Sparkling Wine


touraine-cuvee-jm-blanc-brut-caves-monmousseau
Gadzooks, friends, only four posts remain in the current series of “The Twelve Days.” Let’s begin today with a charming sparkling wine available at a startlingly low price, especially for one spending an average of two-and-a-half years on the lees, therefore tying up capital. Coming from the Loire Valley, specifically from Touraine, the cradle of chenin blanc, the Monmousseau Cuvée JM Brut Etoile nv is a blend of 80 percent chenin blanc and 20 percent chardonnay. The color is pale gold, and the essential effervescence bodies forth as a steady stream of tiny and persistent bubbles. This sparkling wine is clean, crisp and steely, displaying nuances of lime peel and spiced pear, wisps of smoke and flint, and a burgeoning tide of limestone and shale. Yes, the finish is a bit austere, but that factor only adds to a sense of crystalline purity and transparent appeal. 12 percent alcohol. Your guests will drink this sleek little beauty all night long and thank you. Very Good+. About $15, a Terrific Deal.

USA Wine Imports, New York. Tasted at a local wine dinner.
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valle
Did I say “steely”? I’ll reiterate that adjective for our other sparkling wine today, La Valle Naturalis Extra Brut 2009, Franciacorta, from Lombardy. This is a blend of 65 percent chardonnay, 25 percent pinot noir and 10 percent pinot blanc. The wine sees no oak and no malolactic fermentation, so it goes into the bottle at its most acid-and-mineral-driven best; it rests in the bottle on the lees for 40 months. The color is palest platinum blond, and the mousse resembles an upward cascade of tiny seething, foaming beads; it’s about as exuberant as can be. The first impression is fresh, clean and enticing, with smoke and steel leading to notes of lime peel and spiced pear and a bare hint of quince and ginger. In my ledger, I wrote “wonderful texture,” by which I mean that especially pleasurable and seductive combination of creaminess and tartness, lushness and litheness, dynamism and tautness, all poised in exquisite balance. Layers of limestone and flint come up, bringing a distinct dry seashell brininess and savory quality, though the final view is of lovely delicacy and elegance that grow from such power and energy. 12.5 percent alcohol. This should drink beautifully through 2019 to 2024. Excellent. About $55.

A Leonardo Locascio Selection, Winebow Inc., New York. A sample for review.
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The principle of this series, now in its ninth Yuletide season, is that a specific product can never be repeated, but I can write about different offerings from the same Champagne house or estate in Alsace or winery in California or whatever. You get the idea, I’m sure. Today, for example, we discuss the Laurent-Perrier Brut Millésimé 2006; I have included other releases from Laurent-Perrier in this series, but never one bearing a laurent 2006vintage date. High time, I say!

What would become the house of Laurent-Perrier was founded in 1812 by André Michel Pierlot, a former cooper and bottler turned negociant. His son, Alphonse Pierlot, succeeded him and, having no heirs, eventually bequeathed the estate to his cellar master, Eugène Laurent. When the latter died in an accident in 1887, his widow, Mathilde Emilie Perrier, took the reins of the house and renamed it Veuve Laurent-Perrier. A woman of formidable character, she ran the estate until her death in 1925, when her daughter, Eugénie-Hortense Laurent, succeeded her. Hard-hit by the economic crisis between the Wars and heavily in debt, Eugénie-Hortense sold the estate to Marie-Louise de Nonancourt in 1939.

At the conclusion of World War II, Bernard de Nonancourt returned to his home and underwent an apprenticeship to teach him every aspect of the making and business of Champagne. In October 1948, aged 28, he was appointed chairman and chief executive of Laurent-Perrier. Bernard de Nonancourt died in 2010, and the house is now operated by his daughters, Alexandra Pereyre de Nonancourt and Stéphanie Meneux de Nonancourt. Cellar master of Laurent-Perrier is Michel Fauconnet, who started with the company in 1974 and took his current post in 2004. This narrative seems to be a homage to loyalty, patience, longevity and imagination.

The Laurent-Perrier Brut Millésimé 2006 is a half-and-half blend of chardonnay and pinot noir, all grapes coming from Grand Cru villages. It spent eight years in the bottle, resting on the lees. The color is a very pale golden hue energized by a shimmer of tiny gleaming bubbles so prolific and mesmerizing that it’s almost erotic. This vintage Champagne opens with notes of acacia and heather, expanding to touches of spiced pear, quince and ginger and toasted hazelnuts, all wrapped in a lightly toasty biscuity aspect over a foundation of chalk and limestone. It’s close to viscous in texture, with hints of juicy citrus and stone-fruit flavors subdued by a tremendous limestone and flint structure and the nervous vivacity of bright, crisp acidity. The finish leans toward glacial austerity and chilly hauteur; tis a brave person that will broach this fine-boned elegance, but the gratification will be worth the effort. 12 percent alcohol. Consume through 2018 to ’20, properly stored. Excellent. About $65.

Imported by Laurent-Perrier US Inc., Sausalito, Calif. A sample for review.
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Let’s stay in France for today’s methode traditionelle offering, in this case, the François Baur Brut Réserve a baurnon-vintage, or actually multi-vintage, Cremant d’Alsace. The Baur family was established in the village of Turckheim in 1741; the estate is now operated by the ninth generation. Since 2001, the vineyards have been managed on biodynamic principles. According to French wine regulations, Cremant d’Alsace must be made by the Champagne method of second fermentation in the bottle. The François Baur Brut Réserve — a blend of pinot blanc, riesling, chardonnay and pinot gris — is a lively and engaging sparkling wine that offers a pale gold color and a pleasing fountain of tiny bubbles; there’s a spectrum of lemon effects, in the range of roasted lemon, lemon balm and lemon curd, with a few moments in the glass bringing out hints of jasmine, fresh bread, quince jam and spiced pear, all honed on an edge of steel and limestone. The wine is crisp and tart, quite dry with burgeoning minerality and sleek acidity, but tasty, very well-balanced, lithe and smoky. 12.5 percent alcohol. Heaps of personality with a serious mien. Excellent. About $18, a Lovely Value.

Frederick Wildman & Sons, New York. A sample for review.
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duval lerot rose
The Champagne house mentioned yesterday in this space, Ayala, was founded in 1860. For today’s entry, we skip back one year to 1859, when the house of Duval-Leroy was established by the melding of two well-known families in Champagne. Duval-Leroy is still run by the family, with Carol Duval-Leroy at the head, assisted by her sons, Julien, Charles and Louis. Master of the cave is Sandrine Logette-Jardin. A major contribution of the house to the Champagne industry occurred in 1911, when Raymond Duval-Leroy created the first Champagne made exclusively from Premier Cru vineyards, opening the door to a level of focused, upscale products. Our Champagne today is the Duval-Leroy Premier Cru Rose Prestige, composed of 90 percent pinot noir and 10 percent chardonnay, aged on the lees a minimum of 36 months. The color is an entrancing smoky topaz-light copper hue, given liveliness by a upward surge of tiny bubbles. First, on the nose, come notes of strawberry, raspberry and orange rind, deepened, after a few moments, by hints of brioche and lightly-buttered cinnamon toast, quince and orange marmalade. Make no mistake, this is a high-toned, dry Champagne, flush with elements of limestone and flint, satin and steel, yet immensely appealing in its touches of red berries, cloves and a bracing fillip of sea-salt, all expressed with the utmost delicacy and tenderness over a tensile structure. 12 percent alcohol. Excellent. About $80.

Imported by Terlato Wines International, Lake Bluff, Ill. A sample for review.
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PRBR_Web
Here’s another brut rose, this one from Napa Valley. Priest Ranch is a label of the Somerston Wine Co. that includes Somerston Wines and Highflyer. Craig Becker is general manager and director of winemaking and viticulture. The Priest Ranch Brut Rose 2011, Napa Valley, was made from 100 percent pinot noir grapes. The wine was fermented in stainless steel tanks and neutral French oak barrels; produced in the traditional Champagne method, it spent 18 months in the bottle en tirage, on the lees. The color is medium salmon-topaz with a core of tempest-like tiny bubbles. Lots of steel and flint in evidence, a crisp and lively sparkling wine, it offers notes of blood orange, apple peel and lime with hints of almond skin and orange blossom; a few minutes in the glass nurture elements of sweet red fruit and juicy currants. An intense limestone edge and brisk acidity lead to an austere finish that builds layers of chalk and damp shale. 12.5 percent alcohol. A fresh, lovely, vibrant brut rose for drinking through 2017 or ’18. Excellent. About $38.

A sample for review.
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Maison Jaffelin dates back to 1816 and is one of the few estates that still makes wine in the ancient city of Beaune, the heart and blanc de blancsnerve-center of Burgundy. The estate’s facility occupies a 12th Century edifice and cellars, where they utilize the traditional vertical press and oval wooden vats. We look today not at the company’s red and white still wines from various villages and vineyards but at a delightful sparkling wine, the Jaffelin Blanc de Blancs Brut, Crémant de Bourgogne, made from 100 percent chardonnay grapes. The color is pale gold, shimmering with an intense stream of tiny, foaming bubbles; the bouquet is very lemony and steely but offers notes of verbena, lemon balm and spiced pear and nicely manages to be slightly saline and a bit creamy together. In the mouth, this sparkling wine is framed by vigorous acidity and rigorous limestone minerality, resulting in a high-toned and fairly austere effect from mid-palate back through the finish. At the same time, it’s exhilarating and tasty with hints of citrus and stone-fruit flavors. 12.5 percent alcohol. Excellent. About $25, a local purchase.

A Steven Berardi Selection for Martinicus Wines, Beverly Hills, Fla.

This product was a new twist to me, Cava Rosé, made from 100 percent garnacha (grenache) grapes, in the region south of Barcelona. The cavaIsaac Fernandez Selección Biutiful Brut Rosé, nv, was made — as Cava is supposed to be — in the traditional Champagne method of second fermentation in the bottle; it rested 12 months on the lees before being disgorged and re-corked in the same bottle. The color is a lovely coral-copper hue that’s animated by a froth of glinting, upward surging bubbles. I was surprised and pleased at the quality of this Cava, especially at the price; this is no kissy-face little pushover. Notes of strawberries, raspberries and orange zest are wreathed with hints of apple skin, almond blossom and lime peel that devolve to a pronounced aroma of damp limestone and flint. Those mineral aspects dominate the palate, where this sparking wine is delicate, elegant and a little austere, but spare flavors of slightly spiced and macerated red fruit are not neglected. The finish is sleek, saline and chiseled, lithe but generous, and delivers a full component of limestone and chalk minerality. I could drink this stuff all day, metaphorically speaking, of course, but you know what I mean. 12.5 percent alcohol. Excellent. About $14 to $16, a Freaking Terrific Value.

Imported by Grapes of Spain, Lorton, Va. A sample for review.

The primary sparkling wines that issue from Schramsberg Vineyards are vintage-dated, I’ve just been tasting the releases from 2012. The venerable winery, founded in 1965, also offers a non-vintage sparkler called Mirabelle, a product that has steadily improved — and increased in price — over the years. The current version of the Scramsberg Mirabelle Brut is a blend of 83 percent 2011 and 17 percent reserve wines held back from previous years. The designation is California, because grapes are drawn from these counties: Sonoma, Monterey, Mendocino, Santa Barbara and Marin. It’s a combination of 52 percent chardonnay and 48 percent pinot noir. The color is medium straw-yellow, enlivened by a potent upward stream of finely honed bubbles; aromas of green apples and lime peel open to notes of quince and ginger, with hints of lightly buttered cinnamon toast and limestone; the overall effect is savory and saline, like heather, marsh grass and seashells. Squinching acidity contributes crispness and animation to this sparkling wine, which delivers flavors of roasted lemon, toasted hazelnuts and a touch of toffee; it’s quite dry and seems not to attempt the ethereal and elegant realms that Schramsberg’s vintage sparklers do; instead, this is about substance, moment and momentum on the palate, with a lively and dense character. Alcohol content is 12.6 percent. Drink with a variety of flavorful appetizers, especially revolving around grilled shrimp, smoked salmon and crab. Excellent. About $27.

A sample for review.

Oh, what the hell, let’s have a bottle of sparkling wine! Surely you can come up with something to celebrate. Or not. I would just as soon drink Champagne and other forms of sparkling wine for any purpose, any whim, any occasion, even if it’s merely standing around the kitchen preparing dinner. For our category of sparkling wine today, then, I choose the Domaine Chandon Étoile Brut Rosé, a non-vintage blend of primarily chardonnay and pinot meunier grapes with a dollop of pinot noir, the sources being the Carneros regions in Sonoma County (58 percent) and Napa County (42 percent). The wine rested sur lie — on the residue of dead yeast cells — five years in the bottle after the second fermentation that produces the essential effervescence. The color is an entrancing medium copper-salmon hue riven by an upward-surging torrent of glinting silver bubbles. Notes of blood orange, strawberry and raspberry unfold to hints of lime peel, quince and ginger, with, always in the background, touches of limestone, lightly buttered cinnamon toast and orange marmalade; think of the tension and balance between the subtle sweet fruitiness and bitterness of the latter. On the palate, this sparkling wine works with delicacy and elegance to plow a furrow of juicy red berry and citrus flavors — with a bit of pomegranate — into a foundation of slate and limestone minerality and lively acidity for a crisp, dynamic texture and long spicy finish. 13 percent alcohol. Excellent. About $50.

A sample for review.


I opened this bottle of Champagne Friday night for LL’s birthday eve. The Laurent-Perrier Cuvée Rosé Brut is 100 percent pinot noir from 10 Grand Cru vineyards. The color is medium salmon-copper with a tinge of topaz, like tarnished silver over rose-gold, enhanced by a swirling upward tempest of tiny silver-flecked bubbles. Imagine a compote of strawberries, raspberries and rhubarb, macerated in orange zest, cloves, dried thyme and heather; couple that concept with notes of lightly toasted brioche, Rainier cherries and pink grapefruit, all founded on deeper layers of chalk and flint. Add the dimensions of a savory, resonant and bracing structure that balances sleekness, delicacy and elegance with an essential lithic and earthy character. Altogether fleet-footed yet dignified, evanescent yet enduring — at least until you finish the bottle. 12 percent alcohol. Excellent. About $99.

Imported by Laurent-Perrier U.S., Sausalito, Calif. A sample for review.


A very pleasant way to pass the Summer would be by drinking Crémant d’Alsace, the sparkling wine produced in that most Teutonic portion of French geography that rubs uneasily against Germany. I’m a fan of the Crémants produced by the firm of Lucien Albrecht, founded in the distant days of 1425. These sparklers are made in the Champagne method of second fermentation in the bottle. Oddly, I see that in the record of this blog I have written about the Lucien Albrecht Brut Rosé thrice but not once about the Brut, so today is the day to right that omission. The Lucien Albrecht Brut Crémant d’Alsace, non-vintage — meaning a combination of several harvests — is a blend of 50 percent pinot blanc grapes and 25 percent each pinot gris and riesling. The color is pale straw-gold, animated by an enthusiastic surge of tiny glinting bubbles; enticing aromas of apple peel and lemon balm, pear and lemongrass open to notes of cloves, quince and ginger. Boy, this is a crisp, crystalline, almost tart sparkler that offers lovely presence and tone on the palate and a honed texture that’s spare and elegant in its limestone and flinty mineral character; a few moments in the glass bring out hints of jasmine, spiced grapefruit and an anchoring but close to ephemeral earthy quality that speaks of vineyards, sunlight and rainfall. 12.5 percent alcohol. Great as a leisurely sipper or try with savory hors d’oeuvre and appetizers. Excellent. About $22, a Fine Value.

Pasternak Wine Imports, Harrison, N.Y. A sample for review.

Come on, you know that your sainted mother deserves some Champagne or sparkling wine on Mother’s Day, especially after all the trouble, toil, stress and tears you put her through. Remember how she bailed you out of jail at 3 a.m. that time? (And then docked your allowance forever.) Remember how she wrote your term paper on Moby Dick after the dog ate your notecards? Remember how she stood up for you against the imprecations of the king your father and ensured your claim to the Throne of the Recalcitrant Kingdoms? You owe her, dude! (Or dudette!) Here, in honor of Mother’s Day, is a roster of seven sparkling wines and Champagnes to tempt every palate and soothe every spirit. Four are from California, three from France, including two real and actual Champagnes. Prices start at about $22, though you can find stores around the country that discount radically. Since this is the Weekend Wine Notes post, I eschew a plethora of technical, historical and geographical data in favor of brief and incisive reviews designed to pique the interest and whet the palate. I will mention that all of these products are made in the Champagne method of second fermentation in the bottle. Unless pointed out specifically, these bottles were samples for review. Enjoy! (In health and moderation.)

Whistler’s “Arrangement in Grey and Black, No. 1” hangs in the Musée d’Orsay, Paris.
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Gloria Ferrer Blanc de Noirs nv, Carneros. 12.2% alc. 92% pinot noir, 8% chardonnay. Very pale copper-onion skin hue; pert and lively, with a pleasing froth of glinting bubbles and attractive aromas of red currants and raspberries, touches of cloves, orange peel and peach, and hints of hazelnuts and cinnamon toast; bracing acidity; very nice intensity and body, with a lively texture and finish. Very Good+. About $22, a local purchase.
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Lucien Albrecht Brut Rosé nv, Crément d’Alsace. 12% alc. 100% pinot noir. Shimmering copper-salmon hue; a fountain of glittering tiny bubbles; raspberries and lime peel, blood orange and orange blossom; spiced tea and limestone; almost tart but full and round; delicate yet steely; slightly austere, saline mineral-laced finish. Real style and racy character. Very Good+. About $22.
Pasternak Wine Imports, Harrison, N.Y.
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Mirabelle Brut Rosé nv, California (from Schramsberg). 12.8% alc. 53% chardonnay, 47% pinot noir. Medium salmon-peach hue; dependable stream of tiny bubbles; notes of strawberries, raspberries and orange zest; very crisp and and animated; very dry and a bit chiseled with elements of limestone and flint but with a lovely texture that deftly balance spareness with moderate lushness. Delightful. Very Good+. About $26.
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Schramsberg Blanc de Blancs 2011, North Coast. 12.5% alc. 100% chardonnay. Platinum blond color, befitting a “white from whites” sparkling wine; a swirling torrent of tiny bubbles; roasted lemon and spiced pear, quince and ginger, cloves and a hint of mango; touches of toasted brioche, lemon balm and almond blossom; decisive limestone minerality and incisive acidity make it fresh and clean, vibrant and lively, all finely-tuned and lithely toned; the finish is fine, elegant, a little austere. Always a favorite in our house. Excellent. About $38.
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Domaine Chandon Etoile Brut nv, Napa and Sonoma counties. 48% chardonnay, 46% pinot noir, 6% pinot meunier. Pale gold color; a fountain of tiny shimmering bubbles; apples and lemons, spiced pear, hint of brioche and a touch of toffee; savory and saline; quite dry but expansive and generous; lots of chalk and limestone minerality; a large-scale sparkling wine that balances tasty roasted lemon and toasted hazelnut flavors with lip-smacking acidity; all devolving to an elegant finish packed with flint, cloves and grapefruit. A great performance, refined, generous and integrated. Excellent. About $40.
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Champagne Canard-Duchêne Authentic Brut nv. 12.5% alc. 45% pinot noir, 35% pinot meunier, 20% chardonnay. Pale gold color; steady stream of tiny bubbles; grapefruit and roasted lemon, lightly toasted brioche and lemongrass, notes of spiced pear, quince and ginger; very dry, heaps of smoke, chalk and limestone but expansively fitted with citrus flavors and hints of peach; crisp, almost tart, certainly lively and engaging. Our new favorite Champagne at home. Excellent. About $40, a local purchase.
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Nicolas Feuillette “D’Luscious” Demi-Sec Rosé nv. 12.5% alc. 60% pinot noir, 30% pinot meunier, 10% chardonnay. Lovely dusty topaz hue; not so much sweet — demi-sec means “half-dry” — as slightly voluptuous in texture and bursting with ripe fruit in the strawberry and raspberry range; the off-set is provided by notes of yeast and fresh biscuits, almond skin, limestone minerality and brisk acidity; a touch of orange zest is a bit candied. More balanced than I would have thought; quite lovely and enjoyable. Excellent. About $59.
Imported by Ste Michelle Wine Estates, Woodinville, Washington.
Image from somminthecity.com.
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