WineAdvisor: Sparklers high and low

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WineAdvisor: Sparklers high and low

Postby Robin Garr » Wed Dec 27, 2006 12:41 pm

Sparklers high and low

With the possible exception of a warm, slightly bibulous rendition of "<i>Auld Lang Syne</i>," there's hardly a sound more symbolic of New Year's Eve than the festive pop of a Champagne cork.

But when you toast your friends and loved ones with a glass of bubbly on Sunday night, here's something to think about: A lot of Champagne isn't really Champagne.

By tradition and, in much of the world, by law, the word "Champagne" is strictly reserved for the sparkling wines produced in the Champagne region of France. Champagne's naming rights were written into international law during the 1920s, but the U.S. was under Prohibition in those days and the sale of all alcoholic beverages was forbidden, so the U.S. didn't participate in the treaty. After Repeal, major U.S. wine makers lobbied Congress to keep hands off so they could legally continue to use the name on domestic sparkling wine.

Only in the past few years has the U.S. finally joined the international agreement, so the C-word will now disappear from new lines of bubbly. But older labels are "grandfathered," so familiar labels like Gallo's André and Brown-Forman's Korbel will continue to bear "Champagne" on the label.

Most other countries have long since given up the fight and use alternative terms such as "Sekt" in Germany, "Cava" in Spain, "Spumante" in Italy and just-plain "sparkling wine" in English-speaking nations.

For your New Year's enjoyment (or, for that matter, for your enjoyment at any time), we thought it would be fun to present side-by-side tasting reports on two sparkling wines at significantly different price points: A true Champagne, a small-batch, artisanal all-Pinot Noir bubbly from France that cost over $50; and a decent Spanish "cava" that offers good drinking - if not the stunning quality of the $50-plus Champagne - for less than one-third that price. My tasting notes were previously posted in Wine Focus.
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Re: WineAdvisor: Sparklers high and low

Postby Michael Grossman » Wed Dec 27, 2006 2:43 pm

For those occasions calling for a bubbly, I long ago changed over to Prosecco. The quality to price quotient is amazing. There are many very, very well made prosecci available. Christmas eve, we had Nino Franco Rustico which at ten dollars a bottle was an absolute steal, not to mention a beautiful wine which I would put up against, and prefer over, a good champagne at any occasion.
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Re: WineAdvisor: Sparklers high and low

Postby Mark Willstatter » Wed Dec 27, 2006 2:53 pm

Michael Grossman wrote:There are many very, very well made prosecci available.


Actual Italians (of which I'm not one) may chime in but I believe the plural of "prosecco" would be "prosecchi", the "h" being necessary to preserve the hard "k" sound of the double c's.
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Re: WineAdvisor: Sparklers high and low

Postby Paul Winalski » Wed Dec 27, 2006 3:28 pm

Cremant de Bourgogne (sparkling Burgundy) is made using the methode champagnoise, and can be just as good as many Champagnes for a third the price.

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Re: WineAdvisor: Sparklers high and low

Postby Michael Grossman » Wed Dec 27, 2006 3:46 pm

Mark Willstatter wrote:
Michael Grossman wrote:There are many very, very well made prosecci available.


Actual Italians (of which I'm not one) may chime in but I believe the plural of "prosecco" would be "prosecchi", the "h" being necessary to preserve the hard "k" sound of the double c's.


You are right. I should have known that since I love focaccia. :)
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Re: WineAdvisor: Sparklers high and low

Postby Peter May » Thu Dec 28, 2006 8:42 am

Robin Garr wrote: "Sekt" in Germany, "Cava" in Spain, "Spumante" in Italy and just-plain "sparkling wine" in English-speaking nations. [/url].


And MCC - Methode Cap Classique in South Africa.
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Re: WineAdvisor: Sparklers high and low

Postby Peter May » Thu Dec 28, 2006 8:45 am

Paul Winalski wrote:Cremant de Bourgogne (sparkling Burgundy) is made using the methode champagnoise, and can be just as good as many Champagnes for a third the price.

.


Here in UK there's been a long running price war on Champagne and it is hard for any of the alternatives to compete on price when famous name Champagnes priced so low, and unknown names even lower.
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Re: WineAdvisor: Sparklers high and low

Postby Robin Garr » Thu Dec 28, 2006 9:16 am

Peter May wrote:And MCC - Methode Cap Classique in South Africa.


Thanks, Peter. Sadly, we see so little (if any) South African sparkling wine here that it didn't cross my mind to include it. Is it mostly made in the traditional method from the Champagne grapes, or other?
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Re: WineAdvisor: Sparklers high and low

Postby Robin Garr » Thu Dec 28, 2006 9:19 am

Paul Winalski wrote:Cremant de Bourgogne (sparkling Burgundy) is made using the methode champagnoise, and can be just as good as many Champagnes for a third the price.


Another good topic for another day, although I don't think I'd single out the Cremant of Bourgogne as standing head and shoulders above the Loire or Alsace versions in particular, not to mention Blanquette de Limoux. "Cremant," for what it's worth, is the standard term in most other French regions for the bubbly that even the rest of the French can't call Champagne any more. To be full-bore pedantic about it, the Cremants can't even use "<i>methode champenoise</i>" (note spelling) any longer - it has to be "<i>methode traditionelle</i>."
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Re: WineAdvisor: Sparklers high and low

Postby Peter May » Thu Dec 28, 2006 9:26 am

Robin Garr wrote:
Paul Winalski wrote: To be full-bore pedantic about it, the Cremants can't even use "<i>methode champenoise</i>" (note spelling) any longer - it has to be "<i>methode traditionelle</i>."


methode champenoise can't be used in the EU by anyone, but the Cremants got exclusive use of that term and its no longer allowed in Champagne where it used to be term for a Champagne with lower pressure wine. Somewhere I have an old label from a Cramant de Cramant Champagne
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Re: WineAdvisor: Sparklers high and low

Postby Peter May » Thu Dec 28, 2006 9:32 am

Robin Garr wrote:
Peter May wrote:And MCC - Methode Cap Classique in South Africa.


Thanks, Peter. Sadly, we see so little (if any) South African sparkling wine here that it didn't cross my mind to include it. Is it mostly made in the traditional method from the Champagne grapes, or other?


MCC refers to method of manufacture, since they were no longer able to use methode champenoise, cepage is not limited.

I've recently had a very attractive pink Brut Rose MCC made from 94% Pinotage 6% Pinot Noir by Simonsig - http://www.simonsig.com/kontrol_files/products/21.pdf
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Re: WineAdvisor: Sparklers high and low

Postby Robin Garr » Thu Dec 28, 2006 9:54 am

Peter May wrote:methode champenoise can't be used in the EU by anyone,


I was focusing specifically on the Cremants, but right you are.

but the Cremants got exclusive use of that term and its no longer allowed in Champagne where it used to be term for a Champagne with lower pressure wine. Somewhere I have an old label from a Cramant de Cramant Champagne


Good side note ... seems only fair. It's funny because Cremant now means a full-bore sparkler, but as I understand the original context ("creaming," I suppose an allusion to the wine's lightly carbonated richness) the Champagne cremants were more akin to Italian "frizzante," bubbly but at a lower order of pressure than full sparkling wine.
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Re: WineAdvisor: Sparklers high and low

Postby Oliver McCrum » Thu Dec 28, 2006 4:26 pm

I think it's Crémant de Cramant, or at least it used to be when Mumm made it; ie 'less-bubbly-Champagne-from-the-village-of-Cramant.'
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Re: WineAdvisor: Sparklers high and low

Postby Bob Parsons Alberta » Thu Dec 28, 2006 5:45 pm

Michael Grossman wrote:For those occasions calling for a bubbly, I long ago changed over to Prosecco. The quality to price quotient is amazing. There are many very, very well made prosecci available. Christmas eve, we had Nino Franco Rustico which at ten dollars a bottle was an absolute steal, not to mention a beautiful wine which I would put up against, and prefer over, a good champagne at any occasion.


Nino Franco is readily available up here. One store has about 4 different bottlings and quite exceptional from what I have tasted.
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Re: WineAdvisor: Sparklers high and low

Postby Peter May » Thu Dec 28, 2006 7:24 pm

Oliver McCrum wrote:I think it's Crémant de Cramant, or at least it used to be when Mumm made it; ie 'less-bubbly-Champagne-from-the-village-of-Cramant.'


Yes -- it was my typo, Cremant de Cramant and exactly as you say. And a very pleasant fizz it was too.
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