Archive for Sparkling
Our New Year’s Eve winetasting in VINO, included 3 top echelon “grower” Champagne. (A friend brought the 4th, just to share). The recoltant manipulant (grower) category of Champagne seems to be really catching on & growing across the country. Here are 3 certainly worth checking out!
100% Chardonnay from the Grand Cru Village of Oger. Surprisingly powerful, penetrating!
80% Chardonnay, 20% Pinot Noir, actually from a single parcel in Rilly la-Montagne. No ML, 10 months in OLD barrels. 50 months sur latte. One of the true standout “grower” Champagnes.
Jacques Selosse Blanc de Blancs Initial “Grand Cru”
Jacques Selosse Blanc de Blancs Exquise “Grand Cru”
100% Chardonnay from the villages of Avize, Cramant & Oger. Typically for the Initial bottling Selosse uses the lower slope vines of the 3 villages AND blends 3 different vintages. Then for the Exquise bottling, he will add a little more dosage , so there is a hint of sweetness (typically around 24 grams per liter). On this night the Initial tasted stark, pure & minerally (to the point of being more Burgundy-like than Champagne like). It was exciting tasting the Exquise, which I do not think is imported into the U.S. or perhaps in very minute quantities, side by side. It gives one a very different perspective.
Yes, we did another sparkling wine tasting in VINO tonight. As is often the case….the goal was simply to show yet another dimension to the world of wines.
Punta Crena Mataossu Spumante Brut grown on the steep, rocky hillsides of Liguria, undergoes ML & secondary fermentation & aged on the lees for 10 months. This grape is grown by only 1 family in 1 village.
Raventos I Blanc Brut Rose “De Nit” FOUR indigenous Spanish grape varieties (xarello, parellada, macabeo & monastrell) grown in imestone influenced soils. Methode Champenoise. This family has been doing this for 19 generations!!!!!
Lambert de Seyssel “Royal Seyssel” a VERY unique bubbly from the Savoie region (limestone-clay soils), at higher elevation. Typically 50% each of Molette & Altesse grape varieties, 3 to 4 years on the less & done method tradionelle, just as they would in Champagne. Many believe this region was one of the first to produce bubblies this way….even before Champagne itself. “L’Altesse is the historic grape of the area for sparkling wines, and it has existed here since 1393. Its name translates to ‘Highness,’ which I guess makes sense in a place like Savoie. Wines from Altesse are remarkable for their aromatic finesse, elegance, and great aging potential. A second grape called Molette is what they consider the key to Royal Seyssel’s success. It is a native Savoie variety, descended from Gouais, with small compact clusters and tiny berries of golden yellow and remarkable acidity. They are a perfect combo for a vin Clair.”
Veuve Fourny Brut “Grande Reserve” 70% Chardonnay, 30% Pinot Noir…Premier Cru… 2 ½ years ageing, 30% in Burgundy barrels. This family owned House looks for elegance, purity & fine-ness.
Yes, tonight we did yet another tasting of Grower Champagnes. Just so we are clear….Recoltant Manipulant Champagnes are NOT necessarily better because they are small, or farm their own grapes or make their own wine. In the finest cases it is an issue more about artisanal & hand crafted. On this night we tasted several.
J. Lasalle Brut “Preference”
from Chigny-les-Roses…60% Pinot Meunier, 20% each Pinot Noir & Chardonnay, all Premier Cru.
Although I am not a huge fan of Pinot Meunier, (& in this case it actually muted the ethereal-ness I love about Champagne somewhat), this wine is nonetheless sheer, very pretty & lovely with tiny bubbles.
Camiles Saves “Carte Blanches”
This cuvee is 75% Grand Cru Pinot Noir (Bouzy, Ambonnay & Tour-sur-Marne) & 25% Premier Cru Chardonnay (Tauxieres). For my palate, Camilles Saves can be hit or miss. On this night, however, it was a very popular choice for many of the tasters. It undoubtedly showed breed & class coupled with a fine bead & a long finish.
Coquilletes Blanc de Noirs “Les Clefs”
100% Grand Cru Pinot Noir from Ay. This Grand Cru Grower Champagne showed breed, depth & character & was another popular choice by the tasters.
Varnier Fanniere Brut Zero “Grand Cru”
100% Chardonnay from Avize with NO dosage added. It is a wine about the purity & transparency of their Grand Cru terroir.
Out of the gates, the 1988 was lighter in color, much more refined, precise & high toned. In comparison, it took the 1982 some air time to really start opening up & show its stuff. It eventually & really proved to become quite a remarkable glass of Champagne–nutty, toasty, much more lush, deep, harmonious & interesting.
It is always a real hoot & actually quite the learning experience when you get a bunch of real wine fanatics together to do a themed wine tasting. Well….last night was the night….at VINO….& Champagne was the theme.
Everyone graciously brought a bottle or two to share & the tasting was quite comprehensive that’s for sure.
We first did a tasting of 3 Blanc de Blancs just to set the mood.
The Varnier Fanniere NV set the toned. Based in Avize, this 100% Grand Cru Chardonnay was incredibly lively, full of finesse, pedigree with terrific balance & lots of vibrant minerality. The Veuve Fourny is located in Vertus, just south of the Cote de Blancs What an absolutely lovely Premier Cru Champagne with a captivating mouthfeel, which must be from extended lees contact & stirring. I would certainly buy another bottle! Batting last in this formidable line-up was the Jacques Selosse “Initial”, a very striking, wild yeast fermented, low dosage aristocrat, produced from Avize, Cramant & Oger (Grand Cru) grapes.
After these bottles there was a flurry of bottles popping & of course in no particular order…..but here is how I remember it.
The J. Lasalle “Angeline” is 60% Pinot Noir, 40% Chardonnay from their estate vineyard in Chigny-les-Roses. The wine is aged on the lees for at least 5 years, which is so surprising, considering how refined, & truly finesseful it really is. Quite impressive to say the least. Pierre Peters is also a real favorite of ours. Their grapes come from Mesnil-sur-Oger, Oger, Cramant & Avize (all Grand Cru) & their resulting wines are absolutely riveting, full of life & vigor, pure & scintillating. The Varnier Fanniere Brut Rose is 90% Chardonnay with 10% still Pinot Noir added, all Grand Cru. We found the wine to have a surprisingly lively, charming personality.
The Philipponnat Brut Rose “Reserve” was a very pretty, refined, refreshing break from all of the previous cerebral wines in the line-up. It is a style you can drink easily & often.
The Gonet Medeville Brut “Tradition” is 70% Chardonnay, 25% Pinot Noir & 5% Pinot Meunier from their various vineyards in Bisseuil, Trepail, Mareuil-sur Ay & Les Mesnil sur Oger.
VINO regulars well know that the J Lasalle Brut Rose is my wife’s favorite Champagne because of its sheer finesse, divine pedigree, amazing ethereal-ness & its tiny, delicate bubbles. The Paul Bara Brut “Reserve” is another favorite “grower” Champagne of ours. The grapes come from Bouzy, 80% Pinot Noir & 20% Chardonnay & epitomizes what a Grand Cru, “grower” Champagne should be about….class & pedigree without foo-foo-ness……amazing depth, layering & great texture. Well worth seeking out!
The final wine of the night (at least that I know of….Jose Dhondt (but I do) NV….produced from 15 Grand Cru acres in Oger, resulting in intensely stony, minerally Blanc de Blancs.
Interestingly, the day before we were able to taste another standout Champagne–
….from Vilmart….80% Chardonnay, 20% Pinot Noir from Rilly & Villers-Allerand, barrel fermented in Burgundian barriques & then aged in large oak & barriques. It is also quite the showstopper!
(photo–by Rick Lilley)
Last night was a real fun get together with some of our restaurant teammates to discuss & taste some interesting sparkling wines from around the world. Hopefully participants walked away with some further insight & information on the category.
The 3 most commonly used ways to produce sparkling wine–
1) Carbonation. Yup, that’s right….just stick in the hose and turn on the C02. While the process is certainly more complicated than that, it is about carbonating a beverage. Usually this means larger bubbles which dissipate quicker in the resulting wine.
2) Bulk or Charmat method. Working in a restaurant, we see sparkling wines more frequently using this method of production where the wine undergoes a secondary fermentation under pressure in large stainless steel tanks.
3) Methode Champenoise. The wine usually undergoes extended lees contact & secondary fermentation in a bottle.
As I mentioned to the gang last night although the “methode Champenoise” is deemed as producing more “serious”, often quite complex wine by most wine aficionados, I don’t think it necessarily makes for better wines.
As is the case with all wines, when, what & how to consume/ enjoy a wine is affected by many different considerations….such as the weather, the temperature, who you’re with, for what occassion, etc, etc. On a scorching, hot, humid day, I would much rather gulp a glass of ice cold Italian Moscato d’Asti or a well chilled Cremant de Loire (which are both normally produced using the Charmat process) than a Grand Cru Champagne, which has been on the lees for 8 years. They would be much lighter, ethereal, delicious & thirst-quenching….PLUS are at least 1/4 of the cost of the Grand Cru. Just one person’s perspective.
We therefore divided the 8 wines into 2 categories–easy drinking & those considered more serious drinking.
We started off with the–
Ruggeri Prosecco “Gold Label”
We had originally searched out Ruggeri’s Prosecco back in 2003 when we were looking to open our VINO concept. Why? Because it really is so light, refreshing & wonderfully delicious. I have in fact yet to find a suitable potential replacement, especially in the delicious department. The grapes come from steep, rocky rolling hills of Valdobbiadene up in northeast Italy…& is produced using the Charmat process. Hard to beat!
Roederer Estate Brut
This French Champagne firm decided to expand their operation to the U.S. & finally settled in California’s Anderson Valley in 1982. If you don’t know the Anderson Valley….it is part of Mendocino & is roughly an 1 1/2 hour drive north of Sonoma. The area is currently really bustling with new plantings & wine activity as more & more people realize the vast potential this valley has for producing top caliber Chardonnay & Pinot Noir. So…..here you have wonderfully cool growing conditions & French winemaking expertise….& that is what has made this winery standout. They use only their estate grown Pinot & Chardonnay in production to better control quality….then age the wine for at least 2 years, in addition to blending in some reserve wine. The wine typically is toasty on the nose & somewhat creamy on the palate.
Baumard Cremant de Loire
is the very kind of bubbly to sip well chilled on a super hot Summer day. This is Chenin Blanc grown in mainly limestone soils in France’s Loire Valley. it is these soils which help foster the wine’s delightful minerally, ethereal edge which buttresses the wine’s refreshing personality. This wine also works well with shellfish dishes using shrimp, lobster & crab.
Raventos I Blanc L’Hereu Reserva Brut
A stellar example of the vast potential Spain has for producing interesting, incredibly food friendly, completely refreshing sparking wines. This cuvee is produced from THREE indigenous Spanish grape varieties–Xarel-lo, Parellada & Macabeo….grown in limestone & produced via the methode Champenoise. This family has been doing this for 19 generations!!! You will be amazed at how fresh, vibrant, ethereal & lemony it is….like a laser beam.
Simmonet Febvre Cremant de Bourgogne
is a sparkling produced from Chardonnay grapes grown in the Burgundy appellation. We chose to show this particular one because it hails from Chablis which interestingly has similar soils & cold, northerly growing condition as found in Champagne. The added bonus is at 1/4th the cost. How can one not absolutely love the purity, vitality, remarkable lightness of this wine!
Jose Dhondt Blanc de Blancs “Grand Cru”
We then moved on to French Champagne, and specifically “grower” Champagne. In case you are not familiar with the “grower” category (RM), the stipulations include, owning you rown vineyards & making your wine While that is not necessarily a determinate of quality, it certainly says something about being artisanal & hand crafted. This cuvee is 100% Chardonnay from Oger & is therefore Grand Cru…..pure, riveting, elegant & classy.
Paul Bara Brut “Grand Cru”
It seems only right to end the tasting with one of our all time favorites. Yes, another “grower” Champagne (way before that was fashionable) from Bouzy…totally artisanal & handcrafted….80% Pinot Noir, 20% Chardonnay….all Grand Cru ….this is the way it should be. I am glad somethings never change.