Fri 31 Dec 2010
Tonight is the Big Eve, the occasion upon which one year abruptly terminates and another quickly takes its place; the night for which all forms of sparkling wine were invented. Believe me, you’ll need that glass of bubbly at midnight when you’re standing in a packed room singing “Auld Lang Syne” with a bunch of people you only see once a decade.
Let me offer you, My Readers, four examples of different sorts of sparkling wines, available at different prices and appropriate for different events. They hail from Spain, Italy, Sonoma County’s Russian River Valley and Champagne, as in France. With the exception of the Fourny Brut Rosé, these were samples for review.
Did you invite a mob over tonight? Say the Chilean miners and their wives as well as the combined contestants of Survivor: Surface of the Sun, American Idolatry and The Biggest Loser in History? No need to drop a bundle on your bubbly. Hie thyself tothe nearest wine and liquor store and snap up several cases of the Segura Viudas Brut Reserva, a CAVA sparkling wine from Spain that’s as amazing for its quality as it is for its price, or vice versa. This is a typical CAVA blend of 50 percent macabeo grapes, 35 percent parellada and 15 percent xarel-lo, hands downs my favorite grape name. The color is pale straw-blond. Bubbles are prolific, though the ones that cling to the inside of the glass are slightly larger than the teensy ones that froth up through the middle. It’s a stones and bones sparkler, trifling with sweetness at the entry but immediately segueing into vibrant, crisp dryness buoyed by scintillating limestone. Roasted lemon and lemon balm, hints of tangerine and orange zest, a faint pass at a floral element: all of these qualities add up to lovely charm and delicacy. Very Good. About $10 or $11, but often discounted around the country to $8 or $9.
Imported by Freixenet USA, Sonoma, Cal.
Nino Franco Rustico is consistently one of my favorite prosecco sparkling wines. The grape is called prosecco and so is the product, which is made in the Veneto region in Northeast Italy. Rather than being made in the champagne method of seccond fermentation in the bottle, prosecco is made in the Charmat process in which the second fermentation, which produces the bubbles, occurs in large tanks. The pale straw-gold Nino Franco Rustico is a lightly yet persistently sparkling wine that’s delicate and elegant, but a little earthy, bursting with almond blossom and citrus notes, and lemon-pear flavors resting on a vigorous bed of limestone. Charming, yet with gratifying character. Very Good+. About $17 to $20.
Imported by VinDivino, Chicago.
Let’s say first that the J Brut Rosé, Russian River Valley, is not just effervescent but exhilarating; at the same time, it embodies a sense of engaging elegance and suavity. This is a blend of 56 percent pinot noir and 44 percent chardonnay. The color is pale strawberry-blond; the bouquet exudes subtle scents of smoky peach, strawberry and dried red currants permeated by fresh biscuits, lightly buttered cinnamon toast and the skins of roasted almonds (think of a slim nuance of sweet, bitter and nutty), all backed by clean fresh limestone-like minerality. This is ripe and fleshy in the mouth, an almost thrilling amalgam of tangerine, spiced peach and lime peel supervised rather smartly by crisp acidity and that ever-present limestone element. The finish is long, balanced and lively. We were drinking the J Brut Rosé while snacking on a Spanish cocktail mix that included almonds, dried chickpeas, dried favas and dried corn, with lots of salt and spice. Yeah, that was good. Excellent. About $35.
Champagne Rosé Premier Cru de Vve Fourny et Fils Vertus Brut — to give its full name — is my new favorite Champagne. I had a sip at a tasting, and when I left I went promptly to a store and bought a bottle. Fourny is a small, family-owned house, founded in 1856, in the village of Vertus; its products are made only from Premier Cru vineyards. The color is very pale sunset peach with a shimmering core of lightly tarnished silver; the bubbles surge upward in a constant tempest of glinting froth. Except for a dollop of chardonnay, this is all pinot noir. The typical elements of a brut rosé Champagne are present — strawberry, dried red currants, orange zest — but packed with roasted lemon, cloves, lilac, crystallized ginger and spiced quince jam, this attractive array subdued, however, to a higher purpose of purity, intensity and elegance. You know how it is with some wines, of whatever type –still, sparkling; red, white — they just flat-out look and smell and feel great, exuding impeccable tone, integrity and confidence, as well as pleasure and delight; that’s the case with this. Excellent. I paid about $55; prices on the Internet range from about $45 to $60.
Imported by Kermit Lynch, Berkeley, Cal.
Whoa, My Readers, I just realized that this is the last post of 2010. Please have a safe, happy and festive New Year’s Eve and don’t forget to fire up the pot for your blackeyed peas, hog jowl and turnip greens tomorrow.