Tue 5 Jan 2010
Twelfth Night, the eve of Epiphany, marks the end of the Yuletide season and the conclusion of this series about champagne and sparkling wine. For the third year, I have tried to bring My Readers a variety of sparkling wines from different countries and regions, made from a variety of grapes, and suited to the myriad purposes implied by style and price. One of my rules, so far, has been that there be no repetitions from year to year, and if you go back and look at “The Twelve Days of Christmas” on BTYH from 2008/09 and 2007/08, you’ll see that I have been true to that principle.
Twelfth Night was traditionally a time of revels, eating, drinking and play-acting, music and dance, with servants dressed as their masters, women dressed like men and so on, all activities reflected in one of Shakespeare’s most satisfying romantic comedies of mistaken identity and star-crossed love, Twelfth Night: or, What You Will. The play was first performed on Feb. 2, 1602, Candlemas Day, in the Middle Temple Hall, one of the Inns of Court in London.
Now I’m not saying that My Readers are out this evening gamboling in merry romps, disguises and amorous adventures, but whatever you do, I’ll finish this series of 12 posts about champagne and sparkling wine with four selections, trying, again, to appeal to many predilections and pocketbooks: One from France, two from Italy, one from California.
The estate of i Stefanini makes some of the best Soave wines in the Veneto, especially from the Classico and Classico Superiore regions. Now the family turns its attention to a sparkling wine, the i Stefanini Spumante Brut. Produced completely from chardonnay grapes, this charming sparkler, made in the Charmat process, displays a limpid pale gold color and enticing aromas of pear, lime peel, orange blossom and dusty acacia. It’s a caressing fabric of delicate heft and presence, soft yet bright and crisp, and displaying, amid hints of slightly spicy stone fruit, just the right modicum of limestone. A pretty sparkling wine, dry, appealing and great as an aperitif. Very Good+. About $16.
Imported by Domenico Selections, New York.
Limited distribution. Received as a review sample.
Made from chardonnay grapes and finished with a dose of late-harvest muscat and pinot noir, the Mumm Napa Cuvee M is a slightly sweet, pale blond blanc de blancs that offers good character for the price. Aromas of toast and fresh bread support scents of apples and pears and hints of roasted almonds and orange zest. A host — you could say cohorts — of bubbles surge upward singlemindedly. After the initial sweetness, which is more like stone-fruit and citrus ripeness than just sweetness, this sparkling wine (made in the champagne method) is crisp and dry, well-balanced and harmonious, with a texture nicely poised between lushness and vivid acidity. Very Good+. About $20.
Tasted at a trade event.
Here’s a sparkling rosé wine that may win your heart. The Bortolomiol Filanda Rosé Brut Riserva 2007 is made from pinot noir grapes grown in the Oltrepò Pavese region of Lombardy. A very pale onion skin color with a shade of ruddy salmon, the elegant Filanda 2007 is all flashing steel and flaring limestone that allow for glimpses of dried red currants and dried raspberries over a hint of peach. A stream of tiny bubbles expresses a sort of star-struck dimensionality; call it hypnotic. Resting on a suave interpretation of damp gravel and liquid limestone, this sparkling wine is very dry, well-integrated, persistent and delicious in a spare, high-toned manner. An impressive aperitif. Very Good+. About $22.
Imported by Dreyfus, Ashby & Sons, New York.
Received as a sample for review.
The Guy Charlemagne Brut Extra is composed of 70 percent chardonnay grapes and 30 percent pinot noir, a combination that somehow lends this champagne freshness and boldness as well as evanescence, serving as a sort of reality-meets-the-light-fantastic metaphor. What I’m saying — “yeah, F.K., what the hell are you saying?” — is that this champagne is loaded with yeasty, bready elements, buttered biscuits and baking spices, roasted lemons and baked pears and toasted hazelnuts, all the panoply of dimension and detail, character and substance, while, at the same time, it’s lovely, crisp, deft, supple and, toward the finish, bursting with limestone. A final fillip of jasmine completes the poised, confident package. Excellent. About $62.
William-Harrison Imports, Manassas, Va.
A sample bottle for review.