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Robin Garr

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December Wine Focus: Sparklers, not Champagne

by Robin Garr » Wed Nov 30, 2016 11:28 pm

As all wine geeks know, the term "Champagne," no matter how widely it's abused, applies only to the great sparkling wines made in the traditional fashion in the traditional region of Champagne in France.

But there's a ton of other sparkling wine made around the world, and while some of it misses the mark badly, there are a lot of options that provide much of the flavor enjoyment of Champagne without the price. Whether it's made by the traditional method, the vat-fermented Charmat method, or cheaply made wines with carbonation added in the industrial process like soft drinks, it's up for grabs this month, as we look for quality and value in the bubbly wines with which many of us will celebrate the holidays and the new year.
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Re: December Wine Focus: Sparklers, not Champagne

by Robin Garr » Fri Dec 02, 2016 4:08 pm

No takers? Gentlefolks, pop your bubblies!

I'll start with a couple of good Blanquette de Limoux, traditional-method sparklers from Limoux in Southwest France, near Carcassonne, that I reported in the Wine Advisor last week but saved for this Wine Focus. I really like this genre for excellent quality in a not-Champagne that sells well below Champagne prices. :)

Saint-Hilaire 2014 Blanquette de Limoux Brut ($14.99)

A blend of Mauzac ("Mo-zock,") the historic regional grape, with Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc, this Limoux sparkler foams up briefly, then falls back to a slight but persistent bubble stream. It shows a very light brass color, pale straw with a greenish hue. Its light, fresh-fruit aroma suggests a mix of delicate fruit and scents, hints of tangerine peel and kiwi fruit with a breath of acacia flower, an aroma reminiscent of wool. Creamy carbonation and fresh, brisk acidity come together on the palate, opening to citrus and floral notes that mirror the nose as the wine warms in the glass. U.S. importer: Jack Poust & Company Inc., NYC. (Nov. 22, 2016)

FOOD MATCH: Like Champagne, this bubbly wine goes with just about everything. We enjoyed it with a light dinner salad with a soft vinaigrette and dabs of mild Capriole goat cheese, and hot dinner rolls with butter.

WHEN TO DRINK: There's no rush, but I'd drink this vintage bubbly within a few years of the vintage, while it's fresh.

VALUE:
My local price is pretty close to the $14 average U.S. retail listed by Wine-Searcher.com. It's an excellent value in the middle teens, and I'd consider buying it as a Champagne alternative up to $20 or so.

WEB LINK
Here's a link to the importer's fact sheet on both this Brut and Saint-Hilaire's "Semi-Sweet" bubbly.

FIND THIS WINE ONLINE:
Look for vendors and compare prices for Saint-Hilaire 2014 Blanquette de Limoux Brut at Wine-Searcher.com.

Domaine J. Laurens NV "le Moulin" Blanquette de Limoux Brut ($14.99)

A blend of 90% Mauzac with Chardonnay, this is a clear, light straw-color sparkling wine, with a foamy mousse that falls back to leave multiple streams of lasting bubbles. Simple, pleasantly earthy note behind light scents of pears and green apples. Effervescent prickliness and tart acidity dominate a palate impression backed by simple white fruit and a touch of chalky minerality. The label claims a relatively gentle 12 percent alcohol by volume. It seems simple at first, but gains intriguing notes of Champagne-like "cocoa" and "biscuit" as it warms in the glass.

U.S. importer: Vintner Select, Mason, Ohio; a écoltant Wines selection. (Nov. 20, 2016)

FOOD MATCH: Good anywhere an acidic white wine would go. It seems a particularly good companion with white-fleshed fish, shrimp, oysters or clams.

WHEN TO DRINK: It's non-vintage, but probably best not held for long-term aging. There's no open or coded bottling date, so check with a trustworthy retailer if you're in doubt.

VALUE:
My local price is a few bucks above the $12 U.S. retail shown on Wine-Searcher.com. Even at the mid-teens, it's a good value at a price substantially below the cheapest Champagne..

WEB LINK
The estimable Jancis Robinson has a good article about Limoux' little bargains, including a mention of J. Laurens and some of his wines.

FIND THIS WINE ONLINE:
Unfortunately, Wine-Searcher.com lists only a few European vendors for Domaine J. Laurens "le Moulin" Blanquette de Limoux Brut.

For a wider selection of Blanquette de Limoux and some information about the region and its wines, see this Wine-Searcher.com link.

You might also try checking in with U.S. importer Vintner Select to ask where the wine can be found at retail.
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Paul Winalski

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Re: December Wine Focus: Sparklers, not Champagne

by Paul Winalski » Fri Dec 02, 2016 6:21 pm

I'm very fond of NV Gruet, especially their Blanc de Noirs and Rose. The quality matches sparklers that sell at twice the price. Excellent QPR.

-Paul W.
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Re: December Wine Focus: Sparklers, not Champagne

by Bob Parsons Alberta » Sun Dec 04, 2016 4:42 am

TN: N/V Langlois Carmin Dry, Loire Valley.

Very nice to try again before tasting event downtown 13.5% alc, $28 Cdn. 100 percent Cab Franc. Very fine mousse, off-dry, light to medium intense center with watery strawberry rim. Quite delicate but nice fruit balance. A hint of herbs and spice on the finish with nice blackcurrant and berry. At Xmas I prefer with baked ham and turkey. Trouble is that many know this wine so more for me and in house PO.
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Re: December Wine Focus: Sparklers, not Champagne

by Bob Parsons Alberta » Sun Dec 04, 2016 4:43 pm

I have posted before on Iron Horse Brut here so here are some brief thoughts on a recent bottle opened..as the snow continued to come down :( .

The 2011 Iron Horse Classic Vintage Brut comes in an attractive bottle/label. Blend of PN and Chardonnay naturally, bready nose with apples and some mineral tones. Still think this one needs some time but has good acidity and a hint of ripe fruit. Living in AB, not cheap needless to say but you chaps down to the south of us might find it discounted. As an aside, I would like to find the "pinkie" but might have to visit Calgary for that one.
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David M. Bueker

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Re: December Wine Focus: Sparklers, not Champagne

by David M. Bueker » Sun Dec 04, 2016 9:10 pm

Table & Vine held their annual Champagne gala this afternoon. They pour a bunch of Champagnes, but also a number of Cremant, Cava, Prosecco and California Sparklers. I am so completely jaded, that only the Roederer Estate from California and the Under the Wire Alder Springs Vineyard Blanc de Blancs (also California) made any worthwhile impression. The rest seemed non-description and often oversweet. Champagne for me please!
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Re: December Wine Focus: Sparklers, not Champagne

by Dave Guimond » Mon Dec 05, 2016 2:05 pm

The Saint Hillaire has been my go to "fake" Champagne for decades. I can generally find it for around $10 at Costco. This is what I use for mimosas, but it is also good enough to drink on it's own, unlike most Cava offerings (which are also fine for mimosas)... I have also found the most recent NV Mumm Napa to be a good value at $14 (earlier efforts were less impressive). That said, I have always felt that Sparkling wine is one of the few wine categories where the "imitations" have never come close to reaching the quality or complexity level of the originals, regardless of the cepage or method employed. There is just no substitute for real Champagne for special occasions, but there are plenty of serviceable sparklers on the market. However, I would not pay more than $20 for any of them if I can make the jump to the real deal for just a bit more money...
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Re: December Wine Focus: Sparklers, not Champagne

by Robin Garr » Mon Dec 05, 2016 2:47 pm

Thanks, Dave, and by the way, it's great to see you! Glad you dropped by the forum, and I hope you'll hang around.

The Saint-Hilaire has been a go-to for me for years too, for all the reasons you mention. If you can source the le Moulin, though, you ought to check it out. I don't know how they get that blanc de noirs "cocoa" and "biscuit" in there, but I swear it's there, as the wine warms in the glass, and that puts it a cut above any cava I've every tried.
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Re: December Wine Focus: Sparklers, not Champagne

by Jenise » Tue Dec 06, 2016 2:49 pm

One of the bennies of living where I do is the access to certain BC wines, none more excellent and advantageously priced than the bubble from NV Blue Mountain Winery. It's around $27 and can actually pass for French in a blind tasting. We coincidentally enjoyed a bottle last night after getting the taste for bubble with a Vilmart Grande Reserve at a friend's house earlier in the day, and it not only compared favorably, it might have surpassed the Vilmart. Tight, vicious little bubbles and richer flavors than I remembered, it not only rewarded my confidence but boosted it.
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Re: December Wine Focus: Sparklers, not Champagne

by Bob Parsons Alberta » Fri Dec 09, 2016 3:56 pm

Blue Mountain..nice indeed.

2013 Raventos i Blanc de Nit, Cava, Sp.

Being poured at an open house downtown. I am a good Raventos fan, one pays a bit more but that is OK.
Very pale pink in color, nice small lively bubbles. Found light strawberry tones, some citrus, light bodied overall. Good acidity, some sweetness. So-so length but still a pleasing drop of wine. Guess around $28 Cdn.
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Peter May

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Cava: Juve Y Camps Reserva Familia 2012

by Peter May » Mon Dec 12, 2016 2:39 pm

Juve Y Camps Reserva Familia 2012 Cava Traditional Method (Spain)

Had two glasses of this at a tastng Saturday, great things were promised for it but it didn't make much of an impression on me.

I was surprised it is a Brut Nature, i.e. no dosage added, because although totally dry it tastes very soft without an acidic edge.

It's made only from free run juice (given as the reason for it's softness and lack of hard edges) spent 3 years on its lees, and we were told, is regularly being served at Spanish Royal banquets and Government receptions.

Made of the traditional Cava varieties, Parellada, Macabeo and Xarel-Lo, and also apparently some Chardonnay was also included.

Nice inoffensive fizz, but I prefer a bit more edge.
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Cloudy Bay 'Pelorus' Brut NV

by Peter May » Mon Dec 12, 2016 2:56 pm

Cloudy Bay 'Pelorus' Brut NV Traditional Method (New Zealand)

I won this in a raffle so we had it last night as aperitif before dinner instead of our usual Champagne

It brought back memories of the last time I had Pelorus which was around Christmas 2014 sitting in the sun on a bar over the water at The Bay of Islands. Ahhhh.

Well, it was a dark cold night for this bottle, but it has a great mousse and a crisp apple flavour with enough bite to make it good with food and mouthwatering on its own.

Its a mostly Chardonnay blend with a little Pinot Noir all grown in Marlborough, fermented and aged in a mixture of stainless steel tanks, large oak vats and small French oak barrels. It has a minimum of two years lees ageing in the bottle before disgorgement.
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Re: December Wine Focus: Sparklers, not Champagne

by Tim York » Mon Dec 12, 2016 4:47 pm

It doesn't look as if I'll be drinking bubbly other than Champagne during this festive season. However, I find that I have opened a few since I have been keeping notes on CT. Here they are. All except Chapel Down come from the Loire valley and are made from Chenin.

2005 Foreau Domaine du Clos Naudin Vouvray Pétillant Brut Réserve - France, Loire Valley, Touraine, Vouvray Pétillant (10/8/2016)
Probably the most delicious bubbly I have had from the Loire valley. Not quite bone dry but full of life, tension, crisp moreish acidity and refined minerals at the same time as a certain tenderness and underlying roundness. Very good.
Image

2012 de Neuville Saumur Cuvée Louis François - France, Loire Valley, Anjou-Saumur, Saumur (5/1/2016)
Decent crisp fruity bubbly.

NV Château Moncontour Vouvray Pétillant Méthode Traditionelle Brut - France, Loire Valley, Touraine, Vouvray Pétillant (1/1/2016)
I found this in response to a demand for more bubbles to see in the New Year. Rather the beggar on the gentleman after the preceding wines seeming rather acidic and hollow but it did its job and I'll take another look tomorrow.

2011 de Neuville Saumur Cuvée Louis François - France, Loire Valley, Anjou-Saumur, Saumur (11/7/2015)
Nice crisp bubbly, medium bodied with pleasant fruit and lively acidity.

NV Gratien & Meyer Saumur Brut - France, Loire Valley, Anjou-Saumur, Saumur (7/21/2015)
Surprisingly good. Quite round but very fresh tasting with nice fruit, minerals, lively acidity and quite big bubbles.
Image

NV Chapel Down Reserve Brut exclusive Marks & Spencer - England, Kent (12/25/2014)
Served as a surprise. Nice bubble. Quite champenois nose with white fruit and a dash of cream and biscuit. Lively medium bodied palate with bright acidity, minerals and a slightly perfumed floral element in addition to the aromas already noted. Finesse. Good apéritif bubbly.
Posted from CellarTracker
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Re: December Wine Focus: Sparklers, not Champagne

by Jason Hagen » Sat Dec 17, 2016 3:05 pm

  • 2011 Argyle Vintage Brut - USA, Oregon, Willamette Valley (12/17/2016)
    At first, the nose is slightly odd. A bit doughy but also some egg elements would creep in. That did blow off but it was unusual and not very pleasant. 60% Pinot Noir and there is a good amount of richness but the wine seems disjointed. Fruit pops through but then a yeasty element takes over. Argyle does some interesting bubbly but I was not drawn to this one.

Cheers,

Jason
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Re: December Wine Focus: Sparklers, not Champagne

by David M. Bueker » Mon Dec 19, 2016 11:26 am

Had the Navarro Sparkling Gewürztraminer yesterday, and it was as expected, a ton of fun. Not too overtly Gewurz, but plenty of rose and pineapple notes, which made it really easy to drink.
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Two decent Proseccos

by Robin Garr » Mon Dec 19, 2016 1:10 pm

Il Follo Prosecco Extra Dry ($12.99)

Clear light greenish-gold, a pale brass color; it foams up in a frothy mousse that falls back fast, leaving a steady shower of persistent bubbles. Fresh and appealing citrus aromas and flavors, it offers a mix of lemon-lime and juicy tangerine, bone-dry without a hint of sweetness. Frothy and fresh on the palate, mixed citrus flavors mingle with bright, zippy acidity in a long, clean finish. U.S. importer: Vanguard Wines, Columbus, Ohio. (Dec.14, 2016)

FOOD MATCH: Goes just about anywhere that a white wine would go. It was fine with a warming winter-comfort food dinner of buttery mashed potatoes topped with an umami-rich ragout of sauteed mushrooms with onions and garlic.

WHEN TO DRINK: Not meant for aging, buy it, drink it, and buy more later.

VALUE:
My local price is right on the $13 average U.S. retail shown on Wine-Searcher.com. It's a good buy for a clean, fresh and snappy bubbly at that price.

WEB LINK
The Il Follo website is available in Italian, German and English. Here's the English-language home page.

FIND THIS WINE ONLINE:
Compare prices and find vendors for Il Follo Prosecco Extra Dry on Wine-Searcher.com.

Nino Franco "Rustico" Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore ($16.99)

Bright gold with a slight greenish-brassy hue. It pours up very foamy but falls back to reveal lasting, multiple streams of bubbles that last. Simple and fresh, its aromas and flavors evoke fresh pears and apples with a back note of orange peel. Carbonation adds structure in the mouth, with white-fruit flavors, light 11 percent alcohol, and sufficient acidity to serve at the table without being overly tart. Nicely balanced bubbly. U.S. importer: Terlato Wines International, Lake Bluff, Ill. (Dec. 2, 2016)

FOOD MATCH: Good for an aperitif, good wherever a light white wine will serve. It was great with J. Kenji Lopez-Alt's "best roasted potatoes ever" with roasted asparagus.

WHEN TO DRINK: Don't cellar. Drink up.

VALUE:
Its average U.S. retail price is $16, via Wine-Searcher.com, and it's not a bad buy at that price, but I'm not sure it can stand up in value against the traditionally made Blanquettes de Limoux featured in the Wine Advisor last month.

WEB LINK
Producer Nino Franco offers this PDF fact sheet on Rustico Prosecco.

FIND THIS WINE ONLINE:
Check prices and find vendors for Nino Franco "Rustico" Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore on Wine-Searcher.com .
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Re: December Wine Focus: Sparklers, not Champagne

by Jason Hagen » Thu Dec 22, 2016 11:56 pm

Gruet Brut NV : Meh. Some odd flavors. I haven't had a Gruet in years and this bottle will not call me back. For sub $20 domestic bubble it is just so dang hard to beat Roederer NV. Especially they have a of sleep in my cellar. I think I'll head to Jura or Alsace for my next bottle in this tasting.

Cheers,

Jason
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Re: December Wine Focus: Sparklers, not Champagne

by Jason Hagen » Thu Dec 22, 2016 11:57 pm

Oh and I have no idea where the grapes were grown. Presumably nothing from New Mexico in this bottle.

Jason
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TN: Two von Buhl Sekts

by win_fried » Mon Dec 26, 2016 4:06 pm

Since nobody seems to write about German sparklers ...

A few years ago the former cellar master of Bollinger, Mathieu Kauffmann, became cellar master at Von Buhl in the Palatinate. There have been some enthusiastic reports about his sparklers. This months focus made us try two of his efforts.

2014 Von Buhl Rosé Brut: We are not really fond of rosé champagne, thus our judgement may be a bit off. The wine has just some yeast in the nose, on the palate there are red fruits in particular strawberry. Unfortunately, the "acid kick" that the merchant promised in his description was so prominent that we did not really like the wine. 19€ is ok but not a rebuy.

2014 Von Buhl Riesling Brut: This was much more to our liking. Brioche in the nose and some apple as we like it from champagne. Creamy mouthfeel and an appropriate acidity with apple and lemon zest on the palate. 15€ may make us come back to this one.
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Re: December Wine Focus: Sparklers, not Champagne

by Jason Hagen » Mon Dec 26, 2016 5:40 pm

  • Hubert Meyer Pinot Noir Brut Rosé - France, Alsace, Crémant d'Alsace (12/26/2016)
    What a terrific wine. 100% Pinot Noir. Dry but lots of fruit. Hi amount of complexity. Medium acid. Subtle red fruit hits the mid palate. At $18, this is a killer deal. (92 pts.)

I will try more of the Hubert Meyer wines for sure.

Jason
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Re: December Wine Focus: Sparklers, not Champagne

by David M. Bueker » Mon Dec 26, 2016 11:59 pm

2012 Ultramarine Blanc de Noirs was stunning tonight. That is all.
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Zonin Prosecco Spumante Brut NV

by Peter May » Tue Dec 27, 2016 2:06 pm



Zonin Prosecco Spumanter Brut NV

Excellent Prosecco for a bargain price (£7.50 - 25% = £5.63) certainly exceeded expectations.

Mass of microscopic bubbles, clean fresh and - as expected - soft.
Ideal for light Boxing Day lunch before we all trooped of to see Snow White & the Seven Dwarves pantomime
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Re: December Wine Focus: Sparklers, not Champagne

by Jason Hagen » Wed Dec 28, 2016 1:33 pm

Great thread. Some new names for me to try.

  • NV Hubert Meyer Crémant d'Alsace Pinot Blanc - France, Alsace, Crémant d'Alsace (12/27/2016)
    After having the Brut Rosé and loving it, I thought I should give this a try. Not as intriguing as the Pinot Noir but very good for $17. Lot's of apple on the nose. Tart apple. Pears with a small amount of yeasty richness on the palate. Medium/high acidity on the finish. I am going to hold my other bottle for 12-18 months.

    Cheers,

    Jason

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Re: Zonin Prosecco Spumante Brut NV

by Jason Hagen » Wed Dec 28, 2016 7:50 pm

Peter May wrote:
Zonin Prosecco Spumanter Brut NV

Excellent Prosecco for a bargain price (£7.50 - 25% = £5.63) certainly exceeded expectations.

Mass of microscopic bubbles, clean fresh and - as expected - soft.
Ideal for light Boxing Day lunch before we all trooped of to see Snow White & the Seven Dwarves pantomime


Just grabbed a bottle of this at Trader Joe's for $6.99. Thanks for the tip.

Jason
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