A Light & Refreshing Prosecco for all Champagne Drinkers
By Matt Goldstein & Amy K. Haight
The Lamarca Prosecco is a sparkling wine made in the Trevisio area of Northern Italy from the Prosecco grape. Prosecco is best consumed soon after production while it still retains its youthful fruitiness and stimulating acidity, just like all champagne and sparkling wines as they are already aged to their peak by the time they reach the shelves. That’s right, there’s no need to age champagne, it’s better to drink it now! In 2007 La Marca Prosecco was awarded a “Top 100 wines of the Year” by Wine Spectator and in 2010 considered “One of the fruitiest and one of the most aromatic” by the Wall Street Journal. Made from 100% Prosecco grapes harvested in early September, then sourced from hundreds of small vineyards throughout the region the Lamarca Prosecco was started from a wine growing cooperative.
The Lamarca Prosecco is a light grayish Bache in color with just a hint of gold. The flavor is Light in fruit and a very slight dry, showing some complexity. With a good but crispness, the Lamarca Prosecco gets sweeter the more you sip. This is a very nice glass of bubbly. Subtle and mild, this is the type of champagne that would appeal to the masses. Light and refreshing, perfect for beginners and the experienced, the Lamarca Prosecco is a well rounded, balanced and subtle sparkling wine and we would drink it again and again. For $15, it’s a very solid buy and we absolutely recommend it.
Tasting Notes from Lamarca:
This sparkling wine is pale, golden straw in color. Bubbles are full textured and persistent. On the nose the wine brings fresh citrus with hints of honey and white floral notes. The flavor is fresh and clean, with ripe citrus, lemon, green apple, and touches of grapefruit, minerality, and some toast. The finish is light, refreshing, and crisp.
La Marca Prosecco has the charm to stand alone as an aperitif, but it also has the body and the acidity to match well with a range of fragrant and spicy dishes. Try it with seafood, mild cheeses and any tomato-rich dish, or even with fruit-based desserts.
Sales of Champagne and wine have been soaring towards record levels in 2011 and American exports are benefitting. The majority of California wine goes overseas and to Europe respectively however, wine sales in China are also climbing significantly. So what if China wants to put a tariff on American cars, let’s just get them drunk and they won’t be able to drive. Champagne sales in the U.S. are up 22% with the French wine & spirit company LVMH Moet Hennessey Luis Vuitton having the biggest impact on sales. Americans are now purchasing $30-50 bottles of wine and Champagne at record levels. The overall numbers in luxury Champagnes also indicate an increase in sales of luxury items across the board including, wines, spirits, clothing, jewelry and more. Maybe the recession is over, maybe the economic recovery is in full effect, and maybe the drunks in China are about to shower Napa Valley with gold. No matter how you slice it, Americans and China both are drinking a much better product and their willing to pay for it.
Bigger Bubbles Indicate a Young, Peaking Champagne
By Matt Goldstein
For most Champagnes and sparkling wines, the aging process is already complete when the bottles leave the vineyard. The bottle of Champagne or Sparkling wine is actually at its peak when bought and slightly degrades in quality from there. For many, this means there is no need to age the bottle of champagne in your wine cellar or wine rack. There is no need to keep that special expensive bottle of Dom P or Crystal for that special occasion. The best time to drink your champagne is now. Stop playing games and just pour yourself a glass now.
In order to know how old you champagne is, the key is in the bubbles. The bigger the bubbles the younger the champagne; the smaller the bubbles, the older it is. The bigger bubbles are key to experiencing the best champagne or sparkling wines and drinking the champagne at the appropriate age. So open your bottles as soon as you can and enjoy life now. Life is short, and so is the shelf life of Champagne.
I think we should start this chronicle by answering the most basic questions about wine of who, what, where, when, and how? What is wine? Well, in the most elemental terms, wine is simply fermented grape juice. The five basic types are red, white, rosé, sparkling, and fortified. Anthropologists believe that the first wine was discovered by some knuckle-dragging cave dweller that left some wild grapes in a clay pot. (kind of ironic that wine drinking today is associated with the most elite amongst us, but I digress…) Left out over a week or so in that pot, the natural yeasts on the grape skins fermented and the mash turned into a crude wine. Then they had the first party known to mankind….sweet.
The first wines historians know of were predominant in the Mediterranean area, the Middle East, Egypt, and throughout Europe during the middle ages. The oldest known wine making facility dates back 6000 years in Armenia. The Christopher Columbus contingency brought the first grape vines to the Americas in the 1500’s as we see winemaking expand into what is today known as Mexico, South America, and ultimately into the Southwestern United States and California. Eventually overtime, the vine was also introduced to Australia. Today, “winos” refer to “classic wine” producers as the aforementioned European producers. Wines concocted in the Americas and Australia, are known as the “New World” producers. Now wine is made on every continent except Antarctica. (I wonder if the experts should count the wine that is produced on C-Block at Graterford Prison made from kool-aid fermented in a zip-lock bag under the bottom bunk, but yet again, I digress)
Just like a master chef classically trained in French cuisines, the food that is produced is only as good as the ingredients used to make it. The same applies to wine making. Wine is only as good as the grapes used to ferment it. Therefore, wine makers are extremely concerned with the cultivating of the grapes in their vineyards. They are constantly in the process of testing and experimenting with different soils and what kind of trellis system to use. A trellis system is simply the framework of wood and wire used to support the vine of the grapes as they grow. By keeping the grapes off of the ground, exposed to more sunlight, and better air circulation will ultimately increase the quality of the grape. Also, when the grapes are harvested it is also critical as to the overall quality and taste of the wine. Overtime, winemakers have figured out that a grape vine that struggles to grow actually makes better wine. Just as in life, struggle builds character.
The first step in making wine is crushing the grapes. The purpose of this process is to break the skins away from the grape itself and to release the juices. Many of you have seen the picture of the nice Portuguese fellow dancing on a pile of grapes in a festive fashion thinking to yourself, “did he wash his feet first?” Well, many old school wine makers believe that there is nothing like the human foot to break the grapes because they won’t break any seeds which release harsh tannins into the juice. (Perhaps different toe cheeses and foot fungi account for some more quality vintages…but once again sorry, I digress.)
White grapes are pressed to separate the skins before fermenting as opposed to red grapes being fermented with the skins in the mash and eventually pressed later which give the wine its red color. Both the juices from red and/or white grapes are clear. Therefore, white wine can be made from red or white grapes. Next, the wine matures in oak or steel barrels before it is eventually bottled. Red wine is fermented at a higher temperature than white wine which contributes to the coloring and tannin extraction. In some cases, the wine is moved from barrel to barrel to remove sediment known as lees. This process is known as “racking”.
As far as some of the other styles are concerned, Rosé for example is processed similar to red wines, but the grapes are only fermented with the skins for a shorter amount of time giving it a slightly less “red” color that appears pink or rose colored if you will. The cheaper/easier rosé is made by merely blending the red wine fermented juices with the white wine juice. It’s kind of like cheating. Fortified wines are wines that have had some sort of spirit such as brandy added after the fermentation process. These are your port and sherry wines. (I like some Sherry in my Snapper Turtle soup…oh sorry, digression) Lastly, sparkling wines are wines that have additional sugars and yeast added during the fermenting process which give the wine the carbonation. Champagne is the example that comes to mind here.
Speaking for myself at an adolescent age, I was introduced to alcohol by reluctantly forcing-down Natural Light cans of beer for what I thought was a decent buzz. Today, I like to consider myself a connoisseur of beer. But, as my taste buds matured, I was fortunate enough early on (like 19 years old with a fake ID) to be introduced to some Belgian Ales, American IPA’s, Stouts, etc. and found a new appreciation and respect for quality beverages. For me, this also applies to wines. I think with some understanding of how the process works, the differences, and the nuances of wine, a new door can be opened to the world of wine for anyone. Plus, if you need to impress a girl, boss, or anybody at a restaurant, stay tuned for more from Whiskey Goldmine and the Wine Chronicles to get your understanding and appreciation of wine-on. Cheers!
Prosecco’s, Cava’s, Champagne’s and Sparkling Wines
By Matt Goldstein
Prosecco is a type is sparkling wine from Italy’s Veneto region just North of Venice. Prosecco sparkling wine is usually cultivated and blended with native grapes such Verdisio, Bianchetta, Perera and non native grapes Pinot Bianco and Pinot Grigio. The Vila Sandi uses a bottle type called the “Claxa” which keeps the wine cooler and at ideal temperatures. Each bottle of Vila Sandi Prosecco is aged for at least 36 months and some bottles up to 6 years. While the Villa Sandi wine is refined in French Oak Barrels, each Prosecco vine is aged from 7 to 45 years. Founded in 1975 by the Moretti Polegato Family, the Villa Sandi brings produces some wines that are an absolute must.
Our featured wine of the week is the Villa Sandi Prosecco Di Valdobbiadene Brut Spumante and the scent is of ripe fruit and apple. The flavor is fresh, sweet, slightly dry, and bitter with a tangy aftertaste and excellent finish. This is a beautiful Prosecco especially for about $13.00. Villa Sandi Prosecco Di Valdobbiadene is a great buy for the Champagne lover.
By Lisa Gana, Matt Goldstein & Sommelier Tom Pittakas
Just because Moet Chandon, Crystal, and Dom Perignon are the most famous champagnes on the market, doesn’t mean they’re the best. It certainly doesn’t mean you have to spend your entire paycheck just to drink a good bottle of the bubbly. We’ve compiled a top 15 list of our favorite champagnes, many of which are award winning and can be purchased for under $15.
Champagnes, Sparkling Wines, Prosecco’s and Cava’s
1. Louis Bouillot Rose Sparkling Wine:
100% Pinot Noir Grapes, Burgundy France. Scored 88 points from Wine Enthusiast and costs about $15.00
2. Thorn Clarke NV Brut Reserve:
A Pinot Noir, Chardonnay Sparkling Wine Blend from South Australia. Thorn Clarke Brut Reserve scored 90 points from Cellar Tracker and is available for about $14.00.
3. Castellar Cava, Spain:
The most famous sparkling wine in Spain, Castellar Cava is a light refreshing and easy drinking style of Champagne. Made with Macabeo, Parelleda and Xarel-lo grapes, the Cava stands out from the other sparkling wines on the shelf and costs about $13.00. Castellar scored very well at the 2010 Wine Trials.
4. Domain Ste Michelle Brut:
For 2 years in a row, Domain St Michelle beat out Dom Perignon in a double blind taste test at the Wine Trials. Domain St Michelle costs about $13.00 per bottle while Dom Perignon costs about $150.00. What else is there to say?
A classic French Champagne with a Pino Noir Base and smaller parts Chardonnay with Pinot Meunier. The Piper Heidseck winery has been making wines and champagnes since 1785 and a bottle of Brut is about $25.00.
Napa Valley, California. With a mix of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir this California Sparkling Wine scored 92 points from Wine Spectator and 90 points from Wine Enthusiast. Taittinger Brut Cuvee costs about $23.00.
Napa Valley, California. A Chardonnay based California Sparkling wine that scored 90 points from the Wine Enthusiast, Chandon can be purchased for around $20.00. Chandon is owned by the world renowned French Champagne Moet-Chandon. The Blanc de Noirs is a gorgeous salmon-pink and is a blend of Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, and Chardonnay is also a great buy.
8. Roederer Estate Brut:
Anderson Valley,CA. Owned and made by the infamous and obnoxiously expensive Cristal, the Roederer Estate Brut for the rock-bottom price. With about 60% Chardonnay and 40% Pinot Noir, this sparkling wine is available for about $20.00.
9. Mumm Napa Brut Prestige:
Napa Valley, CA.A crisp, dry sparkling wine that scored 90’s from the Wine Enthusiast and the Wine Spectator. Mumm Napa Brut Prestige is a great sparkling wine for only $16.00.
10. Veuve Clicquot Brut:
Champagne France. This legendary Champagne scores above 90’s across the board from all of the major wine and champagne ratings and it costs much less than Moet Chandon. Veuve Clicquot Brut can be purchased for about $34.00.
California. With 60% Chardonnay, 15% Pinot Noir and 25% Pinot Meunier, this California Brut is bottle fermented in the traditional Champagne style. Piper Sonoma Brut is available for about $12.00.
12. Moet Chandon Imperial:
Champagne, France. Moet Chandon is a classic French Champagne. Perhaps a little pricey but Moet has won awards across the board for all of its Champagnes on the shelf. The Moet Imperial is available for about $40.00.
13. Castello Del Poggio Muscat Blanc Sparkling Wine:
Italy. Sweet and well balanced with refined fruitiness, the Castello Del Poggio is actually a staple of the Olive Garden. Seriously, we just mentioned the Olive Garden. Either way, this is a solid sparkling wine for about $15.00.
The most most famous sparkling wine in Spain, Castellar Cava is a light refreshing and easy drinking style of Champagne. Made with Macabeo, Parelleda and Xarel-lo grapes, the Cava stands out from the other sparkling wines on the shelf and costs about $13. Why pay $45 for Moet Chandon?
Heavy Red: Geyser Peak Cabernet Sauvignon, USA, $15
Sweet: Clean Slate Reisling, Germany, $11
The wines listed above have been selected as the 2010 Wine Trial champions. All 7 wines were put through rigorous blind taste testing that included sommelier’s, chefs, wine stewards, and cellar masters. The wines competed against “premium” wines sometimes 5-10 times their price. All of the champion wines are under $16! The book, 2010 Wine Trials, by Robin Goldstein & Alexis Herschkowitsch breaks down hundreds of wines and proves that there is no need to spend more than a few dollars to get a great wine experience.
In a blind taste test that featured wine experts, sommelier’s, decorated chefs, winemakers, food critics and many other wine connoisseur’s, a Washington State sparkling wine, Domaine Ste Michelle Brut, has defeated champagnes retailing for more than 10 times its own price. For the 2nd year in a row, a $12 bottle of Domaine Ste Michelle Brut has been declared the winner of the Wine Trials and defeated Dom Perignon in the process. Perhaps the most famous Champagne in the history of wine, more for its price than anything else considering that virtually no one can afford it, Dom Perignon retails for about $140. Domaine Ste Michelle Brut sparkling wine retails for about $12 but has even been seen online for as little as $8.99. From the book, The Wine Trials 2010, authors Rubin Goldstein and Alexis Herschkowitsch give detailed account of how 150 wines $15 and under beat out wines over $50 in “rigorous brown bag blind tastings.” Domaine Ste Michelle Brut is made from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes and has a “fresh and light” style. Domaine Ste Michelle Extra Dry was also a finalist.