Saturday, December 10, 2011

A Wide Range of Bubbles

There is no shortage of Champagne and Sparkling Wine tastings at this time of year. If you haven’t already found yourself in attendance at one of these, I recommend you get out there and do some sampling. Even if you are not looking to be too picky since your guests are usually too “happy” to care about what’s in their glass at midnight, a good sale usually accompanies these tastings. It will also better help you determine what is your preferred style or whether your tastes are changing. For example, I have been choosing Prosecco and Cava over Champagne for several years now, choosing their crisp fruitiness over breadnotes. I quickly recognized this year that Pinot Noir dominated traditional styles - Blanc de Noir or Rose - will now become my “go to.”
So last night I attended what I am hoping is only my first of the season, wherein I was able to sample 41 different sparklers. (Had my teenager planned her night a little better, there would have been many more.)
Traditionally speaking, the NV Perrier Jouet Grand Brut at $36.99 was the standout soloist, utilizing all three of the Champagne grapes (Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier). Light, floral and sophisticated. (If you’ve never been to their website, I encourage you to check it out. Beautiful.)
My favorite table was the Heidseick table. Both the Charles Heidsieck Champagnes and the Piper Heidsieck were impressive. There really was not a bad wine at the table. If forced to choose, however, both Rose were very good - NV Charles Rose Reserve, with its strawberry notes resulting from addition of Pinot Noir wine, at $72.99 and NV Piper Cuvee Rose Sauvage, with more cherry and citrus, at $46.99. The real treat was the 1995 Charles Heidsieck Blanc Des Millenaires of 100% Chardonnay, with its perfect amount of butter and cream, at $175.
Two other, more affordable, Roses that impressed me were Terres Dorees FRV 100 at $18.99, which is made with Gamay (sour cherry flavor) and has a hint of sweet, and Casteller Rose Cava and its balance of acid and strawberry at $11.99.
The Segura line, of which I am a fan, had two very interesting and tasty comparisons, the crisp and fruity NV Segura Viudas Aria Pinot Noir (Cava) at $9.99 and their Italian NV Voveti Prosecco (conjures thoughts of green apple) at $13.99.
For those of you looking to branch out into different grapes, I found three for you. NV Vigneau Chevreau Vouvray Petillant at $17.99 is made with Chenin Blanc, so will have notes of pear. NV Marenco Brachetto D’Acqui (frizzante = lightly sparkling) at $22.99 is more on the sweet side and would be a great brunch selection (think all red fruits that would be just perfect with French toast and powdered sugar). Finally, the most exciting try of the night for me - “The Chook” Sparkling Shiraz with its dark cherry and sweet spice flavors at $16.99. And was being served with chocolate - delicious!

Incidentally, before I left home for this tasting, I read a brief article on Argentina proving they can also make sparkling wines. I had hoped that I would see one at this tasting. I did not, but I must have done something right because at dinner afterward, the Chinese Bistro we chose had an Alma Negra Sparkling (Chardonnay) Wine. I could not have been more pleased with the crisp green fruit flavors and the tiny bubbles never stopped. I knew it would be a perfect accompaniment to my salt and pepper shrimp appetizer, but I did not know how well it would pair with my hot and sour soup. The spiciness of the soup actually opened up a sweetness in the wine that was magical.

Piper photo from

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