Category:Sparkling wine

Do consumers need to start worrying about flat sparkling wine?

flat sparkling wine

Bubbles here, but not everywhere.

Flat sparkling wine seems more common than ever – or is it just my imagination?

Why have so many bottles of sparkling wine – including pricey Champagne – been flat when I’ve opened them? As many as one-half of the bottles I’ve tasted over the past nine months have opened with little more than a sigh, and the bubbles disappeared from the glass after the initial burst of foam.

Yes, this is a small sample size, no more than a couple of dozen bottles. But when I was going through my notes to find a sparkling wine to use for the Mother’s Day post last month, I kept seeing the word “flat” in my notes. One entry even said, “tastes like cava should taste, assuming it was supposed to be flat.”

And I don’t remember a streak like this in the 20-some years I’ve been tasting sparkling wine professionally. And it’s just not cheap bottles or bottles from mass retailers; this has happened with bottles from some prestigious regions and well-known retailers – $40 wine, even, as well as samples, which should be as fresh as can be.

The blog’s official sparkling wine winemaker told me it probably isn’t a production flaw. That’s possible, he said, but the chances are remote. Sparkling techniques have improved tremendously over the past decade, so quality control in the winery isn’t the problem it used to be.

Either I’m having a run of bad luck, he emailed me, or it’s the supply chain – too much sparkling wine sitting on warehouse shelves getting old, or being stored in less than optimal conditions in supermarket supply rooms.

Which is the scary part. Is there so much sparkling wine on the market that it isn’t selling quickly enough to remain fresh? This makes sense, given the slowdown in wine sales over the past couple of years. In addition, the increase in mass-produced bubbly like Barefoot and La Marca means there is not only more product on store shelves, but more product made to begin with. And, as we’ve talked about before, it’s more difficult t0 monitor quality when you’re making 1 million cases than if you’re making 10,000.

So is this my imagination? Or is this a problem, but one that that is going unrecognized because most of us don’t drink enough bubbly to notice it?

Photo “Blanc de blanc” by Marcus Hansson is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Father’s Day wine 2019

Father's Day wineFather’s Day wine 2019: Four wines to make Dad proud

Every year at Father’s Day, we’re told to buy Dad a big red wine. Because, after all, isn’t that what Dad is supposed to want? Maybe. But the most important thing to know is to buy Dad what he likes for Father’s Day wine 2019. Keep the blog’s wine gift-giving guidelines in mind throughout the process: Don’t buy someone wine that you think they should like; buy them what they will like.

Father’s Day wine 2019 suggestions:

Eberle Syrah Steinbeck Vineyard 2017 ($32, sample, 14.2%): This red wine from California’s Paso Robles is balanced and almost nuanced — which doesn’t happen all that often with Paso syrah. Look for black fruit, a little earth, a just enough richness, and a wine that is clean and full on the finish. Highly recommended, assuming the price doesn’t scare you off.

Ryder Estate Pinot Noir Rose 2018 ($14, sample, 13%): This is what the once-legendary Toad Hollow rose demonstrated to in the old days — tart cherry, a little ripe strawberry, and a long and pleasing finish that shows off the fruit. Not sweet, but fruity in the California style. Ryder is making a name for itself as one of the best $10 and $12 producers in the country. Highly recommended.

Pedroncelli Friends.white 2018 ($12, purchased, 12.9%): Yes, a corny name, but this California white blend from one of my favorite producers is always well made and a value. The gewurtztraminer balances the sauvignon blanc, but doesn’t sweeten the wine. Pleasantly tart, fresh, and enjoyable — some citrus (lemon?) and an appealing crispness. Highly recommended.

Chateau St. Jean Brut Rose NV ($15, sample, 13%): I expected almost nothing from this California bubbly, and was once again proved wrong — taste the wine before you judge it. Quality charmat method wine with a little more style and appeal than Prosecco, including some very nice berries and a creaminess that one doesn’t expect in charmat sparkling.

More Father’s Day wine:
Father’s Day wine 2018
Father’s Day wine 2017
Father’s Day wine 2016
Expensive wine 118: Bonny Doon Le Cigare Volant 2013

Mother’s Day wine 2019

Mother's Day wine 2019Four suggestions — red, white, rose, and sparkling — for Mother’s Day wine 2019

Mother’s Day wine 2019: The 13th time we’ve toasted Mom on the blog, and always with an eye toward value and quality. Isn’t that how Mom raised you? Our Mother’s Day wine gift giving guidelines are here; the idea is to please your mother and not yourself. Because it is Mother’s Day, isn’t it?

These Mother’s Day wine 2019 suggestions should get you started:

Birichino Malvasia Bianca 2015 ($17, purchased, 13%): This California white is wine geek worthy, that doesn’t mean others won’t like it. It offers all the character the malavasia bianca grape can give (floral, honey, a little orange); that it still has structure and acidity after more than four years is amazing.

Dellara Cava Brut NV ($7, purchased, 11.5%): This Spanish bubbly has the requisite cava character — tart lemon and green apple fruit and a bit of minerality. It’s a step up from what Freixenet has become, and at the same price. Imported by Mack & Schuhle

Ferraton Père & Fils Samorëns Rose 2018 ($13, sample, 13.5%): This French pink is consistent — a little heavier than Provence rose and more red Rhone in style (cherry instead of berry fruit). But it’s also consistently well made. Imported by Sera Imports

Stephane Aviron Fleurie Domaine De La Madriere Vieilles Vignes 2014 ($22, purchased, 13%): Delicious, well-made and eye opening red from Beaujolais in France. It’s more earthy  and almost steely, compared to the softer red fruit of similar wines. Highly recommended.  Imported by Frederick Wildman & Sons

Photo courtesy of Gifted Prints, using a Creative Commons license

More about Mother’s Day wine:
Mother’s Day wine 2018
Mother’s Day wine 2017
Mother’s Day wine 2016
Wine of the week: Henry Fessy Gamay Noir 2016

Wine of the week: De Chanceny Cremant Brut Rose NV

De Chanceny Cremant Brut RoseThe De Chanceny Cremant Brut Rose is pink French bubbly just in time for Mother’s Day

The first time the Wine Curmudgeon tasted this French sparkling wine, it was apparently corked – flawed thanks to the chemical TCA, which muted the flavors and gave it the faint aroma of wet newspaper. Hardly pleasant at all.

But, since I am a professional, I tried another bottle a year or so later, and that’s why the De Chanceny Cremant Brut Rose ($15, purchased, 12.5%) is the wine of the week with Mother’s Day on Sunday.

The De Chanceny is made with caberent franc, a red grape, in the Loire region of France, using the same technique as much more expensive Champagne. It’s usually a value, about one-third the price of comparable Champagne, and that’s true here. Look for berry aromas, lots of ripe black cherry fruit mixed with some pleasant tartness, terrific, tight bubbles, and a crisp, clean finish. It’s not as luxurious or yeasty as Champagne, but it’s not supposed to be.

In this, it’s food wine – Mother’s Day brunch certainly, but also a bottle for mom to enjoy when all the celebrating is over and she’s on her own again.

Imported by Signature Imports

Aldi wine road trip: The Italian Wine Guy and the Wine Curmudgeon go in search of value and quality

aldi wine

Damn it, I forgot to bring my hat.

Our Dallas Aldi wine road trip finds some cheap wine gems among the rows and rows of Winking Owl

The good news: Our Aldi wine road trip was not the disaster that I feared. Alfonso Cevola, the Italian Wine Guy, had scouted four other Aldi locations in our part of Dallas, and assured me we could find things worth drinking. And he was right.

We found four during our five-store visit. That was impressive, given that Aldi here has consistently fallen short of its effort in Europe and the United Kingdom. There, its private label wines (labels sold only at Aldi) are cheap and critically praised.

The wines worth buying again:

• Dellara Cava Brut NV ($7, purchased, 11.5%): The first bottle was flat, a worrisome trend I’ve experienced lately with sparkling wine costing as much as $20. But the second had the requisite character for a Spanish bubbly – tart lemon and green apple fruit and some minerality. A step up from other $7 cavas, especially since they’ve been dumbed down to taste like watery Prosecco.

• La Cornada Crianza 2015 ($5, purchased, 13%): This Spanish red made with tempranillo was this close to being a Hall of Fame wine. It has way too much oak for what it is; leave out the oak, and and the acidity isn’t pushed to the back and the wine is in balance. Very nice cherry fruit and even a little Spanish orange peel aroma.

• La Rue Cotes de Provence Rose 2017 ($7.50, purchased, 12%): This looks like legitimate Provencal rose (a watery pink), and it smells like one, too (tart berries). The catch is that it finishes a little sweet, and legitimate Provencal rose doesn’t do that. But that might have been me looking for a flaw. Otherwise, it’s mostly what it should be a fair price.

• Bergeron Estates Reserve Icewine 2016 ($12/375 ml, purchased, 10.5%): Quality Canadian icewine should cost three or four times this, and no one will confuse the Bergeron with Inniskillin. But it does taste like icewine – a luxurious honeyed sweetness – and it does taste like the vidal grape it is made with. It needs more acidity to balance the sweetness, but well worth buying again for those who like dessert wine.

I didn’t buy two wines that Alfonso thought would be OK, a German pinot gris and reisling labeled Landshut, which may have been made by Dr. Pauly-Bergweiler, a top German producer. So I’ll try those next next – each was about $7. In addition, a Spanish garnacha, Vina de la Nieve from Catalonia ($6) looked worth tasting but wasn’t available for sale. It was on the shelf, but not in the system.

Having said that, there was still too much Aldi wine in the stores whose reason for being was that it cost $3. And too many of the $10 wines were advertised with 88-point shelf talkers, which is about as helpful as writing a blog post longhand and using magic to put it on the Internet. And there was an amazing lack of continuity between stores, where one store would have one wine, another wouldn’t, and third would have something else.

Still, as Alfonso kept reminding me, “Small steps, Jeff, small steps. Aldi is heading in the right direction.” Which I fervently hope.

Photo by Alfonso Cevola

More about Aldi wine:
Can grocery store private label wine save cheap wine from itself?
The Aldi wine experience
Aldi wine: This isn’t the way to wine friends and influence sales

Wine of the week: Vibracions Rose NV

Vibracions roseThe Vibracions rose is $10 cava that will please even the most demanding significant other for the Holiday That Must Be Named

The Holiday That Must Not Be Named requires offerings as if it was a Greek god who must be appeased, else thunderbolts slam down from the heavens. Which is where the Vibracions rose comes in.

The Vibracions rose ($10, purchased, 11.5%) is cava, or Spanish sparkling wine, that offers amazing value, modern winemaking, and traditional cava style. In other words, a cheap wine to please even the most demanding Greek god – or even a significant other.

The key is a Spanish red grape called trepat, which was once common but now is too often passed over in favor of pinot noir. Trepat gives cava a berry-like brightness that pinot doesn’t always offer (particularly if the pinot is from Spain). That quality is on display in the Vibracions, which offers an almost dark, spicy aroma; bright, fresh strawberry fruit, though not too tart and with a hint of something darker; and the kind of tight, cascading bubbles that always denote top-notch sparkling wine.

Highly recommended – a Hall of Fame quality wine. Chill and drink it on its own, or pair with with almost any Holiday That Must Not Be Named dinner. It’s also the sort of thing for brunch, served with creamy, almost custard-like scrambled eggs topped with chives.

Expensive wine 117: Jean Vesselle Brut Reserve NV

Jean Vesselle Brut ReserveForget scores: The Jean Vesselle Brut Reserve is amazingly wonderful Champagne

The Jean Vesselle Brut Reserve, as delicious and as well made a Champagne as I’ve had in years, shows once again why scores are useless. Its average on CellarTracker (the blog’s unofficial wine inventory software) is 88 points, or about what a quality bottle of $10 wine would get.

Because if the Jean Vesselle Brut Reserve ($44, purchased, 12%) is an 88-point wine, I’m Robert Parker.

This is an exquisite bottle of Champagne, sparkling wine from the Champagne region of France. It has layers and layers of flavor, including some of the yeasty creaminess that most high-end bubbly drinkers require of Champagne. But it’s so much more than than: A completely unexpected burst of crisp, wonderfully ripe red apple fruit followed by an almost spicy finish and tiny, tight bubbles popping to the top of the glass. In this, it’s bone dry and certainly not your grandfather’s Champagne, and I’m almost certain that accounts for the crummy scores.

Highly recommended, and as enjoyable with food (eggs at brunch, certainly, but also roast chicken) as it is for celebrations. Which is how I drank it – honoring my long-time pal and colleague James MacFayden, who is returning to his native Britain after more than two decades in the U..S. James will be much missed – not only for his fine palate, but for his bounty of Monty Python references.

Imported by North Berkeley Imports