Tasting Recap: Sparkling Wines other than Champagne

Simply stated, we love sparkling wine. Whether the finest of Champagnes, a crisp, lemony Cava or a slightly more gulpable Prosecco we rather enjoy our bubbles in wine. The high acidity and carbonation are perfect pairs for food pairing from scallops to steak and a glass of sparkling is most appropriate for any celebration. In the shop we try to expose our customers to these often incredible values and we always feature these finds at the bar in efforts to create a bubble culture here in Milwaukee, but a tasting is certainly the best way to learn and enjoy these wines – and we sure did. Our recent tasting featured six sparkling wines from outside the borders of the famed Champagne from elsewhere in France, Spain, Italy and California. The wines all showed incredibly well and participants picked up lots of (in some cases, all of!) our stock – finding themselves with a new arsenal of bubbles in their homes. There was no clear favorite of the tasting but read on and pick one up for the holiday that sounds your style.

Libretto NV Prosecco, Italy ($8.95)

Following tradition, we began this tasting with a light spritz sampling sparkling from Prosecco, produced in the cool climate and limestone soils of north east Italy. Though a wide spectrum of quality wine is produced, there can be solid Prosecco and we think this find is stellar. The Libretto is a classic Prosecco normally retailing at about $14 and because the current label is being switched we got a great deal. Now at $8.95 a bottle, this traditional sparkling is the perfect way to kick off any gathering. Easy drinking with a hint of sweet, the Libretto shows soft lemon notes and foamy, frothy bubbles all perfectly refreshing. This is a great one for gifting as nobody complains about receiving a bottle of tasty bubbles.

Poema NV Cava Spain ($13.95)

A great Cava is something to be appreciated both for its quality as much as for its value and the Poema performs as expected. Comprised solely from the traditional blend of Xarel-lo, Macabeo and Paralleda and aged on its lees for a year creating a lightly toasted backbone, this is a great new find for the shop and bar. The Paralleda brings a nice fresh lemon aroma to some fine beading in the glass creating a perfect little moment. An ideal sparkler for appetizers and hors d’oeuvres.

J “Cuvee 20″, Russian River Valley California ($26.95)

Constructed with a Champenoise formula of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir with three years on its lees, the “Cuvee 20″ offers bright lemon and orchard fruit on the nose with a subtle brioche on the creamy palate. The sugar here is just over the Brut level, but this is far from sweet. Crisp and refreshing with a bit of texture and a great balance of fruit and toast, this wine is quality California sparkling. A perfect gift when you’re not sure what to get as the wine will please anybody and the packaging is flashy, yet classy.

Chateau des Vaults NV Brut Sauvage, Cremant de Loire France ($24.95, unfortunately, this item is temporarily unavailable)

Chenin Blanc is naturally high in acidity and when a fantastic producer employs the style of Brut Sauvage (aka Brut Nature or Brut Zero) they do not add any dosage (sweetened wine often added just before bottling), the  pure flavors of the grape and that bright acidity take center stage. Chenin Blanc also offers a lanolin-like texture creating a rich palate for that acidity to show itself with flavors of dry honey, figs and dried apples. The producer goes back several generations in Savannieres and this sparkling shows incredible character. This wine was a favorite of the evening, and as we love featuring wines that are from small scale producers, that does increase their rarity. We took everything the distributor had in stock and tasting attendees cleaned us out, but this should be available again early next year,

Ca’ del Bosco NV “Cuvee Prestige” Brut, Franciacorta Italy ($36.95)

From North-central Italy comes one of sparkling wine’s best values with Franciacorta. Italy’s answer to Champagne, Franciacorta refelects the best of the traditional method with incredibly meticulous wine-making and the setting of its near-forest home. Chardonnay is the base here, with a smaller percentage of Pinot Nero and a touch of Pinot Bianco sourced from over a hundred different parcels, all fermented separately into the ultimate base blend destined for bubbles. The wine sees just over two years on its lees creating a wonderfully creamy palate vivid with fresh orchard fruit, lemon and hints of toastiness. The finish is incredibly persistent reminding the taster of the quality of this bottle. Ca’ del Bosco is known as a pioneer in Franciacorta and remains it’s most famed producer. Tasters see exactly why.

Gratien & Mayer NV Brut Rose, Saumur France ($20.95, unfortunately, this item is temporarily unavailable)

What would a sparkling tasting be without a rose? We could have poured many styles of sparkling rose for this option, but we had our hands on something truly unique that we had to pour. This is a producer we don’t often see and we were glad to come across it as it is a beautiful example of sparkling Cabernet Franc. With pronounced notes of a graphite minerality, raspberries and violets, this wine shows a classic old world take on winemaking as it features non-fruit flavors with bright acidity and the want for food. Still a bit creamy and a touch drying on the palate, this wine shows the influence of red grapes to the process of sparkling wine and just how diverse bubbles can be. Unfortunately, we also sold through our stock on this item, but it may be back in the near future for you to try.

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