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Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Champagne/Sparkling Wine Tasting

It’s too early to report that I’m drinking anything, but I’ll tell you that I had some fun wine last night - a sparkling wine from Provence, vintage 2010, Cinsault/Grenache extra brut, methode traditionelle.  Lovely.  And right now I’m listening to the Pointer Sisters - such fun music!  It’s early in the day and I almost never blog early, but I don’t have any real obligations until later today.

And I’ve been wanting to tell you about this tasting we attended last weekend.  To be honest, I can hardly believe that I’ve never been to a Champagne or sparkling wine tasting before - at least not that I can remember.  So when one of my favorite retailers told me he was hosting such a tasting in his wine shop last week, we decided we absolutely had to go.  And it was completely worthwhile.  I won’t tell you about prices on the wines as pricing can vary tremendously depending on your location, and honestly, his prices are among the best I’ve seen on Long Island, for many different products, so his pricing might not be a fair reflection of what you can find elsewhere.

We started out with a wine that I’ve had before - the Domaine de Moulin Gaillac NV - here’s one you’ve probably never had.  It’s creamy and delicious with fine bubbles, made from the Mauzac grape from the Gaillac region of South West France.  (After reading it’s from South West France, you probably can guess why I’ve had this wine a few times before - in fact, I opened this past Feast of the Seven Fishes on Christmas Eve with this wine.)    It has lemon, apple, and floral notes with a touch of sweetness.  And it’s inexpensive by anyone’s standards, for an offbeat sparkling wine.

Good grower Champagne at under $30?  Sign me up!
The other non-Champagne sparkling wine we had was the Raventos I Blanc de Nit 2010, from Spain, in fact from where they produce Cava.  It used to be classified as a Cava, comes from that region of Spain, and made with grapes such as Xarello and Macabeo that we usually see in Cava, but after issues with Spanish government regulations regarding classification of Cava, Raventos opted out of being classified as Cava, and since then, their sales have increased a great deal.  The wine is soft, clean, and a gorgeous very pale salmon color in the glass.  I liked it very much.

The next wine was the surprise of the night for me, as it’s the least expensive real Champagne I’ve ever tasted (at under $30) - the Duc de Romet Brut Prestige NV - it’s mostly Pinot Meunier actually (as opposed to mostly Pinot Noir and Chardonnay) - and it’s surprisingly sophisticated, elegant, and lovely and bright, with very fine bubbles, and characteristics of lemon zest, golden apple, earth, and mushroom (the latter being a result of the high percentage of Meunier).  I’d be hard pressed to find a better Champagne in this price range.

Next up was one of my favorites but not one of Peter’s favorites, even though we both found it to be satisfying and very complex.  It’s the Aubry Brut 1er Cru NV - and as strange as it may sound, for me it’s a very masculine Champagne in that it just smells like a man.  Here’s why - it’s got woody, musky, wild characteristics and notes of subtle incense and patchouli.  I love subtle suggestions like the characteristics of this wine, a Champagne that keeps me guessing and wondering.

The rest of the Champagnes seemed very traditional in style.  Next was the A. Margaine Brut 1er Cru NV, with lots of fruit, stone, herb, pear, and a creamy but very clean feel.  It’s exactly what we’d expect from a good grower Champagne (see?  All the Champagnes at the tasting were grower Champagnes, coming in at prices far lower than their counterparts at the large Champagne houses that compromise on quality for the sake of quantity - taste through some grower Champagnes, check out the prices, and there’s a pretty big and convincing case for buying grower Champagnes), and traditional is usually my favorite way to go in terms of sparkling wines and Champagnes.

I loved the penultimate wine - the Chartogne-Taillet Brut Rose 2009.  It’s a bright salmon colored rose, with notes of peach, orange peel, barely ripened red berries, and a clean feel - just amazing in appearance and on the nose and palate as well.  I don’t drink rose Champagne nearly often enough, I have no idea why, but this is a new favorite.

And we wrapped up with the Egly-Ouriet Brut 1er Cru “Les Vignes de Vrigny” NV - another stunning example of a reasonably priced grower Champagne, traditional to the core in style, with a slightly golden rim, a perfect balance of fruit and mineral, a clean but satisfying and delicious wine with wonderful texture and presence, and a fabulous way to end a Champagne tasting.

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