Tag Archives: Champagne

New Year’s bubbly post coming Monday

The blog is mostly off tomorrow for the holiday, but will return on Monday with my New Year’s sparkling wine preview and lots of recommendations — and most of next week will be about sparkling wine.

If you’re going bubbly shopping this weekend and can’t wait, never fear. The blog will take care of you. Check out the sparkling wine and holiday wine categories, as well as as the Champagne and sparkling wine glossary.

Expensive wine 33: Mo t Grand Vintage Brut 2002

MoetVintage Champagne — that is, Champage with a year instead of NV for non-vintage — isn't especially common; when a Champagne house announces one, it's to mark an exceptional year. Which makes perfect sense with the Moet ($70, sample).

This is as well made a bubbly as the Wine Curmudgeon has had in a long, long time, and reminds me why I enjoy Champagne so much. Frankly, as much as I like sparkling wine, too many Champagne makers long ago stopped caring about price as it relates to value. They have a brand that they can charge too much money for, and so they do. It doesn't seem to matter whether the wine is worth that price.

That's not the case here. If you want to spend $70 for Champagne, the Moet is money well spent. It's subtle and charming, like a woman you meet at a party who stays in your head and you think about at the oddest moments. There is a bit of yeast and lots and lots of clean, fresh green apple fruit, as well as bubbles that never, ever end. Drink this on its own, to celebrate a special occasion, or with a fancy holiday dinner, for it's a terrific food wine.

Quick note: If you're confused by some of the terms used here, since sparkling wine can be confusing, check out this post, which explains the basics of bubbly.

Expensive wine 29: Pol Roger White Foil Brut NV

The Wine Curmudgeon reported a couple of weeks ago that a study found that French wine gets a disproportionate amount of Internet buzz given its declining share of the world market. There are any number of reasons for this, including the Winestream Media's obsession with red Bordeaux and the sense among many consumers that French wine remains La Grande Dame despite its many problems.

This month, I'm going to add to the Internet buzz, but not for either of those two reasons. The White Foil ($47, sample) can stand on its own as an example of what Champagne is and what French wine can be when the French aren't preoccupied with selling wine to the Chinese, rioting vineyard owners, and sneaking one past all those stupid Americans.

Those of us who write about wine use terms like classic a lot (probably too much, in fact), but that's what the White Foil is. If you want to taste real Champagne — sparkling wine grown in the Champagne region of France — then try this. As Champagne goes, it's not ridiculously expensive, and has all of the qualities Champagne is supposed to have.

Look for lots of green apple fruit in the front and streams and streams of bubbles in the glass. The wine is crisp and fresh and fine, and has a bit of the toast quality of classic Champagne — though it's quite subtle and not as overdone as other, more popular wines, who offer that baseball bat up the side of the head effect. And leaving the wine open for a few minutes before you drink it won't hurt.

This is a wine for gifts and special occasions, and to share with someone who appreciates quality and a quiet moment.

Winebits 184: Wine writing, cava, wine prices

? Certifying wine writers: Slate's Mike Steinberger weighs in on this winter's cyber-controversy about credentialing wine writers at the end of a longish piece about the value of earning the Master of Wine title. Says Steinberger, who does a better job than most of writing about the bits of the wine business that have nothing to do with tasting wine: "However, wine appreciation is an almost wholly subjective endeavor, and while some palates are more discerning than others, even the most experienced and knowledgeable critic is merely offering an informed opinion." Given Steinberger's stature, I guess I'm safe for a while longer from the certification police.

? Spanish bubbly sales rising: Which is not a surprise to anyone who has tasted the wines. Sales of Champagne in the U.S. are down more than 20 percent from 2007, according to Impact Databank. Know what has made up the difference? Cava, of course. Sales for the three biggest Spanish sparklers are up 12 percent since 2007, pretty impressive given the recession. In fact, says Impact, more cava is now sold in the U.S. than Champagne.

? Too expensive for Parker? An odd report from the French news agency AFP, in which it quotes Robert Parker, the most important person in the wine business, as saying Bordeaux wine prices are too high. Which would be like the Wine Curmudgeon saying $10 wine prices are too low and should be higher. Parker is the main reason no one, save the world's wealthiest people, can afford top-end Bordeauxs. In fact, if that's not bizarre enough, Parker says the top producers should cut their prices 10 to 20 percent, and should not rely on the Chinese market to boost sales. It was enough to make me reach for a bottle of cava.

Mini-reviews 25: Moet, El Coto, Martin Codax, Pecorino

Reviews of wines that don ?t need their own post, but are worth noting for one reason or another. Look for it on the final Friday of each month. This month, a couple of roses to close out rose week.

? Mo t & Chandon Grand Vintage Brut Ros 2002 ($80, sample): Classic in style, with lots of acid and fantastic bubbles. Could probably age for a couple of years more to give the fruit a chance to show. A fine gift for someone who appreciates Champagne.

? El Coto Rioja Rosado 2010 ($10, sample): Much more New World than Spanish in style, with lots more fruit (strawberry) than a Spanish rose would have. Having said that, it's still dry and a fine, simple, fresh rose for summer.

? Mart n C dax Albari o 2009 ($15, sample): Spanish white had lemon fruit and was a little fresher than usual, which was welcome. But it's still $2 or $3 more than similar wines.

? Cantina Tollo Pecorino 2009 ($16, purchased): This white was bright and Italian, which means not that much fruit (pears?), balanced acid, and long mineral finish. Highly recommended.

Update: The Cristalino lawsuit

Cristalino lawsuit What do you call Cristalino, the Spanish sparkling wine, after a federal court judge says that you can’t call it Cristalino?

What happens if you run a picture of the old Cristalino bottle, like the one on the left, after a federal court judge says you shouldn’t?

Who would have thought that the Wine Curmudgeon needed an attorney to write about $10 wine? But that appears to be the case these days.

Regular visitors will remember that, last August, the company that owns Cristal (and which will never be mentioned on the blog) won a judgment in U.S. federal court in Minneapolis. Cristal’s owner said there was evidence that consumers could be confused between the two brands, even though Cristal sells for hundreds of dollars and Cristalino doesn’t, and they are rarely on sale in the same location. A federal court judge agreed, and ordered Cristalino to redesign and re-label its bottle, with a disclaimer that says Cristalino isn’t affiliated with Cristal or The Company That Will Not be Named.

Fast forward to last week, when I got a letter from Cristalino. It outlined the results of the lawsuit, and asked anyone writing about their wine to:

? Change all old references on their blogs and sites from Cristalino to the new name.

? Destroy any old bottle shots or labels that we might have.

? Replace any old bottle shots or labels with new bottle shots or labels.

You will have noticed that I did not list the new name. A friend of mine suggested that I start using the phrase, “Cristalino, a great little sparkling cava from Spain, not to be confused with Cristal, a vastly overpriced French Champagne.” Which has some merit.

I do know I’m not going to change any references or pictures on the blog. It irritates me no end that I’m being asked to waste my time so a company that sells over-priced wine can get richer. And I do have certain Constitutional rights when it comes to fair comment about news, based on several Supreme Court decisions, including New York Times v. Sullivan. But since it has been a few years since my media law class, I consulted an attorney.

It was actually two attorneys, who own perhaps my favorite wine shop in Dallas (though they asked not to be named, since this isn’t their area of practice — and they emphasized that they were not giving me legal advice). Their thoughts: That I was probably safe from retribution from either Cristalino or The Company That Will Not be Named. “However,” said one, “if you continue to just say ‘Cristalino’ and they decide to sue you for an injunction, you may well end up wishing you had complied with the attached letter. The odds of that happening? Pretty slim.”

In which case, I’ll have another blog post, no doubt asking for money for my legal defense fund.

Valentine’s Day Wine 2011

Ordinarily, the Wine Curmudgeon does not participate in the festivities surrounding The Holiday that Must not be Named. But this year, given the rough winter that so many of us are having, I figured, why not? Plus, it gives me a chance to write about champagne and sparkling wine, which was the blog’s New Year’s resolution. (If you really don’t want to do bubbly, this Chalk Hill is quite nice.)

Bubbly fits Valentine ?s Day like a red paper heart (and yes, you can even drink it with chocolate). The sparkling wine glossary explains all, and the 2009 New Year’s post explained the difference between the world’s various sparkling wines.

So if you ?re wondering where to go with Valentine ?s Day wine, here are three sparkling suggestions:

? Freixenet Cordon Rosado Brut ($11, sample). Spanish bubbly is called cava, and this one is more fruity (some citrus) than similarly-priced cavas. Plus, it’s pink, so you’re getting with the holiday theme.

? Simonnet-Febvre Cremant Brut ($20, purchased). Bubbly from the Chablis region of France, which means the grapes approach champagne quality at less than half the price.

? Pol Roger White Foil Brut ($45, sample). The real stuff, ?with champagne ?s classic green apple flavor and great bubbles that stream to the top of the glass.