Today is the shortest day, the longest night, and the first day of winter!
How else to welcome the return of the light and the holiday season but with sparkling wine?
Solstice = Sparklers
Here are four from around the world that Sue and I recently sampled:
SPAIN: Juan Serra Cristalino – Brut Cava – 11.5% SRP $10
ITALY, Trento: Ferrari – Brut – Trentodoc – 12.5% alcohol – $35
US, Oregon: Gran Moraine, Yamhill – Carlton – Oregon Brut Rose – 12.5% – SRP $50
FRANCE, Champagne: Bruno Paillard – Reims – France – Premiere Cuvee – 12% – $50
Jaume Serra Cristalino – Brut Cava – 11.5% $10
As it is very sparkly with big and lively bubbles, it’s fun and festive in the glass, and with all of these bubbles and with its mild flavor, it would make a really great sparkling wine for a mixer. These sparkling bubbles say it’s time to party!
- Color: Very pale, very light. The name Cristalino matches the wine: it’s almost crystal clear.
- Nose: Apples and pears, a bit more yeasty than your typical cava.
- Palate: Simple, clean, citrus and Granny Smith apple. The bubbles are very gaseous.
This is a nice sparkling wine that you will likely find on sale for under $10. They have three sparklers at this price point; we plan to sample the other two soon!
- Jaume Serra Cristalino Rosé
- Jaume Serra Cristalino Extra Dry
It paired well enough with food but it is more of a party wine to us.
Gran Moraine, Yamhill – Carlton – Oregon Brut Rose – 12.5% alcohol – SRP $50
53% Chardonnay, 47% Pinot Noir
With grapes from one of the more westerly vineyards in the AVA where a cooling afternoon breeze rolls off from the Pacific, the wine is mostly aged in stainless for freshness of fruit with a few lots aged in French oak barrels for depth, complexity, and spice. After two years on yeast, the wine is disgorged and aged for six more months before release. A lot of work goes into this wine and it sure shows in the glass: it’s quite spectacular.
Now this is a food wine– wow. What a sweetheart, too: with its lovely color, delicate bubbles, fresh fruit flavor you want to save this bottle for that special someone in your life for Christmas eve, or New Year’s eve, a birthday or Valentine’s Day.
The delicate characteristics in this wine are cherry, not as much citrus, apple or stone fruit, as much as cherry or strawberry, super fresh ripe cherry or wild cherry. Subtle on the nose and palate, as not to overwhelm. Nice long cherry finish. Not fake cherry, fresh newly picked, prime of the season, captures the brilliance of the height of summer. The characteristics of the Pinot Noir shows through more than the Chardonnay
This wine shows best when your palate is fresh to appreciate the subtle nuances. When I first tasted this wine, I found it to be bright and vibrant with fresh fruit. But when I tasted the other wines and went back to this one, my palate was overwhelmed, and it took a bit to be able to appreciate it again more fully.
Sparkling rose is a special creature: you owe it to yourself and to the wine to pay attention. This is a romantic wine, a sit in front of the fire and hang out with your honey chillax kind of wine.
Pair with shrimp, salmon ,or lobster to make a pretty meal. I bet it would also go well with chicken, turkey, duck, or Christmas goose!
Ferrari – Brut – Trentodoc – 12.5% alcohol – $25
Not all Italian sparkling wines from Italy are Prosecco. It is definitely worth checking out Italian sparkling wines like the ones from Ferrari. (read more here) The mountainous Trentino region in northernmost Italy has produced metodo classico sparkling wine for over one hundred years. After studying winemaking in France, Giulio Ferrari brought Chardonnay grapes to the region around 1900 back when Trento was still part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire Read more about Ferrari here.
With peaks almost as high as 11,000,′ the Dolomite Mountains dominate the ridgeline while the vineyards of the Trentino region mark the hillsides: 2% of Italy’s vineyards with 8% of the sparkling wine base grapes are produced here with a total annual production of around 7-8 million bottles (Wikipedia). Along with the limestone soils, the alpine air cools the temperatures and the grapes, providing the wide fluctuations that allow wine grapes to flourish: hot during the day, cool at night.
With a yeasty nose with almond brioche or an almond croissant and some baked apple, if you didn’t know it, you would think this was a wine from Champagne — or a sparkling wine with a much higher price tag that $25.
Almond croissant on the palate with ripe pear and apple.
Enjoy this wine with caviar, Cesar salad, oysters, fried calamari, bacon wrapped scallops: it likes fatty rich foods as well as salinity! This wine is really great with salty briney, buttery, types of food, , scallops sauted in butter, lemon and garlic are beautiful with this wine. Ferrari chef ALFIO GHEZZI suggests Parmigiano Reggiano cheese risotto which we will need to make next time!
Bruno Paillard – champagne – Reims – France – Premiere Cuvee – 12% alcohol – $50
22 % Pinot Meunier, 33 % Chardonnay and 45 % Pinot Noir
Bruno Paillard (MBP) owns 79 acres of certified organic vineyards across 15 crus (Villages), 35 acres of which come from Grand and Premier cru vineyards, with diverse micro-climates; over 50% of their total supply of grapes comes from their own vineyards which is unusual for a Champagne house. While growers for many generations– since 1704!–Bruno decided to make his own Champagne and founded his winery in 1981 — much to the dismay of his father! Today he and his daughter Alice are involved with every aspect of each bottle of champagne.
Bruno Paillard looks for “interesting places where I can work with the particular minerality of chalk sub-soils.”
The multi-vintages include some of the oldest reserve wines in Champagne, dating back over 25 years, and comprising from 25% to 48%. The wine spends three years or more in the bottle on lees which is double the legal minimum then the wine spends a minimum of three months in the cellar after disgorgement and that date is on the back label: “Bruno Paillard pioneered printing disgorgement dates on champagne labels and continues to be the Champagne region’s most ardent advocate of this practice.” This is valuable because NV Champagne should be enjoyed with in the first few years of disgorgement; this way you can know when that happened! However, if “properly stored in a cool cellar, laying down, protected from light, it will evolve towards more floral aromas, then spicy, and toasted until candied aromas through the years, indeed decades.”
When we opened the bottle with a satisfying POP, Sue noticed the fruity, yeasty nose, while I was aroused by honey sweet notes and honey comb; not honey flavoring but real honey. The golden, persistent bubbles catch the light beautifully. On the palate, we were both wowed with the complexity and enamored by how it paired with oysters and caviar.
Color: Bright straw gold, very festive.
Nose: Honey, maybe honey crisp apple, croissant or brioche, with almonds, toasted almond.This has a very almond croissant, marzipan nose, maybe even halva.
Palate: So much satisfying complexity in this wine, and it evolved during our tasting and our meal from plentiful fruit — at first apples then red fruits to richer spicer notes. It seems like taste offers something new and exciting.
“I want oysters with this wine, Gwen,” requested Sue. “All right I’m working on it,” I replied from the kitchen where I was shucking oysters while Sue was typing up our notes.
The wine was fantastic with my ocean briny ocean water, oyster. perfect pairing, and so great with the caviar.
The label is classy and distinct as is the shape of the bottle: it Reminds me of a swan, with a very slender neck with a robust body with a very large round base that I could barely squeeze into the wine bin in my refrigerator.
While MBP suggests enjoying this wine in a tulip shaped glass, we preferred it in a conventional chardonnay glass. Yes we tried them both and we think it show the most character and complexity in the Chardonnay glass.
The following wines are available in the US market:
- Champagne Première Cuvée MV (375ml, 750ml and 1.5L)
- Champagne Rose Première Cuvée MV (375ml, 750ml and 1.5L)
- Champagne Blanc de Blancs Réserve Privée (750ml)
- Champagne Assemblage 2004 and 2008 (750ml and 1.5L)
- Champagne Blanc de Blancs 2004
- Champagne Brut N.P.U. 1999 and 2003 (750ml and 1.5L)
There are many ways to celebrate solstice, and to honor the return of the light. Here’s to putting some sparkle into your solstice! Cheers to winter! Happy holidays!
PS This is post #108 for the year — a very auspicious number! That was my goal — an average of over two a week– and it looks like I will exceed this because I have a holiday wines from Flora Springs post coming up ASAP as well as other possible posts I am planning on publishing before the year is up!