Cheers To You

An exploration of all things wine with local wine expert Mary Earl.
Subscribe to RSS
Back to Cheers To You

Archive for the ‘Sparkling Wine’ Category

Weekly Wine Defined – Macabeo

Monday, April 7th, 2014

This is a white grape variety widely planted (32,000 hectares) in Spain. If you’ve ever had a Cava from Catalonia, you’ve had Macabeo (traditionally blended with Xarel·lo and Parellada).   2_18876750_2

Macabeo is also the main grape in a white Rioja, where it goes by the name of Viura. Its natural acidity makes it a good candidate for the required extended ageing in Reserva and Gran Reserva wines. It is also found in the Valencia, Yecla and Jumilla regions of Spain.

In France, Maccabeu’s use is limited to the Languedoc-Roussillon region of southern France where production has pushed it into eighth place in the most widely planted grape varieties of that country.

For the most part, Macabeo makes a crisp little white for early consumption. Macabeo can be crisp with citrus and floral highlights when picked early on and fermented and aged in stainless steel, but when harvested later and aged in oak, it takes on a heavier weight with honey and almond flavors. In Roussillon, late picked Macabeo is made into a vin doux naturel or fortified dessert wine.

It’s a favorite blending grape in both Spain and France. In Rioja, a small amount is allowed to be blended with Tempranillo and Garnacha. It’s popular in Rioja because the grape has high level of the antioxidant resveratrol. This is important where barrel ageing for six or more years is required for Reserva and Gran Reserva wines.


Another New Year Celebration? Bring on the Bubbly!

Sunday, January 19th, 2014

If you’re celebrating the Year of the Horse with the traditional Jiaozi or dumpling recipe that Ann Vogel suggests, nothing says celebrate more than a sparkling wine and the sound of the cork popping.images
Bubblies are so festive and they are also one of the most food friendly wines. They’re perfect both for these delicious dumplings and for the midnight toast!
In a perfect world, I much prefer Champagne, either a Veuve Clicquot or a Bolly, but for gatherings of three or more, the more affordable options out there will make you smile and keep your wallet healthy.
For really good, affordable sparkling wine, look for any word on the label starting with a C or a P  with a few exceptions. I’m talking about a Cava from Spain, Crémant from France or a Prosecco from Italy. These sparkling wines are produced in large quantities from grapes grown in large quantities and therefore less expensive per ton than the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes that make up Champagne.
Generally a Spanish Cava is made with Xarel-lo, Macabeo, and Parellada grapes. Cavas are fermented in the traditional method, fermented once for alcohol and the second time to produce the bubbles.
Crémant is a term the French use for sparkling wines made anywhere in the country but Champagne. So a sparkling wine from Burgundy (Chardonnay and Pinot Noir) is a Crémant, a Blanquette de Limoux (mostly the local Mauzac, with a bit of Chardonnay and/or Chenin Blanc) from the Languedoc is a Crémant, the Loire has Crémant (Chenin Blanc) and let’s not forget Alsace! (Riesling, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Noir, Auxerrois or Chardonnay)
Italy’s Proseccos are not usually made in the traditional two fermentations style; instead, the carbonation is added. The result of this less-expensive Charmat method can vary widely. Look for the Valdobbiadene region on the label. They are allowed to use the Metado Classico or ferment a second time in the bottle.
Here’s my list of some old standbys, all $20 or less.
Spain’s Cristalino Cava brut is a favorite for around $6.50, with citrus and green apple fruit, fine bubbles and a clean finish. I have had gallons of this over the years. Very consistent.
Riondo Prosecco garnered 90 from a national review. It sells for $10.
Banfi’s Rosa Regale, while not a Prosecco, and would be perfect for a small gathering at $16. It’s all roses, in the nose, the color and fresh strawberry flavors.
Louis Bouillot Blanc de Blancs Crémant from Burgundy is a blend of Chardonnay with wonderful citrus flavors that would pair well with the dumplings.
St. Hillaire Blanquette di Limoux is fresh and fabulous with crisp apple aromas and around $11.

Xin Nian Kuai Le!

Weekly wind defined: Sparkling wine

Monday, September 30th, 2013

Mary writes:

Notice how we’ve been on a sparkling wine kick as of late? It seems we just can’t quite get those bubbles out of our heads.

This week’s definition is quite simple: Sparkling Wine.

Sparkling wines have significant levels of carbon dioxide which translates to those tiny bubbles that tickle your tongue. A second natural fermentation in a bottle, called méthode champenoise, produces sparkling wines.

Champagne is a sparkling wine made in the Champagne region of France. Every other French sparkling wine made outside the borders of Champagne is a Mousseux or Crémant.

The more common Crémants are from Burgundy where the same grapes that grow in Champagne are grown in Burgundy. Other areas that produce Crémant from other grapes are Bordeaux (Semilion), Alsace (Pinot Gris), Loire (Chenin Blanc) and  Limoux (Mauzac).


Weekly wine defined: Perlage

Monday, September 23rd, 2013

Brynn writes:

If you Google (or Bing, whichever search engine you prefer) the word Perlage you’ll find an assortment of search results, some in English, others Italian.

Simply put, perlage means bubbles. But the Internet search also called up a few commercial entities that are capitalizing on the name, using it to sell a wine-saving device that restores CO2 to an opened bottle of bubbly. According to one site, if you open a bottle and can’t finish it, you don’t have to worry about it going flat. Just use their product to fill the headspace of the bottle with pressurized CO2 which helps retain the bubbles and keep oxygen from making the wine go flat.

Supposedly the wine stays good for up to 14 days. Sounds similar to the Vin-Vac that allows you to pump out unwanted air from a bottle of wine to preserve it for longer periods. We have a couple of those and they do a great job.

The next time you’re drinking bubbly, if you want to sound smart make a comment about how superb the wine’s “perlage” is.


What we’re drinking: Finnriver Cidery

Wednesday, September 11th, 2013

Mary writes:

Finnriver Cidery has been popping up in my glass a lot lately. So I just have to share the delights this wonderful farm is pouring out.

At the fifth annual Kitsap Wine Festival at Harborside Fountain Park, this Chimacum Cidery served up their Pear Cider, Pear Brandy, Artisan Sparkling Cider, Black Currant Wine and Spirited Apple Wine.

The Sparkling Pear Cider was incredibly refreshing on that hot summer day. It’s a semi-sweet blend of organic apples and pears which was a nice match with the ahi tuna from Anthony’s.

The other wine that got my attention was the Black Currant Wine. So concentrated it stained the glass and the aromas were pure black currant. It’s port-like in that they blend with apple brandy and is sweet, well-balanced dessert wine.

My next encounter a few weeks later, was with the Blind Wine Group who hosted a Méthode Champenoise tasting. The rules were specific: bring a bottle that was made in the traditional méthode champenoise.

This means that the wine goes through a second fermentation in the bottle. Traditionally, a bottle of Champagne would go through this process anywhere from one to three years.

Finnriver uses the riddling racks, hand turning the bottles and disgorgement methods to make a naturally carbonated sparkling cider. It’s a labor intensive process and well worth the wait.

Of the 12 bottles of sparkling wine and champagne presented at the tasting, no one guessed that it was not made from grapes like the other eleven. It was that good.

And just in case you think that I’m exaggerating, take a look at the medals it has garnered:

  • Double Gold Medal, 2011 Seattle Wine Awards.
  • Silver Medal, 2011 Great Lakes International Cider and Perry Competition.
  • Silver Medal, 2011 Northwest Wine Summit.
  • ‘American Champagne Toast,’ 2012 Good Food Awards
  • Silver Medal, 2013 Seattle Wine Awards
  • ‘Best of the Northwest, Dry Cider,’ 2013 SIP Magazine

Finnriver is such a delightful place to visit. I encourage you to drop in and savor the farm community, the cidery and the fresh air either in person or online: www.finnriver.com.


Weekly wine defined: Riddling

Tuesday, August 20th, 2013

Last week we defined Méthode Champenoise.

This week we define a term that was used in that definition: Riddling.

To make good wine using the Méthode Champenoise, bottles must be riddled. While the second fermentation is creating those tiny bubbles in the bottle, it also produces sediment. That sediment needs to be removed from the wine and is disgorged after it is riddled into the neck of the bottle by riddlers, who by the way, are no threat to Batman.

What the Ridler does is give a shake and a turn to each bottle in a special rack known as a pupitre, over a period of several weeks until the bottle is upside down and all the sediment is in the neck. Once done totally by hand, gyropalettes now perform this essential procedure.


Weekly wine defined: Methode Champenoise

Monday, August 12th, 2013

Méthode Champenoise is the process of making a sparkling wine with the same method used in the cellars of Champagne, France.

It’s a secondary fermentation inside the bottle that creates those tiny bubbles we all love so much. All Champagne and most high-quality sparkling wine is made by this process.

Sparkling wine starts out as a still wine, either red or white. And then it is blended usually to produce a consistent house cuveé.

The next step is to add the dosage which is more sugar and yeast. The bottle is capped not corked and put in a riddling rack on its side neck down.

For the next two to four years, the riddler’s job is to turn each and every bottle a quarter turn four times a day. The action shakes the spent yeast cells down into the neck of the bottle.


Sparkling suggestions for New Year’s Eve

Friday, December 28th, 2012

By now you’ve probably secured your New Year’s Eve plans, but have you finalized what you’ll be drinking?

If you’re like most Americans, Champagne — sparkling wine if it’s made in America, Prosecco if it’s from Italy, or cava if from Spain — is not something you drink every day.

Instead it’s reserved for special occasions, like New Year’s Eve. (Incidentally, in Italy and Spain people drink their sparklers on a daily basis, much like most Seattleites drink coffee every day).

Seeing as we’re not in Italy or Spain, chances are you don’t drink Champagne (or sparkling wine, Prosecco, cava, et al.) except for once or twice a year. If that’s the case, the thought of selecting a bottle, or two, or three, to ring in the New Year may not top your list of favorite things to do.

That’s where we come in. We called David LeClaire, founder and general manager of Wine World and Spirits, located just off Interstate-5 in Seattle’s Wallingford neighborhood. LeClaire is also a certified sommelier from the Court of Master Sommeliers.

Needless to say, he knows wine.

So what does LeClaire recommend for this year’s celebration? That depends on what you’re looking for, he said.

If you’re planning a party for a number of guests (read: wide range of palates and likes and dislikes), LeClaire recommends serving Italy’s Prosecco.

“Prosecco, to me, is one of the best toasting Champagnes you can get,” he said.

The price is nice too — typically a Prosecco in the $9 to $10 range is going to be good. And it’s widely available.

This wine is favorable for large groups because it has a touch more sweetness to it, without being too sweet. Usually it’s liked by everyone.

If dry wine is more your style, consider cava over France’s Champagne. It’s cheaper, while still a quality wine.

General rule of thumb: look for wines in the $10 range, LeClaire said. Anything below $10 may cause you to regret your purchase, especially if you overindulge this year. That’s because sparkling wines in the $6 range have likely been injected with carbon dioxide, which produces the bubbles and often the headache.

“The saying is: The bigger the bubbles, the bigger the headache,’” LeClaire said.

The smaller the bubbles, the better the wine. During fermentation wine produces carbon dioxide as a byproduct of yeast eating sugar in the grape juice. For non-sparkling wine gas is allowed to escape; to make it tingle on your tongue, the gas is kept in the bottle, producing the bubbles.

If you’re looking for bubbly from France, but don’t want to pay the markup on a wine from Champagne, consider one from the Alsace region that straddles France and Germany.

These wines are available in the $15 price range and are very elegant, LeClaire said. Unlike Champagne, which is made from chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes, Alsatian sparklers are made with Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc, producing a softer wine. One brand to look for is Lucien Albrecht, which retails between $15 to $20.

A handful of Washington and Oregon wineries also have jumped into the sparkling pool. That includes Yakima’s Treveri Cellars, which was featured in 2011 at the White House for its State Department holiday receptions and was served earlier this year at the James Beard Foundation dinner. Treveri specializes in sparkling wines, offering Pinot Gris, riesling, Gewürztraminer, chardonnay and even Syrah. You can find most of its wines between $14 and $19.

If all this talk about bubbles has your head spinning — and you haven’t even had a sip yet! — don’t stress. Go to your local wine shop or grocery store and ask the wine steward for help. If you’re in Seattle, stop by Wine World, they’ve got wines you won’t find anywhere else, and staff eager to help.

Tell the steward how much you want to spend, what you typically drink and let them do the work. As LeClaire pointed out, most people who ask for advice will walk away with a better wine than what they would have selected on their own.


What we’re drinking: A Spanish red

Wednesday, May 9th, 2012

Mary writes:

Looking for a good wine that won’t break the bank? We’ve got a recommendation for a Spanish red for dinner tonight.
Blending has always been a tradition for Freixenet, a long time Spanish producer of cava (sparkling wines). They also have several other bodegas in their portfolio, one being Rene Barbier located in Catalunya.
This everyday red is a brilliant red color with aromas and flavors of berries, licorice and a hint of vanilla. Lots of upfront fruit, medium bodied with a smooth finish will sure to please both your palate and your wallet. Under $8.

What we’re drinking: Argyle sparkling wine

Wednesday, April 4th, 2012

Mary writes:

I recently had a bit of very good news and thought it appropriate to pop the cork on a bottle of bubbly to celebrate.

My go-to bottle is the elegant, balanced and aged Argyle brut. This may cost a bit more but Argyle releases their bruts later other wineries. The current vintage is the 2008. This gives the wine time to marry and boy, is it worth it.

Aromas include honeysuckle, apple, melon and freshly risen dough with hints of spice and red currant. The bubbles are small and effervescent in the mouth — that’s the part that makes you grin. The palate is mineral complimented by lemon zest, currant and bread dough with a long, pleasing finish.

Argyle was established in 1987 in Dundee, Oregon. Their chardonnay and pinot noir are exceptional values. We especially get a giggle out of the labels designated “Nuthouse.”

A good many wineries in this area started out as a hazelnut processing plant — Oregon produces a boatload of hazelnuts. In the Dundee Hills, hazelnuts are the only other agricultural crop besides wine grapes. So as a tribute to their heritage, Argyle established the “Nuthouse” line of wines with a “Nuthouse Chardonnay” and “Nuthouse Pinot Noir.”

Enjoy!


Archives: Cheers to You