We’ll look at values in Sparkling Wine from France, Spain and California as well as a value-priced Champagne.
Our resident wine expert, Kyle Meyer of Wine Exchange, has some inspired guidance for us.
“We love Champagne. Every year we taste way more than we need to (OK somebody has to) in the hopes of finding that perfectly priced, deli- cious bottle of real Champagne. We have been incensed by the prices that the ‘Champagne’ big brands have been charging in recent years, though we understand it takes a lot of money to make ice buckets to give to restaurants and put ads in magazines. Silly us, we’re all about the juice and, as folks who love their bubbles and appreciate high quality at a good price, this is our workhorse for the holiday season and beyond.”
Apparently Nicolas Maillart’s family has been at this for nine generations though we had not heard of the house until Peter Weygandt brought it in this year. The Eaux Belle is composed of 60% Chardonnay, 30% Pinot Meunier , and 10% Pinot Noir, 20% from higher altitude parcels west of Reims. Slow and delicate pressing, gravity flow, aged on the lees and then seeing two years in bottle be- fore being hand disgorged, this round, creamy precise Champagne does a great job of hitting all the notes. Fresh apples and toast in the nose, fine bubbles, round and engaging in the mouth with about half the dosage of the ‘mass market’ brands but a long way from ‘brut nature’. The 20% reserve wine adds depth without effecting freshness. In other words, this is a really pleasing, imminently likeable go-to style of Champagne that will make friends. A real find!
“There are a lot of folks making sparkling wine in California these days, and we have witnessed the occasional attempt on someone’s part to be king of the hill. Most of the big ‘foreign owned’ houses make an upper cuvee, and Schramsberg has been doing fine work for a long time. But it is rare to find something really groundbreaking. Caraccioli has only been around since 2006, the name is hard to say, and it isn’t cheap. But these folks are clearly on a quality road less traveled. Great fruit and extraordinary talent combined can yield some pretty special results.”
“As you all know, we are pretty committed Francophiles when it comes to bubbles. So we pick our battles carefully. These folks are doing everything right. They source their fruit from the Santa Lucia Highlands which yields a sparkler with notably more body. The fruit here came mainly from the old vines at Talbott’s Sleepy Hollow Vineyard and this bubbly, by virtue of its origins, shows a bit more body, a bit richer texture and more layers. Add the refined bubbles, and you’ve got some pretty serious fizz. Of course, you can have great fruit, but you still need someone who can bring it together.”
“Now while it is American owned, there is one foreign component. The Caraccioli’s looked at the French houses in California and decided ‘if you can’t beat them, hire them’. America, heck yeah! The guy they got is Dr. Michel Salgues who was at the helm of Roederer’s sparkling wine facility (arguably one of the state’s top houses) from 1985 to 2004. Something truly special here.” PRICE $49.98
90+ Points! I also tasted the 2009 Terrers, disgorged after 71 months in bottle (for which the price is remarkable), cropped from a warm vintage. The blend varies from year to year, and in 2009 it was 52% Xarello, 32% Macabeo and 16% Parellada. It felt very compact and complex with great freshness and persistence. This is a superb Cava. At the end of the day, I could not chose between 2009 and 2010; both are superb, perhaps 2010 was a tad above 2009… 170,000 bottles produced. Luis Gutierrez, The Wine Advocate #227, October 2016.