cream hot cereal), wildgrass, ripe Anjou pears
  • palate:    0 dryness, moderate very well balanced acids, moderate body with small creamy bubbles, moderate+ intense; youthful; layered flavors of ripe pears, creamy peaches, oatmeal like lees, bananas, long structure with clean finish
  • conclusion:   brilliant wine for the money! This has enough layers that I would want to serve it with a roast cornish hen with pear & cranberry compote, or roast pork loin with apricot & star anise... I'm definitely looking forward to serving this with food
N/V Sumac Ridge Brut, (Summerland)Okanagan, BC, Canada
$30 **Very Good Value**
  • visual:     clean, ultra pale rose core with slightest pink watery rim
  • nose:      clean, moderately intense; youthful; aromas of mineral terroir, straw
  • palate:    0 dryness, fully intense crabapple acids, moderate- body with small amount of tiny bubbles, fully intense; youthful; developed; flavors of crabapples, orchardfruit, cranberries, citrus undertones and stony soil, very well constructed structure and long finish
  • conclusion:   this is a very well made wine that has obvious style and technique. Personally, the flavors don't immediately appeal to me on their own, but make me want to make a spinach salad with Asian 5-spice seared duck breast - or even just duck confit on fresh bread. Either is a compliment to the winemaker (In My Humble Opinion).  Excellent Value for BC product, and truly showcases terroir.
N/V Monmousseau Brut (Tourraine) Loire Valley, France
$23 **BUY THIS NOW**
  • visual:     ultra pale cream core with watery rim
  • nose:      moderate+ intense; youthful; layered; aromas of little summer flowers, orchard fruit, limestone terroir, lees
  • palate:   0 drynes, moderate well balanced acids, light body with a slight cremant or creamy/foamy bubble to it, moderate+ intense; youthful; developed; flavors that completely and perfectly mimic the nose, excellent length and very well constructed... the flavors last for over 30 seconds and are clean, crisp
  • conclusion: if this winery were situation 5 km over (in Champagne), I don't think you could buy it for less then Veuve Cliquot. This 100% Chenin Blanc completely and utterly over delivers in every way. I have already  bought more & find it a wonderful treat that demonstrates a certain aspect of Loire viticulture with 100% assurance. Try it with toasted walnut & chevre stuffed roast pears with gooseberry coulis & walnut brittle!
2002 Cristal Champagne, France
$300 CAD, $180 USD **Very Good Value**
  • visual:     light cream/satin core with watery rim
  • nose:      moderate+ intense; youthful but showing some age; incredibly developed but tight and needs coaxing to open; straw/hay, oak, buttery lees, stony terroir, orchardfruit
  • palate:    0 dryness, moderate+ acids, moderate+ tight creamy body with a plethora of tiny bubbles, moderate intense; youthful; elegant; layered flavors which completely and utterly mimic the nose in every nuance, a superbly long finish and a true mastercraftsmans structure.. this wine stays on the palate, still evolving, for over a minute after swallowing
  • conclusion: This is the year to drink 2002 Cristal if you have the money. I don't think it will evolve much more, but will certainly live for a few more years. As soon as I tasted it - I wanted salmon gravlax, creme fraiche & caviar... simple decadance, much like this brilliant cuvee. Is it worth $300? For those who can afford $300 for a bottle of wine, I say experience something grand. And there isn't much grander then the work from this Grand Cru.

     I hope this has been of some assistance!  There are far more sparkling wines out there, many of which are deserving of your attention. If I leave you with one piece of information - I would say: Don't think of sparkling wines just as a once a year occasion... there are a multitude of value-priced and over-delivering sparkling wines, cremant, brut, prosecco & cava... enjoyable at any time of year and affordable as well.


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