Tasting No. 205 – December 10, 2018 – Sparkling Wines

Club del Vino

 

Capri Ristorante, McLean VA

Tasting Overview  

The  main objective of this tasting is to compare sparkling wines from different countries and evaluate their pairing with the menu.

Type of Tasting: Open

Wines presenters: Ruth Connolly

These are the wines:

  1. Aragosta Spumante Brut Vermentino Di Sardegna
  2. Cruzat. Nature, Brut Champagne, Valle del Uco, Argentina.
  3. AR Lenoble NV Intense Brut Champagne
  4. NV Fita Azul Woman Espumante Dolce Metodo Classico, Douro, Portugal

This is the menu:

  1. Fried Calamari
  2. Arugula, goat cheese, walnuts, virgin olive oil salad
  3. Ravioli filled with lobster meat & shrimp in a lobster sauce
  4. Veal scallopini sautéed in caper in lemon and  butter sauce
  5. Dessert/Coffee

Participants: Mario Aguilar, Jorge Claro, Ruth Connolly, Clara Estrada, Italo Mirkow, John Redwood, Lucía Redwood, Jorge Requena, Alfonso Sanchez, Cristian Santelices, Ricardo Santiago, Pedro Turina, Ricardo Zavaleta, German Zincke.

Information on the Wines

(The information below has been compiled from various internet sources) .

Aragosta Spumante Brut Vermentino Di Sardegna

The Wine: Aragosta is a sparkling Brut wine obtained from local grapes selected and hand – picked into an old area of Santa Maria La Palma country and processed by Charmat method. This Brut represent for the company the relationship between old and young generation of farmers; a way to give continuity to the success of the most important Vermentino wine of Cellar “The Aragosta”.

Pale straw-yellow with long perlage. Intense bouquet with white fruit suggestions and light crusty bread. Fresh, elegant with long pleasant flavor. Ideal like aperitif and with whole meal of fish and shell-fish and seafood dishes.

The Winery: At Santa Maria la Palma, there are no counts, barons or marquises. Instead, there are lots of families of winemakers and farm workers. Fifty years ago, they were allocated a series of uncultivated plots near the city of Alghero (northwest of the Sardinia island in the Tyrhenian sea) . Rather than a silver spoon, they had strong arms, straight backs, passion and principles.

 Cruzat Nature, Brut Champagne, Valle del Uco, Argentina

The Wine: Winemaker Pedro Rosell is recognised as Argentina’s leading voice in sparkling wine production.  Rosell’s unique process of leaving base wines for 2 years on lees followed by 2 years on lees in the bottle has built layers of complexity….freshly baked bread, french paterisserie.  Fruit grown in the prestigious Lujan de Cuyo and much more at higher altitudes in the Uco Valley of Mendoza which imparts the classic acid profile into all their sparkling.  No one in Argentina comes close to Cruzat in the premium bubbly stakes. Cuvee comprises 60% Chardonnay and 40% Pinot Noir (dry zero dosage) …gorgeous fresh aromas of citrus, quince, tropical fruit and nutty, freshly baked bread nuances.  Lovely delicacy, vibrant acidity and terrific persistence of flavour.  This fine sparkling comes up trumps for sophistication

The Winery:  Since the early days of the winery, our goal has been to make high quality sparkling wines for the high-end segment, a market that shows great potential and growth in the region. Initially, and in order to achieve our goal of making the highest quality sparkling wines, one of the priorities in the project was to find the most suitable location to plant vines and start building the winery. This entailed selecting potential sites that would provide the perfect conditions: good altitude, good temperature and soils with good drainage. Cruzat sparkling wines, elaborated using the traditional method of second in-bottle fermentation, reflect our permanent quest for excellence and our painstaking attention to detail throughout the wine making process.

Read more at: http://bodegacruzat.com/en/

AR Lenoble NV Intense Brut Champagne

The Wine: Intense is a good description of this tightly textured and mineral-driven wine. Its fruit is subdued by the steely, tense character, although there are attractive hints of crisp apple and citrus acidity. The bottling is young and will repay several months aging after purchase.

The Winery: R Lenoble is one of the rare producers in Champagne that has been consistently family-owned and entirely independent since the very beginning. Sister-and-brother owners Anne and Antoine Malassagne are the great-grandchildren of Armand-Raphaël Graser. They took over in 1993 from their father and in just over twenty years, they have quietly yet confidently transformed AR Lenoble into one of the jewels of the Champagne region. AR Lenoble was the second House in Champagne to be awarded the “Haute Valeur Environnementale” certification as part of a legal measure implemented under French law in 2007 to encourage sustainable development.

Read more at: http://champagne-arlenoble.com/about/

NV Fita Azul Woman Espumante Dolce Metodo Classico, Douro, Portugal

The Wine: Clear, with fine bubbles and a yellow straw colour. It is rich on the nose, with an exuberant aroma and floral notes of roses and jasmine. Very elegant, smooth, with intense floral notes standing out, giving a sweet but fresh combination.

The Winery: There is little information about this winery on line. Read at: http://www.fitaazul.pt/en/fitaazul/history

CV Members Rating

View full evaluation here: Summary of Tasting Scores 205

Best Rated Wine: Aragosta Spumante Brut Vermentino Di Sardegna

Best Buy: Aragosta Spumante Brut Vermentino Di Sardegna

Technical Notes 

CHAMPAGNE AND OTHER SPARKLING WINES

By Ruth Connolly

When I think of champagne – with a small c – I think of bubbles.  I’m not particularly fond of bubbles; ergo champagne and other bubblies were until this presentation beyond my ken.

So I started with the basics:  What is champagne?  Is everything bubbly, champagne?  If not, what’s the difference?  Does or should it matter?  If there is a difference, what is it?  What are other bubblies called?  What is sparkling wine?

As it turns out there is a difference and not one difference but many:  in grapes, in color, in methods of picking, processing, aging, taste, etc., etc., etc.  There are different names according to geographic locations, and even monopolistic struggles and political issues connected with naming, trading, and consuming.  Champagne and its brother bubblies are even discussed as a component of future food policy.  And, apparently, the generic term adopted for all is a category known as “Sparkling Wines,” although my research indicated that it includes a lot of variation in grapes and methods.  Wilkipedia has a menu box defining sparkling wine as follows:

“Sparkling wine is a wine that becomes carbonated, either through fermentation or by addition of carbon dioxide.  The oldest known production of sparkling wine took place in 1531 with the ancestral method.  Champagne is the most well-known variant, buth there are other variations such as Italian Prosecco and Spumante, Spanish Cava, French Crémant and German Sekt.”

Sparkling wines vary from dry to sweet as follows: Brut, Extra Dry or Extra Sec, Sec, Demi-Sec and Doux depending on the amount of residual sugar.

Countries producing champagne and sparkling wines include:  Spain, France, Italy, Germany, the United States and Australia.

Tastings for this meeting will include:  one authentic champagne from the actual Champagne region of France, and sparkling wines from Italy, Argentina and Portugal.

Champagne

Champagne is properly defined as a particular type of bubbly beverage, originating in the Champagne region of France, utilizing particular types of grapes and grown and processed utilizing a particular type of process which includes a double fermentation and the use of yeast.  This process, known as the “method champenoise,” was invented by Dom Perignon. The principal grapes utilized in the making of French champagne are:  chardonnay, pinot noir, pinot meunier.  They can be blended also.

One characteristic of champagne is that it is made by adding yeast and sugar to a wine base so that it can be bottled for a crucial second fermentation. During this somewhat lengthy process, the bottle is tipped so that the sediment that results from the fermentation (called the “lees”) collects in the bottle neck for removal before corking. This long fermentation produces complex and rich flavor notes.

For a bottle of sparkling wine to be labeled Champagne, it has to be made in Champagne, France and produced using the méthode champenoise. If that bottle is produced using the exact same method, anywhere else, it must carry a different name. The production method itself must even be referred to differently, méthode tranditionalle being the usual substitute. These rules are strictly enforced. They are codified in national laws, European Union (EU) regulations, and international trade agreements and treaties. When they are broken, in even the most tangential ways, lawsuits are quickly filed. While sparkling wine producers in some countries may ignore these rules, their bottles could never make it onto a shelf in the EU. Since 2005, the same is true in the United States. And yet if you’ve ever seen bottles of bubbly labeled California Champagne – perhaps produced by Korbel, Cook’s or André – what you’ve seen is perfectly legal. The loophole that makes these labels legal is the result of a fight that began in the trenches of World War I, with roots going back to the nineteenth century.  This fight – to insure that the word “champagne” only refers to the particular version of sparkling wine made in the Champagne region of France – continues to this day, as France tries to insure that no other beverage is called champagne.  This, in spite of the fact that over the centuries a number of countries and districts appropriated the word “champagne” for their products.  However, a number of them are now promoting their versions of champagne under other designations:  “cava” in Spain and “spumante” in Italy are examples.

NOTE:  For more information on this fight, and its place in world trade and food policy, the article cited below is interesting.

Jay, Tim and Taylor, Madeline, “A case of champagne: a study of geographical indications” (2013). Corporate Governance eJournal. Paper 29. http://epublications.bond.edu.au/cgej/29

https://epublications.bond.edu.au/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?referer=http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=14&ved=2ahUKEwj3xMaGhYXfAhXNtlkKHQsrCjQQFjANegQIAxAC&url=http%3A%2F%2Fepublications.bond.edu.au%2Fcgi%2Fviewcontent.cgi%3Farticle%3D1028%26context%3Dcgej&usg=AOvVaw0sOJj2m7oac1IGgiNH-Klt&httpsredir=1&article=1028&context=cgej

Cava

Cava is the gem of Spanish sparkling wines.  Production utilizes three local grapes:  Macabeu, Xarel-lo and Parellada.  Cava originated in Penedés region of Catalonia in the mid-1800’s and emerged as sparkling white or rosé wine with characteristics ranging from very dry to sweet.  The name “Cava” comes from the Catalan word for cave or cellar, where the wine was traditionally stored or aged. Cava is similar to champagne in that it uses the methode champenoise, the traditional method of making champagne in which the second fermentation occurs inside the bottle.

However, cava and champagne come from two very different terrains.  The lack of sun in France’s champagne region results in a much more acidic wine, which must be smoothed out by adding sugar. Cava is lighter than champagne, and easier to drink.

According to the appellations, cava can be from eight different regions in Spain, although Catalonia accounts for 95% of Spain’s cava production.

There is a lot to love about a cool glass of crisp cava! Cava is wonderfully Mediterranean. The plentiful sunshine and mild climate in which the grapes grow make for a delightfully clean and refreshing wine. The very drinkable cava goes well with practically anything from fried fish to dessert.

Sparkling wines

Apparently, until the 1940’s Italian sparkling wine growers just called their product “champagne.” Today they have moved away from that designation and are marketing their sparkling wines as a distinct Italian brand.

There are several major types of sparkling wines from Italy, some of which are made using the “method champenoise.”  These include: Prosecco, Lambrusco, Franciacorta and Asti Spumante.  Italian sparkling wines can also be differentiated by their bubbles.  Spumante has a heavy bubble component whereas “frizzante” is much lighter on the bubbles.

Spumante as well is made by following very specific techniques. The highest quality technique to produce spumante is the Metodo Classico (classic technique). To date, some different bottles of spumante produced with this metodo stand up nicely against the most famous champagnes. Metodo Classico means that the sparkling wine undergoes a secondary fermentation in the bottle.  Spumante made with the Metodo Classico very much resemble the classical Champagne or Cava.   In contrast, the secondary fermentation for some other sparkling wines is done in steel tanks.

Asti (also known as Asti Spumante)[1] is a sparkling white Italian wine that is produced throughout southeastern Piedmont but is particularly focused around the towns of Asti and Alba. Since 1993 the wine has been classified as a Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG) and as of 2004 was Italy’s largest producing appellation.[2]  Made by law from the Moscato Bianco grape, it is sweet and low in alcohol, and often served with dessert. Asti is not made sparkling through the use of secondary fermentation in the bottle but rather through a single tank fermentation utilizing the Charmat method. It retains its sweetness through a complex filtration process.[3] Another wine called Moscato d’Asti is made in the same region from the same grape, but is only slightly sparkling (frizzante) and tends to have even lower alcohol.[2]

On 22 June 2014, Vineyard Landscape of Piedmont: Langhe-Roero and Monferrato was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.[4][5] This landscape covers five distinct wine-growing areas and the Castle of Cavour, an important site both in the development of vineyards and in Italian history.

Prosecco is a sparkling Italian wine that has recently become very popular, even rivalling champagne in popularity. It is made in the Veneto region of Italy (the region that’s home to Venice and Verona) and is typically prepared from Glera grapes. Aside from the variety of grape, Prosecco differs from champagne in the process of its second fermentation, which is done in the bottle for champagne, but performed in large steel tanks for Prosecco.  This both reduces the cost and affects the flavor of Prosecco, which is considered to be lighter than champagne with hints of fruit and light flowers.  A good prosecco takes just a few months to move from the vine to wineglass, and rarely costs more than fifteen dollars.

Italian Spumante sales have exceeded those of champagne thanks to English and American consumers. Prosecco stands out, followed by Asti, and by Franciacorta

NOTES:

  1. a) See pastemagazine.com for a list of the world’s 100 best sparkling wines for under $300.
  2. b) For how to store your best sparkling wines under the sea, see the video at: winefolly.com
  3. c) http://www.abnewswire.com/pressreleases/sparkling-wine-market-2018-global-trends-market-share-industry-size-growth-opportunities-and-forecast-to-2023_263603.html
  4. d) Denominazione di origine controllata (DOC; pronounced [denominatˈtsjoːne di oˈriːdʒine kontrolˈlaːta]; English: controlled designation of origin) is a quality assurance label for Italian wines. The Italian government introduced the system in 1963 and overhauled it in 1992 to comply with European Union law on protected geographical designations of origin, which came into effect that year.

ADDITIONAL TECHNICAL NOTE

(Taken from https://www.dummies.com/food-drink/drinks/wine/the-methods-of-producing-sparkling-wine/)

THE METHODS OF PRODUCING SPARKLING WINE

Most sparkling wines go through two fermentations: one to turn the grape juice into still wine without bubbles (that’s called a base wine) and a subsequent one to turn the base wine into bubbly wine. The winemaker instigates the second fermentation by adding yeasts and sugar to the base wine. The added yeasts convert the added sugar into alcohol and carbon dioxide (CO2) bubbles.

When yeasts convert sugar into alcohol, carbon dioxide is a natural by-product. If fermentation takes place in a closed container, that prevents this carbon dioxide from escaping into the air. With nowhere else to go, the CO2 becomes trapped in the wine in the form of bubbles.

Beginning with the second fermentation, the longer and slower the winemaking process, the more complex and expensive the sparkling wine will be. Some sparkling wines are ten years in the making; others are produced in only a few months. The slow-route wines can cost more than $100 a bottle, while bubblies at the opposite end of the spectrum can sell for as little as $4.

Although many variations exist, most sparkling wines are produced in one of two ways: through second fermentationin a tank, or through second fermentation in a bottle.

TANK FERMENTATION

The quickest, most efficient way of making a sparkling wine involves conducting the second fermentation in large, closed, pressurized tanks. This method is called the bulk methodtank methodcuve close (meaning closed tank in French), or charmat method (after a Frenchman named Eugene Charmat, who championed this process).

Sparkling wines made in the charmat (pronounced shar mah) method are usually the least expensive. That’s because they’re usually made in large quantities and they’re ready for sale soon after harvest. The whole process can take just a few weeks. Also, the grapes used in making sparkling wine by the charmat method (Chenin Blanc, for example) are usually far less expensive than the Pinot Noir and Chardonnay typically used in the traditional or champagne method.

BOTTLE FERMENTATION

The more traditional method of producing sparkling wines is to conduct the second fermentation in the individual bottles in which the wine is later sold. The technique of conducting the second fermentation in the bottle is called the classic or traditional method in Europe; in the United States, it’s called the champagne method or méthode champenoise.

Champagne has been made in this way for over 300 years and, according to French regulations, can be made in no other way. Many other French sparkling wines produced outside of the Champagne region use the same process but are allowed to use the term crémant in their names rather than champagne.

Bottle fermentation is an elaborate process in which every single bottle becomes an individual fermentation tank, so to speak. Including the aging time at the winery before the wine is sold, this process requires a minimum of fifteen months and usually takes three years or more. Invariably, bottle-fermented sparkling wines are more expensive than tank-fermented bubblies.

TASTE: THE PROOF OF THE PUDDING

The two different methods of producing sparkling wines result in different tastes:

Tank-fermented sparklers tend to be fruitier than traditional-method sparkling wines. This difference occurs because in tank fermentation, the route from grape to wine is shorter and more direct than in bottle fermentation. Some winemakers use the charmat, or tank, method because their goal is a fresh and fruity sparkling wine. Asti, Italy’s most famous sparkling wine, is a perfect example. You should drink charmat-method sparklers young, when their fruitiness is at its max.

Bottle fermentation makes wines that tend to be less fruity than charmat-method wines. Chemical changes that take place as the wine develops diminish the fruitiness of the wine and contribute aromas and flavors such as toastiness, nuttiness, caramel, and yeastiness. The texture of the wine can also change, becoming smooth and creamy. The bubbles tend to be tinier, and they feel less aggressive in your mouth than the bubbles of tank-fermented wines.

 

 

 

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