It is that time of year again: sparkling wine time. Just as 95% of rosé wines are released in the Spring, it seems as though I receive the majority of sparkling wine samples at or near the end of the year. I find that a tad frustrating since, like with rosé, I drink sparkling wine year-round; a practice that I adopted long before I moved to the warmer climes of Houston, Texas.
I know I am not the only one who likes to add a little sparkle to the every day, but the view that most sparkling wine is sold at the end of the year is still firmly entrenched, it seems. (I could get on my soap box and reaffirm my solidly held belief that sparkling wine is the singular most versatile style of wine, but I will resist.)
Thus, I have a bunch of sparkling wine samples to swim through this month, which is nonetheless a great problem to have (my personal motto is “If it doesn’t sparkle, it doesn’t matter”). Here are a few I have tried thus far:
The first three wines come from a perhaps lesser-known region in the Northern part of Italy, Franciacorta. A strong argument could be made that the region produces the best sparkling wines in Italy (although Trento DOC would have a strong rebuttal).
2011 Berlucchi ‘61 Franciacorta Brut Satèn: Retail $40. 90% Chardonnay, 10% Pinot Noir. I had just returned from Europe and I was dead tired, but I was jonesing a home-cooked meal. The catch? My wife was working late and it was up to me. I threw together a pretty simple wheat linguini with shrimp, cherry tomatoes, and crème fraiche. Both the wine and the pasta were pretty fantastic. The wine was a fairly brilliant golden-yellow in the glass, with peach, pear, and strawberry on the nose. The palate is tart, nutty, and minerally with a vibrant sparkle and a delectable finish. “Satèn” which means “silk” in Italian is particular to the Franciacorta region. Made from predominantly Chardonnay, it is also at a slightly lower pressure (5 BAR instead of 6) due to less sugar being added for the secondary fermentation. What does all of that mean? For me, it was a particularly soft and silky re-entry into the country. Outstanding. 90-92 Points.
2013 Bellavista Vendemmia Rosé Franciacorta DOCG: Retail $60. 62% Chardonnay, 38% Pinot Noir. Even though I have consumed countless sparkling wines, I always get a little giddy when I open up a bottle of bubbles. That excitement is increased when the wine is also pink. Why? I am not entirely sure, but I do know that sparkling wine is an instant mood enhancer—who can’t feel instantly better with a glass of sparkling wine in their hand (if such a person exists, I don’t want to hang out with him)? And since rosé bubbles are a bit more rare (and contain, usually, a bit more Pinot Noir), that just adds to the mood enhancement. Brilliant pink with just a hint of orange, the tiny bubbles bring forth wild strawberry, freshly baked bread, and wet rock. The palate is quite dry, with hints of cherry and fresh strawberry as well as a flintiness on the mid palate. The finish is bright, fresh, and lengthy. Outstanding. 91-93 Points.
N.V. Ca’del Bosco Cuvée Prestige Franciacorta DOCG: Retail $50. 75% Chardonnay, 10% Pinot Bianco, 15% Pinot Nero. One of the more well-known producers from Franciacorta, this is the benchmark of their line and the wine that is most widely available in the U.S. Deep yellow to golden in color with a yeasty, citrusy, nutty, mineral goodness. On the palate, a vibrant sparkle, with an initial almond note, followed by the aforementioned citrus (incredible acidity), that fruit is so luscious that the wine comes off as a just a tad sweet. A classic Franciacorta. Whoa. Outstanding. 92-94 Points.
The next two wines come from Casa Bianchi in Mendoza, one of the oldest continually family owned wineries in Argentina. Wines from the Southern Hemisphere have been gradually increasing in quality and represent some of the better value wines in the world.
N.V. Bianchi Metodo Classico Extra Brut, Mendoza, Argentina: Retail $15. 60% Chardonnay, 40% Pinot Noir. Golden yellow in the glass with pear, a little funk (a good thing), and a hazelnut goodness. Fruity, initially, with a dash of sweetness, and surprising minerality. The finish is solid, but short of mind-blowing. Still? A solid sparkler. Very Good. 87-89 Points.
N.V. Casa Bianchi Famiglia Brut Nature Traditional Method, Mendoza: Retail $25. 60% Chardonnay, 40% Pinot Noir. It is not entirely clear how this wine differs from the previous (other than the slight difference in dosage—this wine is even drier than the first as no additional sugar was added) despite quite a bit of time inside Google. Decidedly straw yellow with a golden hue, there is plenty of peach, a bit of minerality, and oodles of nuttiness. The palate is delightful with tree fruit, wet rock, and a baked bread yeastiness. Fantastic. Very Good to Outstanding. 89-91 Points.