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Hoke

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WTN: Schramsberg Blanc de Noirs Sparkling California

by Hoke » Thu Sep 14, 2006 10:39 pm

Served this wine to a group of people this week.

It was, quite frankly, disgusting.

Paid $28 at retail...in part because of the reputation of the winery. Yet when I poured it almost all of the 15 people that tasted it---as a prime example of a quality California sparkler---were disappointed. A couple were downright offended by the wine.

General descriptions ranged from "This must be cork tainted!" to "This isn't very good sparkling."


Since I know a sparkling winemaker, and had a second bottle that never got tasted, I took the bottle to him. Even before I said anything (other than an unspecified "Will you take a look at this?) he said, "I bet you had a bad bottle, eh?"

I confirmed that's what happened, and he said he figured out what it might be before we cracked open the bottle.

Turns out, according to my sparkling winemaker acquaintance, that the Schramsberg BDN is a good (or should I say bad?) example of why most sparkling wine isn't put into clear glass bottles. He said that unless the wine is consumed almost immediately, if it is exposed to ultraviolet light---say, in a retail store---for any length of time, the light alters the wine. It's what is known in the trade as "lightstruck". And that's why most champagnes/sparkling wines are not sold in clear bottles.

If you do suffer the lightstruck phenomena, you might think it's cork taint, since it comes across as a similar thing...there's the wet cardboard/chlorine-ish smell, but there's still evident fruit as well. And in extreme examples, there is a definite, pronounced, ugly fungus/mushroom smell, like old withered mushrooms.

So, a word to the wise: watch out for those clear bottles of sparkling. If they've been on the shelves for a while, you might have a lightstruck wine. And that is NOT a good thing.
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Robin Garr

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Re: WTN: Schramsberg Blanc de Noirs Sparkling California

by Robin Garr » Thu Sep 14, 2006 10:58 pm

Hoke wrote:So, a word to the wise: watch out for those clear bottles of sparkling. If they've been on the shelves for a while, you might have a lightstruck wine. And that is NOT a good thing.


Interesting, Hoke. There's a very similar shoot-itself-in-the-foot phenomenon in the commercial beer industry, where bright light and hoppy beer interact to create mercaptans (skunk juice), a phenomenon so common that many people assume that Heineken's is <i>supposed</i> to taste like that. It's not, of course.

The peculiar thing about all this is that (1) fancy green bottles transmit the active frequency of light much more effectively than old-fashioned, blue-collar brown bottles do, but the industry will not give up its yuppie green bottles; and (2) those pretty bright cooler boxes that make the beer look so yummy on display will skunk a brew overnight, whereas simply dispensing it from the dark - or from a case - doesn't cause the problem.

But flash overcomes substance, and green-bottle beer comes out of brightly fluorescent-lighted cases whether it's good for the beer or not. And most consumers don't seem to mind.

Lesson here for Schramsberg? Who knows ...
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TimMc

Re: WTN: Schramsberg Blanc de Noirs Sparkling California

by TimMc » Thu Sep 14, 2006 11:51 pm

IMHO...a very nice sparkling wine.
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Mike Filigenzi

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Re: WTN: Schramsberg Blanc de Noirs Sparkling California

by Mike Filigenzi » Fri Sep 15, 2006 12:09 am

Very interesting, Hoke. I hadn't heard of that one before. And I daresay there's a PhD lurking there for some aspiring UC Davis grad student...


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Re: WTN: Schramsberg Blanc de Noirs Sparkling California

by Howie Hart » Fri Sep 15, 2006 12:15 am

Hoke - Did your friend say why this phenomena is restricted to sparkling wine? As a home saprkling wine maker I only use dark green bottles, but this interests me.
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Re: WTN: Schramsberg Blanc de Noirs Sparkling California

by Hoke » Sat Sep 16, 2006 1:24 pm

Howie: He didn't say it was limited to sparkling wines; it's just that his primary job is to make sparkling wines, and that was the context of our discussion.

A still wine maker has the same hesitation of putting wine in clear glass bottles. That's primarily a marketing decision, to appeal to those people who like simplicity and the apperance of clarity and cleanness in their purchasing decisions. And it's primarily used for wines that are consumed immediately. I would imagine it's for the same reason: the UV light would break down the wine.

For a bottle of SB or Riesling or White Zin that's going to be consumed quickly, that's not a problem. For a $28 bottle of sparkling wine that might sit on a retailer shelf for months, I'd say it's a hell of a risk.

Tim: The point wasn't whether Schramsberg BDN was a heck of a bottle or not. The point was that as a consumer I shouldn't have to worry about whether the quality would be good or spoiled by the packaging decision. I, too, generally like Schramsberg wines---but I'll damn sure hesitate to spend that much money on a wine when I know there is a serious chance that the wine will be spoiled. It's the old caveat emptor at work.
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Re: WTN: Schramsberg Blanc de Noirs Sparkling California

by TimMc » Sat Sep 16, 2006 9:02 pm

I understand.

It is why I make sure to buy my wine from a merchant who understands how to store it.

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