Archive for the ‘Review sparkling wine’ Category

Dare to Drink Pink!

Thanks to SmartFem Magazine, who originally published this story…

Online Magazine for Women – Informative, Entertaining, Intelligent!



It’s official: Rosé wine is trending. In big-city bars and upscale bistros, Rosé is now at the top of the wine list. But make no mistake about it: this is not the sweet, cheap White Zinfandel that’s given pink wine a bad name in North America.  These are crisp, dry wines from places like Provence, Tavel and Mendoza.

“Real” Rosés are dry wines traditionally made and consumed as the “wine of summer” in Europe. They show delicate fruit notes — think strawberries, cherries or melon — and finish crisp and clean. If you haven’t enjoyed a chilled glass of Rosé by the pool, with brunch, or as an aperitif, then it’s high time you did.

TIP: Rosés are meant to be consumed young and fresh, so look for vintage dates just a year or two old. And you don’t have to spend a lot: there are plenty of nice still Rosés in the $10-$14 range, and sparkling from $16-$20.

Rosé wines can be made from almost any red grapes, but typically use Grenache, Mourvèdre or Pinot Noir. The juice from these grapes is clear, but picks up pigmentation as it soaks with the skins. So very simply, the amount of skin contact determines the depth of color in the finished wine. That’s why you’ll see Rosés that vary in color from pale salmon almost to magenta.

You should start your exploration of Rosés by sampling a few classic styles. Provence in Southern France is known for the very pale and delicately flavored Rosés that are favored by the owners of the yachts that dock at the French Riviera. Compare this to a Spanish or Argentine Rosé that’s deep in color and intense in its fruit character. (If you typically drink bold, dry reds, you’ll probably enjoy these Rosés.)

And don’t forget the pink bubblies. While Rosé Champagne starts at $40 and can go much higher, there are great pink sparkling wines from Burgundy (called  Cremant de Bourgogne), Alsace (Cremant d’Alsace), Spain (Brut Rosé Cava), and of course, California and Washington.

Pink wines are great for sipping, but also make good food wines. Try them with an appetizer like Smoked Salmon and Boursin Cheese Crostini,  or a tray of fruit, nuts and soft cheeses.

Here are a few good choices to get you started on your Rosé adventure:

Chateau de Nages Buti Nages Rosé — Costieres de Nimes, France    $12

Crios de Susana Balbo Rosé — Mendoza, Argentina. $13

Belle Glos Rosé of Pinot Noir — California  $18

Gruet Sparkling Brut Rosé — New Mexico (It’s from New Mexico and it’s great!)  $18

And of course, the BrAngelina wine, Chateau Miraval –– Provence, France. $24

Dare to drink Pink!

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Sparkling Wine — the Anytime Drink!

Thanks to SmartFem Magazine, who originally published this story…

Online Magazine for Women – Informative, Entertaining, Intelligent!


By  in Dining & EntertainmentSmartFem

So when was the last time you drank a glass of bubbly? Was it last New Year’s Eve, after the ball dropped? Was it at your cousin’s wedding, when the best man made a sloppy speech and raised a toast to the bride and groom?

If your answer is “Yes,” then you’re missing out on a lot of fun. Here’s why.

Sparkling wine is crisp, refreshing and delicious, anytime and anywhere. You don’t have to spend a fortune, and there are plenty of great choices if you know what to look for.

Sparkling wine is, quite simply, any wine with bubbles. Champagne is the most famous (and the priciest) of them all, and to be called Champagne it must be made in the Champagne region of France. It will set you back at least $40, but whether it’s dry and citrusy or rich and creamy, Champagne is always tres elegant.

You can also get into the bubbly game for a lot less.

  • If the label says “Cremant” or “Cava,” it’s a sparkling wine that’s made in exactly the same method as Champagne, so it’s good quality and delicious, and is priced from $10 to $20. Look for any Cremant de Bourgogne from France or Cristalino Cava from Spain.
  • We make great “Champagne Method” sparklers here in America, too. Look for Gruet in the $15-$20 range (their Brut Rose is awesome) or Domaine Carneros for around $35.
  • You can go Italian with Prosecco, a lighter-bodied bubbly that can be dry (try Zonin or Zardetto) or not-so-dry (LaMarca).
  • If you have a really sweet tooth, you’ll love any Moscato d’Asti. This lightly-effervescent wine from Italy is naturally sweet and tastes like peaches and honey (really!).

So when should you drink Sparkling wine?

  • It’s never too early for bubbly. For breakfast or brunch try a Mimosa made with a Cava and orange juice, or move up to Italy’s breakfast drink, a Bellini. Just thaw and then purée a bag of frozen peaches, add a little sugar to taste, and pour in some Prosecco. It’s delish with French Toast!
  • There are lots of before-dinner choices. Try Cremant or a domestic sparkler, straight up and ice cold, and pair it with Crostini topped with Boursin Cheese and Smoked salmon. This aperitif is easy, elegant, lip-smacking good, and a staple in my house.
  • Pretend you’re lounging in an Italian bistro by mixing a “Spritz” with Prosecco and Aperol. This drink is refreshing, not sweet, with hints of bitter orange peel. Add a tray of cheese and nuts and relax till dinner time.
  • Serve Champagne as a salad course wine. Believe it or not, the high acidity makes it a great complement to vinaigrette dressings.
  • And my personal favorite was recommended by a chic and well-dressed French woman. Sip true Champagne with…potato chips! The combination of crisp and dry with salty and greasy is a true gastronomic pleasure.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Champagne Market Leader Setting a New Trend or Making a Mistake?

moetHere’s a report I just read on

Moët & Chandon is to lower the dosage of its market-leading Brut Impérial from 12 grams per litre to 9 g/l according to its chef de cave Benoît Gouez. This follows the decision by Dom Pérignon’s chef de cave Richard Geoffroy to gradually lower the sugar levels on the prestige cuvée, having dropped the dosage for its late-disgorged Oenothèque Champagnes.

As previously reported by the drinks business, Geoffroy said, “There has been a strategy of lowering the dosage in the last 10 years and we are now between 6 and 7 g/l.”

Hmmm… I’ve been selling Champagne (the real stuff) for quite a few years. Many of the people who buy it want to “treat themselves to a bottle.” They don’t mind that the price is considerably higher than many other very good sparkling wines — they’re buying it because it’s pricey. They figure that if it’s expensive, it must be good, and that’s what makes Champagne a treat.

Problem is, most of those folks don’t drink Champagne, or even wine, very often. That usually means their palates aren’t accustomed to truly dry wines. I’ve heard many say, “I spent a lot of money on Dom Perignon because it was supposed to be so special, and I didn’t even like it.” Yep, it’s too dry and yeasty for their palates.

But Moet et Chandon White Star wasn’t. It was my go-to Champagne because it was not as dry as all the others. It was considered an “Extra-Dry,” which in the totally un-logical language of Champagne-speak means “not as dry as Brut.”   Apparently others felt the same way, because it was the clear market leader in the U.S. Read the rest of this entry »

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Dethroning a King: Why French Sparkling No Longer Reigns Supreme

bubblyA recent article in reports that Champagne (the “real” bubbly made in the Champagne region of France) has been suffering a steady decline in sales, especially in their export markets. In 2009 alone Champagne producers decreased production a whopping 44% to account for decreased demand.

At the same time, sales of Italian bubbly have jumped a whopping 22%. That’s not too surprising in these economic times, given that a bottle of Champagne goes for anywhere from $40 to $300, while you can pick up a good Prosecco for under $15.

So cheers to the Italians for making the most of bad times and creating good times for their bubbly producers.

The article also explained that Italian sparkling wine producers have  begun to create fine bubbly that can compete head to head with the French in the premium category. Again, good for them.

In fact, the wine world has always had any number of top-quality producers of fine wine and sparkling wine, even though the French would have us believe that they are in sole possession of the top-quality market niche. The French have always been incredibly good self-promoters, and for centuries had the wine world believing that Quality was defined by their Bordeaux, Burgundy and Champagne. They had us all believing that if we preferred the taste of something — anything — else over the taste of French wine, it was because: a) we’d had a bad bottle; b) we had a bad palate; or c) we were hopelessly low-class and incapable of appreciating the finer things in life. Read the rest of this entry »

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The Latest Triumph for Cork

shipwreckI recently received this “Amorim Cork Facts News Alert”. It’s a cool story, so I’ll reprint it for you here.


The world’s leading cork producer, Amorim, has played a major role in the preservation of the 200-year-old champagne discovered off the coast of the Åland archipelago earlier this year.

Specialist consultants to the Åland Government called on Amorim to assist in the preservation of the champagne after 168 bottles were recovered from a shipwreck at the bottom of the Baltic Sea.

Two bottles of the historic champagne were opened at a special event in Mariehamn, the capital of Åland, last week (17/11). Read the rest of this entry »

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Battle of the Bubblies: Joseph Perrier vs Jules Bertier

joseph perrierI’ve often wondered if this whole Champagne thing really means anything.

I’m referring to the huge fuss that’s been made about using the word “Champagne” on a bottle of bubbly: that it can’t be used as a generic term for sparkling wine and can only be used to designate a wine from the Champagne region of France. The Champagne folks act like the Keepers of the Holy Grail, as though any bubbly besides theirs is swill not fit to drink and can therefore not bear their name.

So I was excited when I stumbled across a bubbly challenge. I had recently served a sparkling wine from France (but not Champagne) and got rave reviews from everyone who tried it. I heard comments such as, “I don’t usually like champagne, but I like this one.” Now, I can’t take those comments totally at face value: In America, most people drink sparkling wine only at weddings and New Year’s Eve parties, and tend to lump everything with bubbles under the name “champagne,” including cheap domestic stuff made in giant concrete vats, and sweet stuff from Italy. But the point is, the folks who drank my non-Champagne bubbly meant, “This stuff is good.” ‘Nuff said.

Then I was given a sample of a true, blue, honest-to-God Champagne, and decided to do a taste-off to see if the Champagne label really did bring with it a distinct style and superior quality. Here are my results.

Jules Bertier Premiere Cuvee Blanc de Blanc is a non-vintage sparkling wine from France’s Loire Valley. This region is best known for the white grape Chenin Blanc. Caves de Grenelle, which produces this cuvee, grows Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay and Cabernet Franc. Since this wine is called “Blanc de Blancs,” which indicates an all-white-grape blend, this must be made from Chenin Blanc and Chardonnay. The winery has a long tradition, founded in 1859, and is known for producing fine Cremant de Loire (sparkling wines from the Loire region). Read the rest of this entry »

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Happy New Years, Any Time of the Year: Review of Cristalino Brut

champagneSo, how many of you out there remember The Millenium? It was supposed to be The New Years Eve To End All New Years Eve’s.  It was when the Big Universal Clock  was going to roll from 1999 to 2000, and all the world’s technology was going to (maybe) come crashing down.

So we all planned our New Year’s Eve celebrations very carefully. We wanted the most bang for our buck, since this might be our last buck (hopefully not our last bang…). Anyhow, I was bringing the bubbly to our party. I considered U.S. sparklers, of which there are many I like, and  even an Aussie  sparkler or two. But what I settled on was this: Cristalino Brut Cava, a wonderful (and wonderfully cheap) sparkling wine from Spain. I popped it open at midnight, and two things happened: 1- the world didn’t come to an end, and 2- everyone loved my bubbly.

Cava is the name the Spanish use for their sparkling wine, and before you get all “wine snob” about it, let me assure you that Cava’s can rival French Champagne for quality. They are made in exactly the same way as the French: the Cristalino bottle says, “Metodo Tradicional”, meaning “Made in the traditional Champagne way”. It is also “Fermented in this bottle”, which means the second fermentation has been allowed to happen just like in Riems, France. And that’s a good thing… Read the rest of this entry »

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Is a Sparkling Slushy a Splushy?

champagne corkSometimes you just luck out: A dumb move that should’ve left you busted, can make you look like a genius. So I’ll share with you my own duffus move, in the hope that it may inspire you to many hours of frosty enjoyment…

I had a freezer episode recently, when I brought home a split of room-temperature sparkling wine that needed a jump start to get it up to drinking temperature. The bottle was Gruet Blanc de Noir, which I believe is hands-down the best sparkling wine in its price range ($18 for a 750ml), and is carefully crafted in beautiful New Mexico. (You can read about Gruet in an upcoming article.)

So while the split was chilling amongst the frozen green beans and sorbet, I ran out to do an errand. And as luck would have it, I ended up spending much more time away from home than I’d planned. By the time I tore back into the kitchen, I was expecting to find a wine-cicle leaking alcoholic ice crystals all over my frozen food.

But the Force was with me. While the top half of the bubbly looked quite frozen, no damage had been done. We very gingerly pried off the champagne cork, and filled our flutes with an honest-to-God champagne slushy. And it was far and away the coldest, crispest, cleanest and most delicious sparkling wine I’ve ever had the pleasure to drink.

So here’s the moral of the story: happy accidents can produce great results. But remember that we’re pushing the outside of the envelope here: leave your bottle in the freezer too long and you’re cleaning frosty foam off your frozen veggies. What worked for me was:

2 hours in a standard freezer for a half (375 ml) bottle.
For a full bottle, I’d increase your freezer time maybe another half hour.

If any of you have the nerve to experiment with this, please tell me how it turns out. In the meantime, I’ll raise my glass of (slushy) bubbly to sparkling wine lovers everywhere. Cheers!

$18.99 750 ml bottle

$11.99 375 ml bottle

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Pop! A Review of our favorite Sparkling Wine

GruetThe first time we met these two guys at a wine trade event in Ohio, we thought they were a little wacky. They were pouring bubbly for anyone they could drag over to their booth, and their bubbly was made in…New Mexico! But their story was good, and their sparkling wine was even better. Since then Gruet Winery has been our favorite domestic sparkler, and the one we now recommend to everyone we can drag in. It’s very easy to review, because I give it top ratings every time.
Their story goes something like this: they studied winemaking in world-famous Burgundy, and then came back to the U.S. to discover that the climate and soil in one area of New Mexico was eerily similar to France. It needs the elevation, of course, to cool the temperatures, but the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes they grew for their bubbly were world class. Read the rest of this entry »

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