The Goddess of Wine led an intrepid group of tasters through her annual exploration of sparkling wines for the holidays. We paired these sparklers with such gourmet treats as potato chips, popcorn, 'pigs in blankets' (cocktail franks in puff pastry), and homemade breads and cookies from #JDBakes.
All the wines showed exceptionally well, and as always, it was delightful to watch my students' enjoyment of the experience. In fact, after class was over, everybody stayed to revisit and purchase the wines! It was a win/win - or maybe a wine/wine - for all involved!
Wine #1 – NV Domaine Eugène Carrel & Fils Brut Rosé, Jongieux, Savoie, France. 100% Gamay. Sparkling wine from the French Alps. Methode Traditionelle. Very light red/pink color leads you down the path of the style: crisp, light, mouth-watering acidity. It's zesty! Citrus zest, minerality, red cherry and raspberry. Eugene Carrel & Fils is located in the village of Jongieux, about 40 miles southwest of Geneva, in between the Rhone River and Lake Bourget, France’s largest lake. Established in the 14th century, Eugene manages the estate with his son Olivier and his son-in-law Sebastien. The vineyards are situated at 1,476 feet and planted on steep, southwest facing slopes to calcareous clay soils. Despite their proximity to the Swiss Alps, the climate is surprisingly warm; Jongieux enjoys 2-3 more hours of sun than any other area in the Savoie. Consequently, the fruit reaches phenolic ripeness, resulting in wines that are balanced and fresh. The majority of Carrel’s wines are vinified in stainless steel tanks.
Wine #2 – NV Segura Viudas Brut Cava, Estate Bottled, Metodo Tradicional, Torrelavit, Spain – Cava is a sparkling wine of Denominación de Origen (DO) status from Catalonia, also produced in other regions of Spain. It may be white (blanc) or rosé (rosat). This wine is a traditional blend of Macabeo, Xarel-lo, and Parellada. The Catalan word cava means "cave" or "cellar". Caves were used in the early days of cava production for the preservation or aging of wine. Catalan winemakers officially adopted the term in 1970 to distinguish their product from French champagne.
Wine #3 - NV Nino Franco ‘Rustico’ Prosecco Superiore, Valdobbiadene, Veneto, Italy – Prosecco is a sparkling white wine from north-eastern Italy, specifically the Veneto and Friuli-Venezia Giulia wine regions. It is also the informal name for the grape variety used to make these wines, which is known officially as Glera. Since July 2009, the name 'Prosecco' has been regulated and protected under DOC law, ensuring that wines labeled with the name come only from the specified areas of north-eastern Italy.
Wine #4 - 2018 Sinor-LaVallee Ancestrale Sparkling Pinot Noir “Pet Nat”, Bassi Vineyard, San Luis Obispo County, California – This is the newest wine from Sinor LaVallee. It is a slightly sparkling Pinot Noir. It was made using the method ancestrale. 100% Pinot Noir. Whole cluster pressed day of harvest. No sulfur dioxide added. No commercial yeast added. NO dosage added. The label is an original oil painting done by Teddi Fuller (teddifuller.com) of a bison skull that Mike’s late father shot, and hangs at the winery.
Wine #5 – NV Faire la Fête Cremant de Limoux, France – A traditional blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Chenin Blanc, made in the Methode Tradicionelle. Where the southern contour of the famed Languedoc Roussillon region meets the Pyrénées mountains, Limoux boasts not one but four distinctive terroirs. Containing benchmark Chardonnay and Pinot Noir vineyards the four subzones deliver peerless sparkling wine. “The key to the terroir in Limoux” says Faire la Fête’s Winemaker, “is this wonderful mix of chalk and clay soils.
Wine #6 – NV Louis Roederer NV Brut Premier, Reims, Champagne, France. Brut Premier is a non-vintage Champagne generally combining at least four vintage wines in a blend of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Pinot Meunier coming from more than fifty different crus. The inclusion of reserve wines (approximately 20%) matured in oak casks for several years adds to the complexity and roundness characteristic of Louis Roederer's champagnes.
The Brut Premier does not go through malolactic fermentation. This current release is 56% Pinot Noir, 33% Chardonnay, and 10% Pinot Meunier. It is aged three years on the lees and a six months on the cork (after disgorgement) before release.
Wine #7 – NV Majolini Brut Franciacorta, Italy – Franciacorta is a sparkling wine from the Province of Brescia (Lombardy) with DOCG status produced from grapes grown within the boundaries of the territory of Franciacorta, on the hills located between the southern shore of Lake Iseo and the city of Brescia. It was awarded DOC status in 1967, the designation then also including red and white still wines. Since 1995 the DOCG classification has applied exclusively to the sparkling wines of the area. This wine is 90 % Chardonnay and 10% Pinot Noir; the grapes are pressed and fermented in steel tanks at a controlled temperature of approximately 18 °C. After pressing, some of the Chardonnay is fermented and refined in small wooden barrels. The wine is aged on the lees in bottle for at least 36 months.
An interesting note: The Maiolini family has been connected to wine and grapes since the 15th century. The family traces their roots to Ome, a unique place located on the northeastern border of Franciacorta. The red grape variety Majolina (recently recognized as a variety indigenous to Lombardy) is a testament to the long history of the family in this region.
Wine #8 - NV Ridgeview “Bloomsbury” Brut English Sparkling, Sussex, England – Planted in 1995, and situated near the picturesque village of Ditchling, winemaking siblings Mike and Chris Roberts selected three clones of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier on three different rootstocks for their land. The chalk and clay soils and cool climate of the South Downs enables the grapes to retain high levels of natural acidity when they are fully ripe, crucial to producing full flavored sparkling wines. Find citrus fruit aromas with hints of melon and honey, and a balanced finish.
Wine #9 – NV Cleto Chiarli "Vigneto Cialdini" Lambrusco Grasparossa of Castelvetro DOC, Emilia-Romagna, Italy – 100% Grasparossa. Lambrusco is a brightly colored grape variety used to make sparkling red wines in Emilia-Romagna, northern Italy. More accurately, it is a collective term for a group of grape varieties (much like Muscat) – more than 60 Lambrusco varieties have been identified so far. Lambrusco vines are grown in several Italian wine regions, including Piedmont (Emilia-Romagna’s neighbor) and farther afield in Basilicata. Today, most wines bearing the Lambrusco name are made in bulk, and go through their secondary fermentation in large steel tanks. This is known as the Charmat (or tank) method, pioneered in northern Italy and also used in the production of Prosecco.
Happy Holidays to all!