Tonight is the night! If there is one night to pop a bottle of bubbles, this would be the day! While we drink sparkling wines several times every week, I understand that there are some out there for whom it is a much less regular occurrence (actually, I don’t understand it at all, but one of my New Year’s resolutions is to try to be more understanding, so I figured I would try it out here).
If you have not already picked out your wine for tonight, here are a few that should be widely available. The first three, while not champagne, are made in the same manner as the world’s most well-known bubbly wine. The last two are champagnes, from two of my favorite producers:
NV Lucien Albrecht Crémant d’Alsace Brut: Retail $20. It was difficult to narrow down what varieties make up this blend; the Albrecht website simply says “Pinot Auxerrois, Pinot Blanc and Chardonnay are some of the grape varieties used.” Nonetheless, I have maintained for some time now that the best French sparkling wines outside of Champagne are the Crémants d’Alsace (with honorary mentions to the Jura and the Loire). I can’t be certain, but I believe I have consumed more Crémants from Lucien Albrecht than any other. The consistency and quality of the wines is remarkable. Great citrus and yeastiness on the nose with impressive mousse, tartness, and depth on the palate. For the price? This is one of the best sparkling values on the market. Very Good to Outstanding. 88-90 Points.
NV Ferrari Brut Trento DOC, Italy: Retail $30. 100% Chardonnay. It probably would not be much of a stretch to say that Ferrari is the most awarded Italian sparkling wine. In fact, this year Ferrari was named winery of the year by Gambero Rosso, perhaps the most respected reviewer of Italian wines. What does that mean? Well, nothing if the wine is not any good–but it is, it is quite tasty. Yeasty and citrusy on the palate with a touch of marzipan. The palate is dry and tart with a bit of freshly baked lemon bread. Mineral and angular, a brightly clean delicious sparkler. Very Good to Outstanding. 88-90 Points.
2017 Simonsig Kaapse Vonkel Brut Rosé Méthode Cap Classique: Retail $20. 63% Pinot Noir, 35% Pinotage, 2% Pinot Meunier. This is far better than the previous iteration of this wine I tried. Much more fruit on the nose (strawberry, rhubarb) with a bit of yeast and minerality. On the palate? Delightful. Vibrant sparkle with oodles of tartness—particularly rhubarb—on the palate with that strawberry fruit and a yeasty finish. Yum. Outstanding. 90-92 Points.
M.V. Bruno Paillard Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru Extra Brut Champagne: Retail $80. 100% Chardonnay. Disgorged September 2016. Bruno Paillard has been referred to as both a trail blazer by his admirers and a rebel by his detractors. Since those detractors consist almost entirely of those who resist change or innovation, I tend to tune those out. Instead, I lend far more credence to those who see him as a positive, modernizing force in the region. M. Paillard was one of the first to include a disgorgement date on every bottle of champagne he produces since that is crucially important in describing the maturity of the wine, particularly those without a vintage. While almost all other producers in the region refer to them as “Non-vintage” wines, Bruno prefers to call them what they truly are: multi-vintage wines. This Multi-Vintage Blanc de Blancs come from some of the greatest Chardonnay vineyards in Champagne and exudes white acacia flowers and zesty citrus (lemon and lime) with a bit of lightly grilled toast. The palate is similar with some nuttiness added in. Whoa. The finish lasts for minutes, maybe longer. Whoa. I am an unabashed fan of the house, but there is no denying this wine’s stature. Holy cow. Outstanding. 93-95 Points.
N.V. Piper Heidsieck Cuvée Brut Champagne: Retail $45. 55% Pinot Noir, 30% Pinot Meunier and 15% Chardonnay. As I have mentioned at least a few times, I can remember precisely the first time I tried Piper: I was living in Sausalito, California and there was a tasting at my local Beverages & More hosted by none other than the incomparable Wilfred Wong. On that day, we tasted the Extra Dry from Piper Heidsieck and I was smitten. Rich, deep, with just a hint of sweetness. Since that day, however long ago, I have come a long way. So far, that just a few years ago, I was sidling up to a bar with Régis Camus, the chef de cave at Piper, talking blends, bubbles, and Brexit. I have since switched my allegiance to the drier Brut in the Piper line, which is biscuity and citrusy on the nose with a hint of minerality and the palate is quite tart with toasted croissant and a lengthy finish. Outstanding. 90-92 Points.