12 Days of Christmas


Well, you know that the 12th Day of Christmas was yesterday, January 5, y-clepted Twelfth Night and marking the end of the merry Yuletide season, but somehow I didn’t manage to complete this final post in the present (the 10th) series “12 Days of Christmas with Champagne and Sparkling Wine” until this morning, January 6. So be it, and in any case, I offer today two examples of Spanish Cava, a very charming brut rose from Piedmont and a Champagne that seems to be new to the American market, at least in our neck o’ the woods. Enjoy!
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Traditionally, the Spanish sparkling wine called Cava was made from these indigenous grape varieties: macabeo, xarel-lo and parellada. More juverecently, manufacturers began including chardonnay grapes, in an effort to “improve” the product, which, because of its make-up, has always seemed unique. It’s the same misguided principle that led producers in Tuscany to believe that Chianti Classico and Chianti Classico Riserva would be “better” wines if they contained cabernet sauvignon or merlot grapes and aged in French barriques. In fact, there has been a bit of a backlash against employing chardonnay in Cava merely for the sake of innovation and a laudable impulse toward using only the traditional grapes. In that spirit, I offer the Juve & Camps “Essential” Xarel-lo Reserva 2013, Penedes, a sparkling wine that exploits the possibility of a single-variety Cava aged at least 15 months on the lees in the bottle (required for a Reserva designation). The color is pale gold, enlivened by an animated stream of small bubbles; the woodsy, leafy aromas that waft from the glass are unlike any other sparking wine’s, and they’re infused by touches of lime peel and tangerine, lilac and iodine, with back-notes of dried thyme and celery seed. This is all quite subtle on the nose, of course, though a somewhat rustic body makes it, for me, a sort of countrified sparkling wine, really suitable for quaffing while you munch on an array of savory tapas while sitting out on the terrace of a rural bodega. It’s very dry, bright with crunchy acidity and a keen limestone edge, and it finishes with an intriguing bitter note. 12 percent alcohol. Drink up. Very Good+. About $16, representing Good Value.

Imported by Winebow Inc., New York. A sample for review.
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sv-bt-rose
O.K., here’s another Cava, highly suitable, in tastiness and price, for serving at your next huge party. The Segura Viudas Brut Rose nv, Penedes, is predominently trepat grapes with 10 percent garnacha, aged 12 months in the bottle on the lees. The color is pale copper-salmon — much lighter and prettier than the color in the accompanying image — and the bubbles are more a steady upward drift than a surge or froth. Notes of pure strawberry and raspberry emerge from the glass, with hints of heather and dried Mediterranean herbs and a touch of darker-hued and burnished melon. This Cava is crisp and lively, featuring lip-smacking acidity and a snap of limestone minerality for backbone. No great depth, but immensely appealing. 11.5 percent alcohol. Very Good. About $10 and seen on the Internet as low as $8. A Bargain Ripe for the Picking.

Freixenet USA, Sonoma, Calif. A sample from the local distributor.
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The Cuvee Aurora Brut Rose 2011, from Piedmont’s Alta Langa region, south of the beautiful city of Alba, is made completely from pinot cuvee_aurora_label-21-300x155noir grapes — with 10 percent from the previous vintage elevated in French barriques — and aged two years on the yeast in the bottle. This is an incredibly charming and elegant sparkling wine. The color is lightly tarnished copper over silver salmon scale; the foaming surge of tiny glinting bubbles is hypnotic. First one sniffs smoke, red raspberry and dried red currants; then come orange rind, a touch of lime sherbet, melon ball and a slight yeasty, bready element. The wine is crisp, dry, lively, clean and fresh, a tissue of delicacies that add up to a supple, engaging structure — close to pert yet almost creamy — buoyed by an increasingly prominent limestone minerality. The finish brings in hints of cloves and pomegranate and a smooth conjunction where limestone turns into damp shale; do I imagine a beguiling whiff of rose and lilac, pear and meadowy elements? No, it’s there. Completely delightful but not at all frivolous. 11.5 percent alcohol. Excellent. About $30.

Imported by Cru Artisan Wines, a division of Banfi Vintners, Old Brookville, N.Y. A sample for review.
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blanc-de-blancs_zoom
The Marie Demets Blanc de Chardonnay from a young house — they started marketing their Champagnes in 1987 — is about as charming and elegant as reasonably priced blanc de blancs gets. The website is excessively reticent about technical factors, so I can’t tell My Readers how long the wine aged on the lees, but its freshness and crisp, clean character are notable. The color is very pale gold, and the myriad bubbles stream upward in a frothing haze; notes of green apple and pear, quince jam and crystallized ginger are delicately touched with lightly toasted brioche, hazelnuts and cloves with just a hint of toffee in the background. Layered with limestone, chalk and seashell minerality, this Champagne is beguiling and refreshing, bracing in the salinity and touch of grapefruit pith bitterness of its finish. 12.5 percent alcohol. Excellent. About $45, a local purchase.
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brutzero
The Graham Beck Brut Zero 2011, from the Robertson district of the Western Cape in South Africa, was made from 100 percent chardonnay grapes and spent five years in bottle on the lees; it was disgorged in April 2016. This sparkling wine displays a pale gold color and a steady upward drift of glinting bubbles; it’s deeply spicy, savory and saline, with a foundation of limestone and seashell buoying notes of roasted lemons and pears, almond skin and grapefruit pith, jasmine and just a hint of peach. Lean and lithe on the palate, it features pleasing weight and presence and dynamic acidity to keep it flowing smartly across the tongue; some moments in the glass bring out elusive touches quince and cloves. All told, though, this is a sparkling wine planted firmly in the smoky, sinewy, steely camp. 12.5 percent alcohol. Drink through 2019 to ’21. Excellent. About $25.

Imported by Maritime Wine Trading Collective, San Francisco. A sample for review.

bruno_paillard_brut_premiere_cuvee
I have written about the non-vintage Bruno Paillard Premier Cuvee in several contexts, but in March 2015, a version was disgorged as Extra Brut, after a minimal dosage. The Bruno Paillard Premier Cuvee Extra Brut is a blend of 45 percent pinot noir, 33 percent chardonnay and 22 percent pinot meunier; the blend measures almost 33 percent reserve vintages going back to 1985, ensuring a continuity of style and character for the house. The color is medium gold-platinum, encapsulating a lovely froth of tiny silver bubbles, in an array of precious metals; aromas of spiced pear, quince jam and crystallized ginger are highlighted by notes of sage and almond skin, and as it warms slightly in the glass, this Champagne unfurls hints of toffee and smoke, sea-salt and lightly buttered biscuits. It is, sensuously and beautifully, one of the most floral Champagnes I have ever encountered, though that impression — of lilacs and wisteria — fairly quickly dissolves in the face of its mineral nature. On the palate, the Bruno Paillard Premier Cuvee Extra Brut seethes with a scintillating limestone and flint quality and lip-smacking acidity, all of this edge and liveliness supporting spare flavors of roasted lemon and spiced pears aimed at a lithe, lean finish. 12.5 percent alcohol. Excellent. About $50.

A sample for review.

I urge My Readers to seek out the Reichsrat von Buhl Riesling Sekt Brut 2012, from Germany’s Pfalz region. This bottle was a sample from buhlthe local distributor, and while the current vintage seems to be 2014, I recommend the 2012 for its suppleness and burnished quality, like old silver polished to a noble, darkened sheen. It’s 100 percent riesling, aged on the yeast in bottle for 12 months. The color is the palest of pale gold hues, and the rush of tiny glinting bubbles is tempestuous. Amazingly clean, fresh, pure and scintillating, this sparkler features notes of green apple and lightly bruised pear, with undertones of wood smoke, limestone and chalk; a few minutes in the glass bring out touches of freshly baked biscuits and cloves, toffee and a bit of coffee in the background as an expression of earthiness. This sparkling wine is crisp and very dry, bracing with bright acidity and seashell salinity, vibrant and resonant over tremendous reserves of limestone and shale minerality, all at the service of slightly over-ripe and decadent stone-fruit flavors. 12.5 percent alcohol. Drink through 2018. Excellent. About $20.

A Rudi Wiest Selection, Cellars International, San Marcos, Calif.

This post looks at the Champagne and sparkling wine we drank half a bottle each of on New Year’s Eve — and finished today. The Loimer Extra Brut nv from Austria we sipped while watching the news last night; the Egly-Ouriet Brut Tradition Grand Cru nv we drank with Royal Ossetra caviar after midnight and the turn of the year. Both products were samples for review, as I am required to inform My Readers by ruling of the Federal Trade Commission.
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loimer-x-brut
The Loimer Extra Brut, made by Fred Loimer in the Austrian region of Niederösterreich, is an unusual blend (to me) of 42 percent grüner
veltliner grapes, 33 percent zweigelt and 25 percent pinot noir, grown in vineyards farmed on biodynamic principles; it aged 12 months in bottle on the lees. This sparkling wine was, frankly, a revelation of bright, clean, crisp attractiveness married to an interesting fruit profile and a chiseled limestone structure. The color is very pale gold, enlivened by a swirling upward surge of tiny bubbles; scents of apple and pear compote, ripe and spicy, are wreathed with notes of peach, heather and camellia. It’s cool, clean, crisp and steely on the palate, and its scintillating acidity leads to a vibrant crystalline finish. 12 percent alcohol. Not merely charming, but exhibiting lovely, transparent, significant weight and presence. Excellent. About $30.
Imported by Winebow Inc., New York.
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Champagne Egly-Ouriet is a grower house that rests in the top echelon of estates that farm and harvest their own grapes and turn them into egly_traditionChampagne. The Egly-Ouriet Brut Tradition Grand Cru nv derives completely from the highest rated vineyards on the grading system used in the region. It’s a blend of 70 percent pinot noir and 30 percent chardonnay, aged four years on the lees. The current release was disgorged in July 2016, so it’s about as fresh as a Champagne gets. The color is pure Jean Harlow, that is, platinum blond; the bubbles erupt in a tempest-like froth. The overall effect is of something elegant, elevated and austere, finely-knit and integrated; hints of roasted lemon and spiced pear open to faint but persistent notes of lilac, lemongrass and green tea; this Champagne is soft and reticent on the toasty brioche quality, focusing on crispness, a permeation of limestone-flint minerality and bracing seashell salinity, all at the mercy of an encompassing vibrant, resonant character. 12.5 percent alcohol. This should drink beautifully, becoming more honed and burnished, through 2020 to ’22. Winemaker was Francis Egly. Excellent. About $68, but found on the internet from $50 to $80.
Imported by North Berkeley Wines, Berkeley, Calif.
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So, My Readers, it’s New Year’s Eve, and we’re on the cusp on entering the Unknown. Let’s celebrate then with three bottles of different styled Champagnes, all guaranteed to offer great pleasure and satisfaction. Remember, as you stand in some house or apartment or bar, singing that dreary “Auld Lang Syng” with a bunch of drunken strangers you actually care nothing about that this is a pivotal and symbolic moment and that you’re having fun. Whee! Also remember that if you’re opening a bottle of any kind of sparkling wine that however fraudulently festive it may seem to pop one of those corks with a tremendous explosion and frothing of bubbly foam everywhere, that the cork comes rushing from the neck of the bottle at about 60 miles per hour and that it can do real damage to objects, animals and the human eye. Let’s use caution, moderation, forethought and get home alive to enjoy another year.

Happy New Year, friends, be well, be content and do the work you were intended to do.
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The J. Lassalle Preference Premier Cru Brut is predominantly pinot meunier, with 20 percent each chardonnay and pinot lassalle_preference_nonvintage13_webnoir, from vines averaging 50 years old; the vintages in the current disgorgement are 2009 and 2010. It aged 48 months in bottle on the lees. The color is pale gold; the bubbles are tiny, energetic, flourishing. This Champagne is as crisp as a cat’s whisker and as chiseled and faceted as a geode; it’s all smoke and steel, roasted lemon and spiced pear, limestone and flint, enclosed in a bright, brisk and brilliant structure that scintillates with dynamic acidity and an undertow of clean earthiness. 12 percent alcohol. Always a favorite in our house. Excellent. About $45 to $50.
Imported by Kermit Lynch Wine Merchants, Berkeley, Calif.
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breton-roseThe Breton Fils Brut Rose is an unusual blend of 40 percent chardonnay, 42 percent pinot meunier and 18 percent vin des Coteaux Champenois, that is, still wine that is also allowed to be produced in an AOC contiguous with Champagne itself and using the same permitted grapes. It aged three years in the bottle. The color is a wholly entrancing and intense copper-salmon hue; notes of blood orange and tangerine rind are permeated by hints of macerated and slightly bruised raspberries and candied citrus, displaying just a hint of dried herbs, all of this animated by the liveliest of tiny frothing bubbles and, extending to the palate, a striking arrow of clean acidity and an edge of limestone that burgeons from mid-palate back through the spare, austere finish. 12.5 percent alcohol. Excellent. I paid $60 locally, but prices around the country seem to start at about $48.
Imported Heritage LLC, Corona, Calif.
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The Charles Heidsieck Brut Reserve is a blend of 40 percent pinot noir, 40 percent chardonnay and 20 percent pinot meunier aged ch_brut_reserve_front-largethree years in the bottle on the lees. The blend contains about 40 percent reserve wines, up to 10 years old. The color is a brilliant medium gold hue, shimmering with a torrent of tiny bubbles; seamlessly layered notes of heather, honey and Granny Smith apples, fresh-baked brioche and hints of toffee and almond skin are twined with seashell and salt marsh, hay and baked pears. This is formidably dry yet rich and elegant, its stone-fruit and citrus notions buoyed by a stream of bright acidity and a coastal shelf of limestone minerality; its sense of heft and presence on the palate is fleet-footed, long-lasting and ultimately delicate without being attenuated. 12 percent alcohol. Beautifully-made and a great pleasure to drink. Excellent. About $65.
Imported by Folio Fine Wine Partners, Napa Calif. A sample for review.
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francois-montand-brut
The reason for the ambivalence in the title of today’s post is because, while this sparkling wine is made in France’s Jura region, it is fashioned from grapes not traditional or officially recognized in the area, hence, no mention of Jura on the label. In any case, if you’re looking for a bargain-priced sparkler produced in the methode traditionelle of second fermentation in the bottle, this is it. The Francois Montand Brut Blanc de Blancs nv would be perfect for your New Year’s Eve party or your blackeyed peas-greens-cornbread open house on January 1. It’s an unusual blend of colombard, ugni blanc and chardonnay grapes (“among others,” says the estate’s website coyly), aged nine months on the lees. The color is pale gold with faint green undertones; the bubbles are generous and lively. Aromas of hay and heather, roasted lemon and green apple are twined with notes of jasmine, lime peel and grapefruit. This sparkling wine is crisp and round on the palate, adeptly fitted with elements of steel and limestone — like architecture — quite dry and chiseled in structure. 11 percent alcohol. Don’t look for great depth or profound character here; rather the effect is of charm, elegance and simple pleasure. Winemaker was Arnaud van der Voorde. Very Good+. About $14, marking Terrific Value.

Imported by The Country Vintner, Ashland, Va, a division of Winebow Group. A sample for review.

There’s Prosecco, and then there’s the — don’t try to say this all in one breath — Maschio dei Cavalieri Rive di Colbertaldo 2014, cavalieriValdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore, made from 100 percent glera grapes, though Italian wine regulations allow for up to 15 percent other grapes in a blend. It is not fashioned in the traditional Champagne method of second fermentation in the bottle, most Proseccos being made in the Charmat process of second fermentation in tank. Maschio dei Cavalieri tells us, however, that they accomplish the alcoholic and carbon dioxide fermentation simultaneously. OK. The Maschio dei Cavalieri Rive di Colbertaldo 2014 displays a pale straw yellow hue and a fervent rush of refined bubbles; this is a fresh and clean sparkling wine, offering gentle aromas of jasmine, green apple and pear, lime and lemongrass, smoke and steel. It’s crisp and lively on the palate, bringing in flavors of roasted lemon and melon, while at the core a cloud-like tenderness of texture prevails. Quite dry and more invigorating as the moments pass, this sparkling wine concludes with a fairly austere flinty finish. 11.5 percent alcohol. While the 2014 is now two years old, I recommend it for the sense of burnish and nuance that it reveals; drink through 2017. Excellent. About $20, representing Great Value.

Imported by Cru Artisan Wines, Old Brookville, N.Y., a division of Banfi Vintners. A sample for review.

Frank Family Vineyards, owned by Rich Frank, former president of Disney Studios, and his wife Leslie, produces a wide range of still wines bub_res_champ— cabernet sauvignon, merlot, pinot noir, zinfandel, chardonnay and such — which lean toward the side of power and dynamics, and a handful of sparkling wines, always among my favorites from California’s growing roster of wineries that make sparkling wines. FFV now releases its first reserve effort in sparkling wine, the Frank Family Lady Edythe Reserve Brut 2010, carrying a Carneros-Napa Valley designation. It’s a blend of 52 percent chardonnay and 48 percent pinot noir, aged in bottle on the yeast for almost five years before disgorgement. The color is a medium gold that shimmers with the tempestuous upward flow of tiny bubbles; aromas of toasted brioche, lightly buttered cinnamon toast, roasted lemon and spiced pear are enlivened by notes of quince, hazelnuts and almond skin and hints of toffee and limestone, this array all beautifully balanced and harmonious. While quite dry, Lady Edythe 2010 is zesty and energetic on the palate, matching, to a degree, the power evinced in FFV’s still wines, though feeling finely-etched and detailed with its undertow of chiseled flint and chalk, its sense of transparency and filigree. Still, the somewhat theatrical finish brings a bracing tide of marsh-grass and seashell salinity. 12 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2018 to 2020. Winemaker was Todd Graff. Excellent. About $110.

A sample for review.

canard
The Champagne house of Canard-Duchêne was founded in 1868 by Victor Canard and Léonie Duchêne, and thus does not mean “duck of oak” as some people apparently believe. Since 2003, it has been owned by the Thienot Group, which includes the house of Joseph Perrier. The Champagne Canard-Duchêne Authentic Brut nv is a blend of 45% pinot noir, 35% pinot meunier and 20% chardonnay, with 20 percent reserve wines, that is, from older vintages, in the mix. The color is pale but bright gold; a persistent stream of tiny bubbles surges upward. This is all smoke and steel, pear and quince, with notes of grapefruit and roasted lemon, lightly toasted brioche and lemongrass. On the palate, this Champagne is dry, crisp and lively, energetic and engaging, displaying a pleasing balance of moderately lush texture and chiming acidity against a background of a scintillating limestone-flint element and seashell salinity; hints of heather and hay and slightly honeyed peach fill in the edges. 12 percent alcohol. No tremendous depth and profundity but plenty of charm, elegance and finely-wrought pleasure. A favorite in our house. Excellent. About $40 but seen online as low as $30.

Imported by Thienot USA, San Rafael, Calif. A sample for review.

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