During the third week of November I conducted three WSET Level 3 Advanced-level classes in sparkling wines and probably enjoyed the classes as least as much as the students.
We tasted several wines made using the different methods for sparkling wine production: traditional, transfer, tank and Asti. The wines included Champagnes from both big houses and small récoltant-manipulants, from New World giants and Old World makers who have traveled to the new World.
With this experience close behind me and with the focus this release on holiday sparklers I thought it worthwhile to share my recommendations on the top buys in this weekend’s release.
There are three sparkling wines in the Holiday Cheer feature I recommend, in order of value:
The first is Roederer Estate Brut Sparkling wine from the Anderson Valley of Mendocino County, California. I have recommended this wine previously and it continues to stand out for its character and value. This wine was the overwhelming favourite in my recent classes when tasted blind against two Champagnes both selling at over $40.00 per bottle. This wine shows a taut character on the nose and palate. Fresh brioche and lime on the nose is met with green apple, lime and flinty minerals on the palate. The mousse is delicate, yet assertive, and persistent. The finish is long and crisp. $28.95 per bottle.
The second wine is a grower Champagne made by the firm R. Dumont et Fils: Brut Millésimé Champagne 2004. This vintage wine is a classic with depth of flavor, fullness of body and zesty, elegant mouth feel that punches well above its price. Like many grower Champagnes this wine appears to be a well-made wine that happens to have crisp and bright sparkling elements added to the mix. It comes from the Côte des Bar zone of the Champagne region and the fruit comes from the same Kimmeridgean soils that deliver Chablis and Sancerre in Burgundy and the Loire Valley, respectively. Don’t underestimate this wine: it is a special and complex wine at a very attractive price: $54.95 per bottle.
The third wine is another Californian, this time from the Carneros zone of Sonoma Valley. The wine is Gloria Ferrer Sonoma Brut Sparkling wine, made by a subsidiary of the giant Freixenet Group of Spanish Cava fame. This is another Old World style sparkler made from a blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes. It has tree fruits and citrus on the nose and palate and while not as refined as a fine Champagne it has creamy mousse which shows persistence. The acid is crisp, the minerals taut and the finish long. For the price this is an excellent wine: $21.95 per bottle.
Copyright© W. John Switzer 2003 – 2011.