Sparkling Wine


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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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.

Gloria Ferrer is owned by Freixenet, the Spanish company that introduced us to cava decades ago in the deep recesses of our gf-bt-bdb-nv-1flaming youth. Centered in the Carneros region of California, Gloria Ferrer produces a consistently well-made range of non-vintage and vintage sparkling wines that reflect careful methods in vineyard and winery. Our selection for the Second Day of Christmas is the Gloria Ferrer Blanc de Blancs, a non-vintage 100 percent chardonnay sparking wine that carries a Carneros designation and was fashioned in the Champagne style of second fermentation in the bottle. The color is pale straw-gold, enlivened by a steady but not heedlessly frothing stream of tiny bubbles; this is exceedingly fresh, clean and crisp, endowed with notes of green apples and spiced pears, quince jam and crystallized ginger, with hints of lightly buttered cinnamon toast and seashell salinity. Lip-smacking acidity and an etched limestone element cut through a fairly lush pear compote character, creating a pleasing sense of tension and poise. 12.5 percent alcohol. A super attractive sparkler. Very Good+. Prices are all over the retail map for this wine, look for $18 to $22.

A sample for review.

Our travelogue of sparkling wine begins on Christmas Day in Austria’s Burgenland region, specifically the Neusiedersee production area. The szigetiSzigeti Pinot Noir Rosé Brut 2012 was made on an estate founded in 1990 by brothers Peter and Norbert Szigeti, the latter being the winemaker. This is 100 percent pinot noir, aged 12 months in the bottle on the spent yeast cells after the second fermentation, you know, where the bubbles are born. In other words, the Szigeti Pinot Noir Rosé Brut 2012 was fashioned in the traditional Champagne method. The color is an entrancing copper-salmon with a tarnished silver overlay, and the bubbles are gentle but persistent swirling flecks. Aromas of fresh strawberries and raspberries leap from the glass and are highlighted by notes of orange rind, cloves and apple skin; hints of red cherries and limestone emerge on the palate, propelled by lively acidity, while the mineral element burgeons through the still delicate, finely-knit finish. 12 percent alcohol. A delightful quaff that we drank as aperitif over several evenings. It could go another year. Very Good+. About $25.

Imported by Winebow Group, New York. A sample for review. The label illustrated isn’t exactly correct, but it’s close.

Here’s a delightful sparkling wine from Germany’s Rheingau region, produced by the Barth family in the traditional Champagne method of barth-sektkollektion-riesling-brutsecond fermentation in the bottle. The enterprise, established in 1948, makes a full range of still and sparkling wines, the latter of which are all estate-grown and produced. The Barth Brut Riesling Sekt, non-vintage, is 100 percent varietal and spent two years in the bottle resting on the lees of spent yeast cells. The color is medium gold, highlighted by a steady upward stream of tiny golden bubbles. The bouquet, well, the bouquet smells like a melange of everything we love about apples — fresh-cut Granny Smiths, spiced and baked apples, apple cider and a touch of slightly astringent red apple skin, all abetted by notes of pears and peaches, heather and honeysuckle. This sparkler is lively and effervescent on the palate, and though there’s something a bit honeyed about its richness, like candied quince and crystallized ginger, it’s quite dry and enters the finish with an element of fleet spareness. Not your usual sparkling wine. 12 percent alcohol. Excellent. About $28.

Imported by Truly Fine Wines Inc., San Diego, Calif. A sample for review.

If readers live in the New York area or perhaps in New England generally, they should look for lenzthe Lenz Winery Cuvee 2012, from an estate founded in 1978 in the North Fork of Long Island. (That’s the AVA.) Made from 100 percent pinot noir grapes, hence technically a blanc de noirs, this well-made sparkling wine offers a pale gold hue shimmering with an energetic fountain of tiny glinting bubbles; notes of roasted lemons and spiced pears, quince and ginger are lent pertness by lively acidity and a scintillating seashell-limestone element; these contribute a bit of bracing salinity to the finish. Touched with slightly yeasty brioche, but clean, fresh and vivid, this sparkler is quite dry though tasty with hints of lemon balm and willow, smoke and steel, ultimately delicate and elegant. 12 percent alcohol. Winemaker was Eric Fry. Drink now through 2018 to ’20. Excellent. About $40.

A sample for review.

As we head into the biggest sparkling wine season of the year, I’ll remind My Readers from time to time about Champagnes and other albrechtsparkling products worthy of consideration. An annual treat for us is the Cremant d’Alsace Brut Rose from the venerable estate of Lucien Albrecht, established in 1425, among the oldest family-owned wineries in Europe and still in the hands of the founding family. This non-vintage — i.e., multi-vintage — sparkling wine is made from 100 percent pinot noir grapes in the Champagne method of second fermentation in the bottle; this one spends 14 to 16 months in the bottle on the lees before being disgorged and resealed. The color is a lovely ruddy copper-salmon hue, highlighted by a surging fountain of tiny glittering bubbles; aromas of fresh raspberries and lime peel, blood orange and orange blossom are infused by notes of heather, spiced tea and limestone. Bright, brisk acidity lends this an almost tart character, though it flows on the palate with a full, round quality; the whole effect is delicate, elegant and steely, concluding in a slightly austere, saline, mineral-laced finish. Pure delight, with real style and a racy nature. 12 percent alcohol. Winemaker was Jerome Keller. Excellent. About $22, representing Good Value.

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

As you make your celebratory imbibing plans for the holiday season that runs from Thanksgiving to Epiphany — and happens to include my birthday — don’t forget Schramberg Vineyards, a Napa Valley-based producer of sparkling wines that has been around for 50 years and might be in danger of flying under the radar of all the other sparkling wine makers in California that emerged after its pioneering efforts. I rated three of these recent releases Excellent and one Very Good+, a better than decent outcome. In fact, I enjoyed these wines immensely and heartily recommend them for your Yuletide revels. Samples for review.
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schram-b-de-b
The Schramsberg Blanc de Blancs 2013, North Coast, is 100 percent chardonnay, a blend of grapes from Napa County (63 percent), Sonoma (30 percent), Mendocino (4 percent) and Marin (3 percent), hence the North Coast designation. A blanc de blancs is the first sparkling wine that the producer made, in 1965, and the touch remains deft and fluent. The color is very pale gold, and the tiny, glinting bubbles are exuberantly effervescent; beautifully layered aromas of roasted lemon, lemon balm, spiced pear and toasted and lightly buttered brioche are twined with acacia blossom and almond skin. A few moments in the glass bring up a bright edge of flint and chalk bolstered by vivid acidity, both elements lending this sparkling wine tremendous verve and appeal, while notes of slightly candied quince and ginger round out the citrus-stone fruit flavor profile. 12.7 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2020 to ’23. Excellent. About $39.
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schram-b-de-n
The opposite of blanc de blancs — “white from white” — is blanc de noirs — “white from black” — through the Schramsberg Blanc de Noirs 2012, North Coast, blends 12 percent chardonnay with the balance of pinot noir. Counties of origin are Sonoma (44 percent), Mendocino (33 percent), Napa (19 percent) and Marin (4 percent). The color is very pale gold, enlivened by a surging flurry of tiny bubbles; this is pure lemon in all its aspects, married to fresh bread, cloves, ginger and quince, with a dry scent like dusty heather and a deep bell-note of currant. It’s a high-toned and elegant sparkling wine, vibrant with energy, full-bodied, almost lush except for the rigor of prominent limestone-flint minerality and a seam of resonant acidity. 12.7 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2020 to ’22. Excellent. About $41.
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schram-rose
The Schramsberg Brut Rosé 2013, North Coast, is composed of 61 percent pinot noir and 39 percent chardonnay. The county make-up is 41 percent Sonoma, 26 percent Mendocino, 25 percent Napa and 8 percent Marin. The ravishing color is pale copper salmon, with abundant bubbles swirling upward; aromas of macerated strawberries and raspberries open to notes of dried red currants, lime peel, melon and sour cherry, with follow-up hints of cloves and orange rind. You might think that this sparkling wine is all about sensual appeal, which it obviously does not lack, but there’s real structure, too, with elements of chiseled limestone and chalk minerality borne by chiming acidity; it flows across the palate with crisp vitality. 13 percent alcohol. Now through 2019 through ’23. Excellent. About $44.
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shrams-cremant
The Schramsberg Crémant Demi-Sec 2012, Napa Valley — a departure from the winery’s usual North Coast designation — is a blend of 74 percent flora grapes, 16 percent pinot noir and 10 percent chardonnay. Flora is a crossing of gewürztraminer and semillon, created in 1938 by Harold P. Olmo (1909-2006), a professor of viticulture at University of California, Davis, who pioneered the crossing of vinifera grapes for warm climate regions; among his other creations are ruby cabernet and symphony. To 85 percent Napa Valley grapes, this sparkling wines adds 10 percent from Sonoma and 5 percent from Mendocino; that 85 percent allows the Napa Valley designation. The color is pale straw-yellow; the bubbles are tiny but gentle, a stream but not a froth. Scents of green apple, peach and apricot are delicately floral and lead to a sweet entry — in fact sweeter than I thought it would be. This sparkling wine offers elegance in body and texture, a lively impression from clean acidity and flint-limestone minerality for background and a touch of dryness from mid-palate through the finish. 13.5 percent alcohol. Now through 2020 or ’22. At 2,387 cases, this product has the smallest production of this quartet. Very Good+. About $40.
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The wine aged ……… The color is pale straw-yellow

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