As I may have mentioned in a previous post, I will be heading to visit my family in Detroit, and let’s just say that they are not wine drinkers. And that is an understatement. Regardless, shortly after I arrive (and often en route from the airport) I head to the grocery store to buy a few bottles of wine for my own consumption while I am there.
(Just writing that I can go to the grocery store to buy wine, underscores again the backwards nature of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania–you can only legally buy wine from the state-run liquor stores, most of which are woefully inadequate.)
All things being equal, I would rather drink sparkling wine to any other, but I am loath to spend the big bucks that champagne demands these days, particularly when my brother-in-law decides to use my Gosset Grande Réserve as a mixer for his RonRico Rum. The alternative?
Well, there are many.
First, there is Prosecco, the most famous sparkling wine from Italy, that has recently passed champagne in worldwide sales.
For a long time I did Prosecco an injustice, since I would drink it thinking “Boy, this sure isn’t champagne….” That statement, while factually correct on a number of fronts (Prosecco is made from different grapes [most often Glera], uses a slightly different method to make the wine [the Charmat method], and, well, comes from Northern Italy, not Champagne), misses the point: Prosecco is not trying to be champagne. It is content being Prosecco.
Here are a few Proseccos I have sampled recently that have made the short list of wines that I will be looking for while in Detroit:
NV Desiderio Jeio (Bisol) Prosecco di Valdobbiadene Brut: Retail $15. A solid Prosecco effort, and given the price, it is hard to discount this style of bubbles. Quite lemony with a bit of hazelnut and slight mustiness. On the palate, bright and angular with the lemon really coming through. I am going to make a more concerted effort to seek out more interesting Proseccos and this is a good start. Very Good. 87-89 Points.
N.V. Nino Franco Rustico Prosecco: Retail $$$$. 100% Glera. Fruitier and less nutty than other Proseccos I have had recently, with a more vibrant sparkle as well. On the palate, tart and lively with lemon custard predominant. I have to say that this is one of the more enjoyable Proseccos I have had in recent memory and surprisingly, it is lacking the nutty characteristic that usually defines the style (and is a good thing for me). Very Good to Outstanding. 89-91 Points.
NV Valdo Prosecco Brut: Retail $15. Prosecco is perhaps the hottest wine in the U.S. these days as many see it as a more reasonable alternative to champagne. Being loyal to the Champagne region, I have been a bit slow adopting Prosecco, but with more wines like this, it could be on the horizon. Loads of green apple and a bit of nuttiness, this is certainly a solid effort and a good alternative to more expensive bubbles. Very Good. 86-88 Points.
NV Valdo Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore Brut Oro Puro: Retail $18. One of the main reasons that I am not a huge fan of Prosecco is the usual combination of green apple and a nuttiness on the finish. Certainly better than a sharp stick in the eye, but this wine has neither of those (the green apple and nuttiness). There is still no biscuity goodness that you often find in champagne due to the extended exposure to the dead yeast cells in the bottle, but there is great acidity and balance here, a very nice quaff indeed. Very Good to Outstanding. 88-90 Points.
The other sparkling wine that is easy to find and even easier to drink if you are looking to put a little sparkle in your life is Cava, the main sparkling wine from Spain. Cava producers use the same method that is used in Champagne, but like Prosecco, with different grapes (Xarel-lo, Parallada, and Macabeo). Also similar to Prosecco, it took me a while to get past the “Cava? It’s just a poor person’s champagne” mindset, and appreciate the wine for what it is—an often fantastic sparkling wine from Spain.
2010 Juve y Camps Reserva de la Familia Gran Reserva Brut Nature Cava, Catalonia, Spain: Retail $15. I have never been to Catalonia, but I have been dying to go ever since I started down the vinous path of wine appreciation. There are plenty of other regions that I would love to visit, but for some reason, Catalonia sits at the top of that heap. I imagine the wine to be representative of the region: a bit playful at first with tropical fruit, followed by some brightness through the mid-palate, and finishing on an ever so slight sweet note. The wine, like the region, is no doubt enhanced by the local cuisine. I can’t wait to go. Very Good. 87-89 Points.
Casas del Mar Blanc de Blancs Cava: Retail $12. Lemon and lime up front, with a gentle sparkle. Past the lips, immediately some vibrancy as the bubble wakes up. That lemon is still there–actually more than just “there” it is everywhere. A bit of yeastiness at the back-end and a solid finish. As I neared the end of the bottle, this really came around and I did a 180. Very Good to Outstanding. 88-90 Points.
So there you have a few bottles to pick up if, like me, you are traveling over the next few weeks. While I will still judge my brother-in-law as he throws a little Jack Daniels in one of these sparklers, at least my wallet will not be all that offended.