A couple of weeks ago, I posted my annual review of the sparkling wine samples that I received. As I mentioned at the time, it is a bit of a conundrum for me–most people this time of year are buying sparkling wine (around 30-40% of all sparkling wines are bought and consumed in the last six weeks of the year in the U.S.), but I firmly believe that sparkling wine should be consumed year-round.
Nonetheless, I decided against a staging my own personal protest and published my review in time to influence the New Year’s Eve sparkling wine purchases of all twenty-three people who read this blog (yes–I am up to 23!).
Then Christmas Eve happened.
It started like any Christmas Eve–my wife had me run out and to the store since we had forgotten to buy any stocking stuffers for the kids (I would like to blame it on the fact that we do not have a chimney, but when it happens every year, well….). Then I needed to make an additional stop to get my wife a gift since, although we both agreed that we would not exchange gifts this year, she expectedly, I guess, violated that agreement.
So far a normal Christmas Eve.
When I got home that afternoon, there were a couple of packages of wine samples waiting for me. As I had mentioned at some point over the last month, I have made a concerted effort to taste through all of the samples that had accrued over the last few months so that I could start with a clean slate once the New Year rolled around. Well, with these two deliveries, I was facing another six bottles at a time of year when I really could not squeeze in any more samples–we were traveling, had parties to attend, and had some good friends visiting–none of which were conducive to going through another half a case of samples. These would just have to wait until after the New Year.
Then I opened the boxes.
Of the six bottles, four were sparkling wines.
Don’t get me wrong–there is nothing that this guy likes more than sparkling wine, but I knew that the people who sent me the wines would want me to taste and write about them before the ball dropped on Wednesday night (so as to affect the purchasing decisions of all 23 of you).
I thought that the four of them should be tasted together, but there really was no time–we were heading to New York, then D.C., and really no time once we got back. As a result, I tasted these wines in our hotel room in Washington, D.C.–we made our somewhat traditional trek down I-95 for a couple of days between Christmas and New Year’s Eve to visit the capital at a time when it is virtually deserted.
I filled the room’s trashcan with ice (after finally finding an ice machine that worked), and soon got down to business.
Yeah, that’s dedication.
The first wine is a “new kid on the block” from a well-respected, established producer from the Willamette Valley in Oregon, Sokol Blossor. While most of the sparkling wine made in the U.S. comes from California (by a wide margin), I think Oregon might be knocking on that door relatively soon–the state is producing more and more quality sparklers.
N.V. Evolution Sparkling: Retail $25. This is the first edition (“edition” since this is a non-vintage) of sparkling wine from Evolution, the second label of Oregon producer Sokol-Blosser. The wine has the white Evolution still wine as a base, but is a blend of nine different varieties. Very nicely done for a first effort: green apple and pear all over the place with a vibrant sparkle. Great acidity accentuates the slightly creamy, lingering finish. This is a solid first effort from Sokol Blossor’s somewhat irreverent second label, Evolution. Very Good. 86-88 Points.
The other three were all from Franciacorta, a wine making area in the Northern Italian province of Lombardy, known for producing perhaps the best sparkling wine in that country. Personally, I have not been all that impressed with the wines from Franciacorta, but then I have not had all that many either.
All that may have just changed….
All three of these wines were impressive.
N.V. La Montina Franciacorta Brut: Retail $30. 95% Chardonnay 5% Pinot Noir. 24 months on the lees. Lemon, lime, and a bit of almond brioche leap out of the pale golden hue. On the palate, a bold combination of nutty lemon curd with a well above average finish. Very Good. 87-89 Points.
The other two were both from the 2006 vintage and both had no dosage–no additional sugar was added after the secondary fermentation was finished (the vast majority of sparkling wine has some level of dosage to balance out the acidity and to determine the style of the wine).
2006 Lo Sparviere Franciacorta Dosaggio Zero: Retail $45-50. 100% Chardonnay. 72 months on the lees (!). Pale yellow with tiny bubbles, the wine exudes dried pineapple, lemon and fresh croissant. On the palate, delicate yet powerful with a nutty creaminess and an impressively long finish. Wow. This is really good. Outstanding. 91-93 Points.
2006 Majolini Franciacorta Pas Dosé: Retail $39. 100% Chardonnay. Aged on the lees for 36 months. This one has by far the yeastiest nose, with a bit of honey and acacia. The freshly baked bread dominates the palate, too, with a dash of pecan and lemon. Outstanding. 90-92 Points.
So I made it through all the bubbles in time for the sparkling wine event of the year. While it will be tough to break away from my love affair with Champagne, it is clear that there are increasingly more quality sparklers from all over the world, and I am paying attention.