Archive for the ‘sparkling’ Category

Live blogging from our DGS sparkling wine tasting [hehe, the couple in the background is our first Singapore DGS couple. Woot woot!]. First up: Dog Leg from South Australia. Small bubbles, nice fizz on tongue, but a little too sweet for my liking. Yujuan is giving us the lowdown of the four different methods to make sparklig wines.

We move to Spain next, and our bottle of the night is the popular Freixenet Brut Cava. Cava, by the way, is Spanish for caves. The wine is made the French method, though the bubbles are bigger than the Aussie. Very different nose. More rounded and nutty? I prefer this I think.

Third bottle: Adriano Adami dei Casel Prosecco. Fav so far!!! Nice and citrusy, bright green apples. Mmmm.

The fourth bottle is also from the same Adriano Adami vineyard, another prosecco but this is a 2007 vintage. Notes of sour apples, but it’s more restrained.

We move on to champagne: Le Drappier. People ate commenting that it is a much more complex wine. Not as fruit forward; very yeasty!!!! Interesting weight.

Last white wine of the evening: Pol Roger Champagne. Some of that yeasty nose, but much lighter and more floral on the finish. I think I would prefer the Drappier as it seems more exciting.

Last unique wine of the evening (we had a few repeat bottles) was a sparkling shiraz.


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DGS went wild last night, with a tasting of wines from all over the world, in what we’d dubbed Dead Grapes Society Adventurous Wines. We had ~25 people and 16 bottles of wines (some doubled up).

1. Taberno Brut Champagne Style Charmat Method (Peru) $10

We kicked the tasting off with two bottles of Taberno, a Peruvian sparkling. It was a hit, everyone expressed surprise at how well done it was, nice and dry on the palate, with tight concentrated bubbles.

2. Lambrusco Cantine Ceci La Luna 2006 (Italy) $14

Most people haven’t had Lambrusco before, but since Wendy discovered the wine (Lambrusco Reggiano, slightly different from the one we had last night, this being a sweeter version) at Trader Joe’s a few years ago, this has been my favorite pairing with spicy food, especially curry. With a sandalwood perfume and big cherries mouthfeel, there was just the slightest fizz at the finish, as if the wine didn’t want to go without a fight. Really fun and delicious wine.

3. Chateau Bela Riesling Sturovo Region, Muzca 2003 (Slovakia) $14

This was a dry riesling from Slovakia, which doesn’t really produce much wine, especially not since it split from the Czech Rebpulic in the early 1990s. To be honest, I don’t remember much of this wine, except for the fact that it was drinkable, though not memorable. We started to play some wine trivia at this point. Did you know, for instance, that Prohibition lasted from 1920 through 1933? And that it only ended because of the Great Depression? The government, after thirteen long years, finally realized that the mobs were getting out of control running the speakeasies and smuggling operations, and that the population condoned the mobs because they needed their drink. Of course, they might have chosen to stubbornly – and pig-headedly – stick their stand if not for the fact that they were losing millions and millions of dollars from alcohol tax. Anyway.

4. Dragon’s Hallow Unoaked Chardonnay 2005 (China) $10

Did you know that China has actually the world’s fifth largest vineyard area and is the seventh largest wine producer??? Even so, I think the Chinese should stick to making rice wine. The chardonnay we had could be likened to a thick-headed fellow, stout and completely insipid and stupid. I gulped it straight down; some others (notably the Chinese people in the room) tossed it out. However, some people professed to liking the unoaked style, so perhaps there’s hope for the Chinese wine makers after all. Oh, in case you were wondering, Jesuit missionaries are believed to have been the first to encourage the planting of vines in China in the mid 19th century.

5. Kerner Slifskeleni Neustift Abbazia di Novacella 2006 (Italy) $17

This was one of the favorites of the night. Sihao said it had all the characteristics of a Gewurztraminer, and I have to agree – a little spicy, with strong notes of lychee and roses. Interestingly, the two bottles I picked up were from Italy (at the enthusiastic recommendation of the Sam’s wine expert), although this is a grape most commonly found in Germany. It’s a cross breed from a red grape Trollinger and Riesling. Speaking of cross breeds, another trivia question: what is Cabernet Sauvignon crossed from? Answer: Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc.

6. Tinta da Anfora Vinho Regional Alentejano 2005 (Portugal) $12

Mm, quite a few people said they really liked this wine, which was quite tannic, but otherwise full bodied with lots of fruit and spices. It’s a blend of Portuguese grapes, including Trincadeira, Aragonez, and a little Cabernet Sauvignon. Oh, and did you know that Portugal is the largest producer of corks in the world?

7. Ruche di Castagnole Monferrato 2006 (Italy) $16

Another favorite of the night – those Italian wines really are something! Given the huge popularity of the wines Barolo, Barbera, and Moscato in Piedmont, it’s little wonder that Ruche does not get in the spotlight too much. I really enjoyed this smooth, and light-bodied wine.

8. Bull’s Blood Egi Bikarer 2003 (Hungary) $8

There’s a story behind the label, “Bull’s Blood” (don’t you love stories??). Anyway, as the story goes, in 1552, when the Eger fortress was under attack and looked to be giving way, the defenders, in a last desperate bid, downed copious amounts of red wine for liquid courage. Their hands must have been shaking from terror, for they spilled the red wine all over their chests. When the attackers saw these men running towards them with red chests, they thought the defenders had been drinking bull’s blood, and their courage faltered and they fled. And so the Eger fortress stood for another day. I think I’d have to bring this bottle to parties – it makes for a great conversation opener (I think anyway), and is really fun to drink.

Wine Spectator writes:

“Bull’s Blood must be made from at least three approved red varieties. Most producers use a fair amount of Kékfrankos, because its sturdy character and acidity provide backbone. Also used are Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot.

The wine’s hallmark, though, is the indigenous, spicy Kadarka grape. During the Communist era, Kadarka nearly disappeared from Hungary because its sensitivity to rot and its tendency to grow close to the ground made it very labor-intensive.

But today, Kadarka — which can produce balanced tannins and complex flavors, such as black pepper, cherry jam and cloves — is viewed as essential for a quality Bikavér, and producers are scrambling to return Kadarka to the vineyards.”

9. Skouras Red Saint George 2004 (Greece) $7

I’ve had this light bodied wine on a few occasions already, and really enjoyed it – it is a great pairing with meatballs and pasta, and I might even stock up on more as my house wine. After all, at $7, it’s really a bargain, especially when you consider that Yellow Tail costs the same amount.

10. Garnacha Marco Real Navarra 2005 (Spain) $10

I think our palates were tiring by this point for I still have half a bottle of this sitting at my desk right this moment. Anyway, Garnacha is the Spanish name for the grape Grenache. Flavors of dark berries, it is juicy and great to drink on its own and with food.

11. Chateau Henye Tokaji Dry 2006 (Hungary) $13

I first came across Tokay in Phillip Pullman’s The Golden Compass, and had been lusting after it. Tokay is normally a dessert wine, but this version we got was off dry, and so wasn’t cloyingly sweet.

12. Four Seasons Collection, Muscat Red Dessert Wine, Dionysos Mereni (Moldova) $6

I had to look Moldova up on the internet to see where it was… – somewhere in Eastern Europe. According to The Oxford Companion to Wine, “Moldova may be one of the geographically smallest states of the former Soviet Union but it has more vineyard, 108,000 ha/267,000 acres in 2002 according to the OIV, than any other apart from Ukraine and the table grape producer Uzbekistan. It has the greatest potential for wine quality and range, thanks to its extnesive vineywards, temperate continental climeate, and gently undulating landscape sandwiched between eastern Romania and Ukraine.” We rounded off the evening with a bottle of Muscat, which was surprisingly palatable. Sweet, but not overwhelmingly so.

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Domaine Ste. Michelle Brut – $8.99


wwenhuang: For the $ this is a great deal. Dry, refreshing, with nice tight bubbles and a hint of sweetness.
aglassofwine: Simply put, Best Value; dry and crisp

Veuve Cliquot Ponsardin Brut – $37.99

wwenhuang: This particular pour compared to the previous seemed to have more guts to it, a little bit more complexity and a mild yeastiness to it. I got hints of citrus as well. Its VERY drinkable, I looked down and to my despair the glass was empty.
aglassofwine: dry, crisp
Drappier Sendree Cuvee de Prestige Brut 2000 – $44.99

wwenhuang: Alas, I loved this one and its the most expensive! It surpassed most of the others in complexity. It started out with a tart sweetness and finished on a more savory note for me. I suspect depending on what you eat you could bring out a nuttiness in it as well.

aglassofwine: tinge of sweetness at the end; not as bony. Quite graceful

Gloria Ferrer Cuvee Royal Brut 1997 – $21.99

wwenhuang: The majority of our tasters felt that this was a particularly watery champagne and I would have to agree. It ended with a odd sourness and was mostly flat tartness.

Roederer Estate Brut – $44.99

wwenhuang: This is a very straight forward champagne, with less subtle flavors and more bold citrus and apple. The bubbles were less tight, but overall I would say this champagne rates as so-so in my book.

Chandon Brut – $12.99

wwenhuang: Dry, Crisp, drinkable, but nothing to swoon over.

Moet White Star Brut – $34.99

wwenhuang: This was a particularly good pour with a good level of dryness along with great complexity, yeast, and mild hint of sweetness. This is a nice classic rich champagne that has a good balance of fruit and mineral. It won over many of our tasters.

aglassofwine: Best of Tasting

Vollereaux Brut Rose – $26.99

wwenhuang: This was not what you would expect from a Rose. I found myself hoping someone would finish my glass for me so I would have more room for other bottles. It had a tartness and bitterness that did not compliment well with its bold fruitiness and watery texture.

aglassofwine: This was a disappointment; someone said it tasted like fruitilops (sp)

Mumm Napa Cuvee M – $15.99

wwenhuang: I enjoyed this bottle but to be honest the bubbles had gotten to my head by this point. I tasted some hints of citrus, apple, and yeast. The bubbles were not as fine as other pours and it was not an interesting drink compared to most others. All in all I would say this is drinkable, but forgettable.

Vietti Moscato d’Asti 2006 – $11.99

wwenhuang: Typical of an asti this is a sweet, floral, fruity wine that is reminiscent of biting into a ripe peach and apple all at once. The nose is to die for, if only I could distill it into perfume form. A completely different animal compared to champagne, this is dessert to the very end.
aglassofwine: This is a simple, easy to drink sparkling wine. Yet, it had the best nose of ALL the tastings. Floral. Fun, happy drink. One of my favorites of the tasting, because of its distinct aromas.

Shooting Star Bubbles – $16.99

wwenhuang: This was an interesting red sparkling. Just by virtue of being a sparkling syrah, it has kind of a spicy, fruitiness to it. However, the finish is quite tart and can be bitter. I much rather prefer the other sparklings to this one.

wwenhuang: In summary, champagne is not necessary my forte either, but I do have to say that with the right pairing it could give many good wines a run for their money. The bubbles to get to your head quicker, and it’s so fun to drink. I would love to do this again with specific pairings, the flavors can be so subtle that the right food could really create a new experience.

aglassofwine: I can’t say for Wendy, but personally, I’m not a champagne girl. Give me still wine anytime. I’m all about the nose, and I just couldn’t get enough of it with the champagnes. Maybe, someone ought to teach me how to appreciate the bubbles… Nonetheless, I had an superbly enjoyable time. Good food (egg lasagna, crossaints, whole leg of ham, salad, bowls of fresh fruit), great company. 🙂

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Tomorrow, our wine group will be conducting a tasting of Champagne and other Sparkling wines – at brunch, no less. 🙂 

As part of my research, I’m looking into Spumantes, otherwise known as sparkling wines in Italy. Italian sparklers hold a place near and dear to my heart, since they were one of my early introduction to wine. I fondly remember one cool October morning, where I sat with three other friends in a piazza in Turin (one of the Piedmontese cities in northwestern Italy), sipping a tall glass of Moscato D’Asti. That, was life.  


Spumante: Italian for sparkling
You can find most of Italy’s spumantes in the northern (and thus cooler) regions. Unlike champagne, most Italian sparkling wines are made using the Charmat method, where the second fermentation is done in tanks instead of in bottles. This technique produces young, crisp and low alcohol wines that should be consumed within a few years of purchase.

Astis are made from Moscato grapes (white), from Asti in Piedmont, the northwestern region of Italy. The craggy, limestone soil in the areas excellent for growing grapes, and Piedmont is one of the powerhouse regions of Italian wine country – non-sparkling wonders like Barolo, Barbera, and Barbarescos are other examples of the region’s wide
repertoire of grapes. Asti is light, sweet, with hints of peaches. High acidity. It’s typically a non-vintage wine and should be drunk early.

Moscato D’ Asti:
This is the higher class version of Asti Spumanti, if you will. Comes from the same region – Asti, though there are plenty of good fizzy moscatos in other Piedmontese regions like Alba as well, but these are less well known, and not readily found in the US. It’s less fizzy, and is light and crisp with typically 5%-7% of alcohol. Delightful summer drink, and makes for an elagant apertif. Good Moscato D’Asti is not over poweringly sweet, unlike many of the cheap commercially made crap for American palates.

Another sparkling wine from Piedmont is the Bracchetto. I haven’t tried this personally, but it’s a red sparkling wine, made from Brachetto grapes. According to some of the tasting notes I’ve read online, the wine is light, with hints of strawberry and cherry; makes for an excellent pairing with fruit/cheese or a light dessert, but is also a good pairing with pizza.

Trader Joes sells a delightfully cheap and easy to sip Lambrusco. It’s simple, unpretentious: fizzy and slightly sweet red sparkling wine. Best served chilled, and is an excellent, excellent pairing with spicy food. Lambruscos are found in the Emilia Romagna region of Italy (central).

Prosecco (derived from its grape) comes from the northeastern region of Italy, in Veneto (where Venice is). It’s the base for Bellinis (recipe: blend peaches into your prosecco). Light and refreshing, it has a lovely bouquet of melons, pears, and almonds. The wine is dry and crisp.

I’ve never tried this wine before either. Franciacorta is a name of a region in the Lombardy Lake District of Italy, and is made from a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Bianco (or Blanc), and Pinot Noir. Unlike most other Italian spumantes, Franciacorta is made using the French champagne method – i.e. wine is fermented in bottles. This results in tighter, smaller bubbles. Tasting notes online say that it is a dry, somewhat complex wine, with hints of almond, vanilla, and yellow ripe fruit. According to Italian wine law, Franciacorta must be aged for at least 18 months, vintage Franciacorta for 30 months.

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