It’s starting to be the time of year for sparkling, so let’s talk.
- Champagne: many people refer to all sparkling as Champagne but that wouldn’t be correct. Champagne is sparkling wine from the Champagne region of France. Most of the time three grapes are used in Champagne; Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier (a red grape related to Pinot Noir). There are a few other grapes that are used but for the most part it is these three. We might as well define the different amount of sweetness, below is the order starting with the driest (least sweet) to sweeter. There are ranges for the amount of sugar allowed in each category but I don’t think we need to get that technical. I think it is ironic that the extra dry isn’t the driest, those French!
Extra Brut or Brut Natural
- Moët Impérial $36.99 Is the House’s iconic champagne. Created in 1869, it embodies Moët & Chandon’s unique style, a style distinguished by its bright fruitiness, its seductive palate and its elegant maturity. One of my favorite Champagnes and at a great price at PJ’s!
- Dom Perignon 2004 $129.99 The name says it all and the price says you should buy it at PJ’s, a ridiculous price for this iconic Champagne. The below scores attest to its iconic stature:
- 95 Wine Spectator
- 95 Wine Advocate
- 96 Antonio Galloni, Vinous
- 96 Wine & Spirits
- 97 Decanter
- Sparkling Wine: Good sparkling wine is made in “Method Champenoise” also known as “Méthode Traditionnelle”, same as Champagne. This means the second fermentation, where the bubbles come from, is done in the bottle. Any legitimate sparkling maker won’t use “Champagne” on their bottle in honor of the real stuff from Champagne. I read an article by Dr Vinny; I believe he is with the Wine Spectator (http://www.winespectator.com/drvinny/show/id/5011) which he says “Let me start by addressing the use of the term “Champagne” as it refers to wine. The French wanted to protect the use of the term “Champagne” to only refer to bubbly made using traditional methods from grapes grown and vinified in the Champagne region of France, so when the Treaty of Versailles was signed in 1919 to end WWI, they included limits on the use of the word. History buffs may recall that the United States never actually ratified the Treaty of Versailles, and that in 1919 the U.S. was in the midst of Prohibition, so alcohol-labeling laws hardly seemed important at the time. This created the loophole that allowed producers here to legally slap the word “Champagne” on their bottles of bubbly—much to the irritation of the winegrowers in Champagne. Out of respect and to avoid confusion, many producers in the United States called their bubbly “sparkling wine,” even when it’s made in the traditional method.
Then, in early 2006, the United States and the European Union signed a wine trade agreement, and the issue was brought up again. This time, the United States agreed to not allow new uses of certain terms that were previously considered to be “semi-generic,” such as Champagne (as well as Burgundy, Chablis, Port and Chianti). But anyone who already had an approved label was grandfathered in and may continue to use the term.”
- 2011 Schramsberg Blanc de Blancs $23.99 The Schramsberg web page describes this wine “Blanc de Blancs (white from white) made from Chardonnay is the counterpart to the Blanc de Noirs (white from black), made from Pinot Noir. Blanc de Blancs was the first wine Schramsberg produced in 1965 and was America’s first commercially produced Chardonnay-based brut sparkling wine. Schramsberg Blanc de Blancs gained international recognition in 1972 when then President Nixon served the wine at the historic “Toast to Peace” in Beijing, China. The Schramsberg style of Blanc de Blancs is dry and crisp. Small lots of malolactic- and barrel-fermented wines are added for complexity. The wine is aged on the yeast lees in the bottle for about two years prior to disgorgement. With its vibrant, fruitful and crisp nature, this sparkling wine will maintain its freshness, structure and refined finish for many years, even decades following its initial release.
- Cava: The Oxford dictionary defines it as “A Spanish sparklingwine made in the same way as champagne. Usually not the same grapes as Champagne but let’s not get into the grapes, just remember it is from Spain.
- Segura Viudas, Brut or Extra Dry, $8.99 This is what I use for Mimosas and Bollins even though the original Bollini called for Prosecco.
- Prosecco: Mionetto’s web page defines it as “The Prosecco grape originated during Roman times and is one of the oldest grapes in Italian history. Its origin and name can be traced back to the town of Prosecco in Trieste. Prosecco grapes are transformed into sparkling wine using the Charmat method in which stainless steel tanks and yeast are utilized to produce a natural second fermentation. The process takes approximately 60 days depending on acidity, residual sugar and pressure. The Charmat method allows Prosecco to preserve its original flavors and perfumes longer. Prosecco is traditionally a dry wine with hints of apple and citrus.”
It now has DOC status and must come from specific vineyards just north of Venice.
- Col Solivo $10.99 or
- La Marca $14.99 In my opinion the Col Solivo is a little fruitier than the La Marca, the La Marca a little drier.