We had a great sparkling wine tasting last Tuesday, covering just about everything but Champagne (that tasting is next week). Crowded but not overly so – really nice energy, and the wines showed very well.
We started off with Deinhard’s Riesling “Lila” Sekt from Germany. Sekt is the German term for sparkling wine, but interestingly, 90% of Sekt doesn’t originate in Germany – producers buy bulk still wine from Italy and put it through secondary tank fermentation. Thus, 90% of sekt is crap, to put it bluntly. The Deinhard is part of the 10% that is not. Made from grapes grown in Mosel and the MIttelrhein, it’s dry, fairly subtle but with lovely white flowers and tropical fruit flavors of Riesling. Clean and crisp, a nice way to start.
Next was Montsarra’s Cava from Spain – textbook Cava, with lemon notes and Cava’s classic earthiness (which comes from the indigenous Xarel-lo grape). More complex than most Cavas, with more yeastiness than you generally get and with a richer mouthfeel.
Third was Szigeti’s Gruner Veltliner from Austria. My personal favorite (partly because I just like saying Ziggedy); you don’t see sparkling Gruner around very much at all, but if this wine is any indication, I’d love to see more. Gruner is one of the few varietals that carries its flavor through the secondary fermentation process – it still tastes like Gruner, but sparkling. This is a very savory wine, with flavors of peppercorn, pink grapefruit, and dried herbs. It’d be phenomenal with food, I think, but delicious and distinctive on its own.
Next up was Cave de Producteurs Vouvray Brut. 100% Chenin Blanc, as are all Vouvrays. Like Gruner, Chenin retains its varietal characteristcs in sparkling form – ripe apple, honey, a bit of nuttiness, and the grape’s distinctive lanolin character. Some sweetness on this wine, but the acidity counterbalanced it nicely.
Moving to California, we sampled J’s Cuvee 20 from the Russian River Valley. This was the most Champagne-like of the group, both because of the varietal blend (about half and have Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, with a dash of Pinot Meunier) and the extended time on lees (3 years). As such, it had the yeasty brioche-y character you get out of Champagne, with a lush, rich mouthfeel.
Last up was the Lucien Albrecht Cremant d’Alsace Brut Rose. 100% Pinot Noir from the Alsace region of France; this was a close runner-up for my favorite of the night. Beautiful red cherry and strawberry fruit, full-bodied on the palate, crisp, dry, and with great finish.
All in all, not a dog in the bunch. A wide range of styles, so hopefully educational for people, and every wine had about the same number of people who said it was their favorite, which is great – it’s boring if everyone prefers the same wine.