Friday, June 30, 2017

METHOD: All that Sparkles...

Not the first wine to sparkle, but an important cellar method
Special events deserve a sparkle.  Be it the summer solstice, a birthday or anniversary, or even making it to Wednesday is a reason to celebrate something.  It is reasonable to suggest that BIG celebrations deserve a special bottle, but what about those everyday occurrences; those more frequent times that would be made even more special by lifting a glass that sparkles to announce those eyes you gaze into?

It's the bubbles that stream to heaven in a glass and can even tickle your nose that makes sparkling wines so entertaining.  Champagne is the universal standard for sparkling wines.  Not Spain's cava's or Piemonte's spumanti or Venetos prosecco, or even the traditional method sparkling wines outside of France's historical standard region, called cremant or mousseux.  German sekt is not the benchmark, even as some of their northern tier wine regions flirt with similar Champagne conditions. Not the sparklers of South Africa(Methode Cap Classique), or those of America(California Champagne?) or Chile rank in the marketing prowess, the quality hierarchy and regulated high standards that come from the Champenoise.  Even as you may find $25 -30 Champagne values in the marketplace(Piper-Heidsieck, etc.), what would be the best everyday quality for, say, less then $20?
Vineyards of Epernay, Valley of the Marne
Production of by product carbon dioxide is basic to winemaking, just as is ethanol(alcohol).  Just as it has always been when man liked the lighter feeling resulting from drinking fermented juice.  Imagine the thrill of being able to create an effervescence, a sparkle of mystery from once still juice left in a covered earthenware jar.  Or the ability to capture that sparkle with the production of stronger glass bottles produced from the 17th century English invented coke-fueled ovens.  Only then could consumers find it possible to hold the bubbles until that special moment when fanfare would follow their predictable release.

A traditional or Champagne method produces its CO2 from a second fermentation inside each individual inverted bottle where the yeast are collected until disgorged.  Generally, this process is more laborious, producing wines of more finesse, more complexity, and more balance from regional grape sources. In the Charmat method, used mostly in Italy, the second ferment occurs in large pressurized stainless steel tanks that allow an economic transfer to bottles at a fraction of the cost. Cheaper still is the soda or bulk method, where the CO2 is pumped into a tank, resulting in bubbles that are typically short-lived(think cola soda).  Variations of these methods have evolved over wine history, but higher quality here is associated with a longer, more regulated process.
Cava cellars of Codorniu at Sant Sadurni d'Anoia
Our tasting group recently investigated eight sparklers from Spain, Italy, and New Zealand, each under $20.  By consensus, the best sparklers tasted stood head and shoulders above the rest, as all that sparkles are not created equally.  For my money, to sip, to savor, and to celebrate any day you cannot sparkle better than the cavas of Catalonia.

Segura Viudas Reserva Heredad;  full bodied, dried fruits and biscuits, reinforces aromatic notes. A blend of Macabeo and Parellada grapes produces an outstanding example of cava.  Outstanding quality for the price, which is saying something from a producer that offers a perennial entry value with its Brut Reserva(under $10).
Cordorniu Anna de Cordorniu;  notes of dried citrus and baked apple, a hint of tropical fruit on the palate with flavors that reflect the lighter nose, yet it is complex and elegant, and displays a generous finish of length.  A delight at around $12!
Glera vines in the Prosecco DOC zone

Salute' & Cheers!

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