Sun 1 Jan 2012
So, January 1st, day of beginnings and endings, looking forward and looking back, celebrated in many parts of the world with mummers’ parades and with wassailing, although after the indulgences of New Year’s Eve it’s probably best to go light on the good old wassail. Let’s celebrate this entry in “The Twelve Days of Christmas with Champagne and Sparkling Wine” by looking at two unusual French sparkling products, a Savoie Brut and a Clairette de Die Brut.
Imported by Kermit Lynch, Berkeley, Cal. Samples for review.
There is some evidence that “méthode champenoise” sparkling wines were produced in Die — “dee” — long before they were made in Champagne. This tiny appellation nestles on the Drôme River, a tributary east of the Rhône, halfway between the Northern and the Southern Rhône regions. The Domaine Achard-Vincent Clairette de Die Brut, non-vintage, is made 100 percent from clairette grapes, a species that does not get a lot of love in wine and grape handbooks, though it is apparently an ancient variety in the south of France, praised by Pliny the Elder (23-79 AD). Whatever the case, the example made — on biodynamic practices — by Domaine Achard-Vincent is pleasantly effervescent, fresh, clean and lively, with appealing notes of ripe pears, melon, almond blossom, cloves and ginger; there is about it something a little wild and earthy and rustic, completely, it seems, a creature of its patch of geography. A terrific aperitif, and a wine your guests probably will not have encountered. 11.5 percent alcohol. Very Good. About $24.
Savoie is an Alpine region abutting Switzerland where the grapes are largely unfamiliar outside the area and where the wines are mostly consumed on their home ground by tourists and skiers. These wines, made on far-flung estates because of the rugged terrain, tend to be almost all white, clean and crisp, befitting their consumption in mountain valleys; a small amount of sparkling wine is produced. The André and Michel Quenard Savoie Brut, non-vintage, is made from the jacquère grape, in this case from 50-year-old vines. The first impression, after the teeming torrent of bubbles, is of green apples and steel, then hints of pear and quince and a touch of orange rind. Is it the high altitude that gives this sparkling wine such a deep foundation of limestone and shale, this slick-as-a-whistle, lace-like zestiness? It’s very dry, electric with fleet acidity, almost airy but nicely textured. Completely delightful, whether you’re lounging on a terrace overlooking a steep valley or sitting in your own living-room. 12 percent alcohol. Very Good+. About $19 to $25.