If you are a (even somewhat) regular reader of this blog, you know by now that I do not hesitate to voice my frustrations. I have countless pet peeves: leaving the tails on shrimp, cars that drive or park in the bike lane, and those people who say “I was thinking to myself” (if you are one of those people answer me this: “To whom else do you think?”).
But my biggest pet peeve? That many people only see sparkling wine as one for celebrations. I, on the other hand, think it is high time that sparkling wine gets a demotion.
This week, no doubt, there will be a bevy of articles published extolling the virtues of various sparkling wines in suggesting you consider them for your New Year’s Eve celebration.
And yes, this is another one of those articles.
I write this as a bit of a protest piece, however. Yes, I will no doubt be consuming sparkling wine on Thursday night, but check in at my house on any random Thursday (or Tuesday, for that matter) during the year and I will likely be doing the same.
Many have trumpeted the virtues of Riesling, rosé, and even Pinot Noir as being versatile wines, but I really can’t understand why sparkling wine, for the most part, seems to be ignored when the conversation centers on difficult food pairings.
Why is that?
Perhaps Champagne has done too good of a job of positioning sparkling wine as a wine for celebrations, so much so that many only see sparkling wine that way. So this Thursday, do me a favor: as you are sipping your sparkling wine this New Year’s Eve (perhaps even one of these listed here), take a moment and vow to incorporate more sparkling wine into your weekly drinking habits.
N.V. François Baur Crémant d’Alsace Brut Réserve: Retail $25. I am not all that familiar with François Baur’s wines, but the winery holds a ton of land in the Grand Cru vineyard of Brand, and I certainly have heard of it–some of the best wines in Alsace come from the Brand. The winery has been in Turckheim for a bit (since 1741) and the current head of the winery, Thomas Baur, represents the 9th generation. When the vintage warrants it, the wine is made from 100% biodynamic Pinot Blanc, but some years Riesling, Pinot Gris, and even Chardonnay is added in the blend. The wine is a bit dark in the glass with citrus, peach, pear, and a hint of cinnamon bubbling up. This is one of the more interesting wines I have had in a while as the flavor profile is a bit outside the norm–and that is a good thing. In a sparkling world where it seems like so many producers strive to produce wines that fall into a narrow spectrum, this wine certainly stands apart. There is a richness and depth certainly, but also a tanginess that I find extremely appealing. Outstanding. 91-93 Points.
N.V. Ferrari Brut: Retail $30. 100% Chardonnay. I drink a ton of sparklers. Mostly champagne, a few crémants, and plenty of domestic bubbles. Even though I know Italian bubbles are all the rage, I guess I need to drink better Prosecco and Franciacorta. This is neither, but it might cause me to rethink bubbly from Italy. Bright and attentive like a student seated in the front row, this is solid all the way through to the lasting finish. Very Good to Outstanding. 88-90 Points.
2006 Ferrari Brut Riserva Lunelli: Retail $56. 100% Chardonnay. Here we go again. I have lamented countless times that I really do not understand Italian sparkling wines. Prosecco is solid, but can be a bit too nutty and overly ordinary on the mid-palate. Franciacorta? It is fine, but I really do not get all the fuss. Well, I was sent a couple of bottles of Ferrari sparkling wine and I was a bit concerned–what would I say about another Italian sparkler (albeit from another region: Trento)? On top of that? This is 100% Chardonnay and that is not in my wheelhouse, even for champagne. Well, this bottle proved that I worry far too much. Nutty and citrus are prevalent with impressive acidity. This is clearly one of the top Italian sparklers I have tried. Outstanding. 91-93 Points.
N.V. Gustave Lorentz Crémant d’Alsace: Retail $21. Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, and Pinot Noir. For me the best values in sparkling wine have to come from Alsace (with the Loire a close second). This is a perfect example why: perky citrus followed by a refreshing tartness and some creaminess on the finish. For $20? This is as close to a sparkling wine no brainer that you can get. Very Good. 88-90 Points.
N.V. Lucien Albrecht Crémant d’Alsace Brut: Retail $22. 50% Pinot Blanc, 25% Pinot Gris, and 25% Riesling. I drink a bunch of champagne. A bunch. But it can be pricey. Really pricey. When I want quality bubbles at a reasonable price I opt for a Crémant, usually from Alsace. And this is one of the best. Citrus, spunk, lasting finish. What else do you need? Very Good to Outstanding. 88-90 Points.
N.V. Lucien Albrecht Crémant d’Alsace Brut Rosé: Retail $22. 100% Pinot Noir. I had this a few months ago and it was, well, a bit funky. It was still Very Good, but it was not up to previous bottles of this wine (this is essentially our “house bubbly” and I have come to know what it is supposed to be). Well, based on that review, I was sent another bottle. This one? Back to it’s Oustanding self: small red berry fruit, well-balanced acidity, and a vibrant sparkle. Faith restored. Given the choice between the two Albrecht Crémants, I usually opt for the rosé, but both are excellent choices. 90-92 Points.
N.V. Zinck Crémant d’Alsace Rosé: Retail $22. 100% Pinot Noir. I have had a fair number of Alsatian Crémants, but this was my first from Zinck. How to mark the occasion? Sabered like a boss. A deep pink with a vibrant sparkle. Strawberry rhubarb a go-go with vibrant fruit on the palate and just a suggestion of sweetness. Would love to try this next to a rich champagne as I feel this would give it a run for its money. Very Good to Outstanding. 88-90 Points.
Any (or all) of these wines would no doubt be a wonderful choice to ring in the New Year, but they have plenty to offer all year round. Just because they have bubbles, does not mean they should only be popped for a celebration. In fact, popping a bottle of bubbles is a celebration itself!