There are a lot of different sparkling wines out there in the wine world and which one is the right one for your celebratory New Years drink?
First off not all sparkling wines are champagne. The only sparkling wines that are actually champagnes are the ones that come from the region of Champagne in France. (unless you’re one of the few California wineries that have been around for over 50+ years that got grandfathered in…whatever) Everything else is sparkling wine.
Different countries have different names for their sparkling. Spain calls their wine Cava, Italy calls theirs Prosecco, and you might also see Spumante.
What is the difference between all of the different types? Let’s break it down:
Champagne is a dry sparkling wine usually made from Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and/or Pinot Meunier grapes. The different types are Cuvee, Extra Dry, Blanc de Blanc, Blanc de Noir, Rose, and Brut.
With all that said, most sparkling wines are going to be a little on the dry side. Most Prosecco, Cava, Rose, and extra dry Champagnes will have the same dry consistency like a Chardonnay but will have a hint of sweet at the end. California sparkling wines and Brut tend to me more drier like a red wine.
I will be hosting a free wine tasting at Liquor City Bakewell today and tomorrow from 4 – 8 and we will be tasting Champagnes, Sparkling wines, and Moscato. Stop on by during those hours anytime and I’ll help you choose the right sparkling for you.
Every year on November’s third Thursday, the latest vintage of Beaujolais Nouveau is released. Beaujolais Nouveau is a young red wine made from Gamay grapes in the Beaujolais region of France. Don’t age this one – Beaujolais is all about drinking it now.
French law dictates that Beaujolais Nouveau can be released at 12:01 am on the third Thursday of November. It’s so young at this point that the grapes were harvested only weeks earlier, with a short (obviously) fermentation period. Because of this method, the wine is often bright and fruity, with just a hint of tannins. I find it tastes best just a little chilled, and tends to pair nicely with Thanksgiving turkey, so it’s probably okay to age it about a week.
Environmentalists and slow food movement folks tend to get all up in arms about Beaujolais Nouveau. After all, with such a short production cycle, it’s hard to get all that wine exported and ready to go by the third Thursday. Beaujolais Nouveau has one hell of a carbon footprint.
In recent years, Beaujolais producers have really been trying to curb their environmental impact. More and more producers are using environmentally friendly PET bottles, for example. PET bottles use similar material to the 2L bottles of Coke you can pick up at the grocery. The material is 100% recyclable and weighs nearly 50% less than glass. That means it weighs less on the flight over, using less jet fuel.
Of course, not everyone is flying the wine over on a super-fast jet. Georges DuBeoeuf, the largest producer of Beaujolais, has a dispensation from the French government allowing him to bottle and ship early – on boats. (Most of our wine from Europe ships on boats.)This year, Michael Skurnik Importers are bringing in both Domaine Madone and Paul Durdilly Beaujolais via boat. While this takes longer, it’s better for the environment than piling everything on a jet at the last minute.
Beaujolais is a wine that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Every year, parties are held around the world at 12:01, popping the first cork of Beaujolais. It’s a party wine. Keep that in mind when you pick up a bottle and you should be able to enjoy it with a smile on your face.
The weather in Cincinnati was 75º on Sunday without a cloud in the sky. It was a perfect kick-off to spring and a perfect debut weekend for the Cincinnati Fine Food Show, the event-within-an-event of the Cincinnati Flower Show. We should have been at home, doing yard work and other welcome-to-spring house activities, but instead, we visited the show.It was a great first effort for the Fine Food Show, and I’m glad they’re looking at this as an annual part of the Flower event.
The first thing we did was to purchase our tasting tickets and take in the wineries. We tried wines from each winery, including Kinkead Ridge, Valley Vineyards, Harmony Hill, Henke, and Ravenhurst.
Kinkead Ridge: It was great to finally meet Nancy face to face. She’s such a sweetheart! We really enjoyed their Cabernet Sauvignon (award winning!). It was all she had left. They were running out of wine and I think that’s just fantastic. We look forward to visiting their winery this summer, and hopefully a barrel tasting in the fall. Nancy also gave a us Kinkead Ridge shopping bag at the end of our day. She commented that she knew she had really made it when she got her own shopping bags. Cheers to that!
Valley Vineyards: We tried the Vidal Blanc icewine. I think I’m spoiled by the icewine in the Niagara Peninsula, because this just tasted too, um, grapey for me. Overall, I’m not really a fan of Vidal Blanc, I suppose. We didn’t try any other Valley Vineyards wines, and perhaps we should have.
Harmony Hill: We had a great conversation with both Bob and Patti at Harmony Hill. (They’ve built an honest-to-goodness wine cave!) It was a surprise to find out that they’re both nurses by trade, and the winery is a gigantic endeavor on the side. All of their wines have a musical theme – Woodwind (Seval Blanc), Serenade (Chambourcin & Marechal Foch), Concerto (Vidal Blanc), Ovation (Traminette, Cayuga), and the Chamber Suite (a sweeter Chambourcin). We purchased a bottle of the Ovation, which is just tropical enough to be a great front porch wine. Once we try it outside of the tasting area, we might just buy a case to represent our "summer white." Like Kinkead Ridge, Harmony Hill opens on weekends in the summer starting Memorial Day. It sounds like they always have some live music going on too.
Henke Winery: We tried the flight of wines offered at Henke and were pleasantly surprised by the Chardonnay. In fact, it was our favorite. Thanks to the Henke folks for talking us into trying it. We also really enjoyed their Vendange a Trois, a blend of 85% cabernet sauvignon, 10% cabernet franc, and 5% merlot. Henke Winery isn’t even that far from us, so we’ll have to pay them a visit soon. (You’ll find them quite frequently throughout our weekly Events listings.)
Ravenhurst Champagne Cellars: Ravenhurst did not blow us away. We tried both the Cuvee and the Rose sparklers. We preferred the Cuvee of the two. The booth was staffed by two Horticultural Society members who weren’t overly familiar with the wines, and didn’t seemed overly thrilled to be there.
Obviously, our favorites were Henke, Harmony Hill, and Kinkead Ridge. At all three places we had great conversations with the people who actually make the wine. I also find that when you meet the winemakers and the folks who really have passion for their craft, it adds something extra special to the wine.
After the jump, read some of our comments on the food portions of the show and on our suggestions for making the sophomore Fine Food Show even better.
I’m going to assume that not only are my new wine friends reading this blog occasionally, but that my non-wine friends are also peeking in from time to time. (Hi guys!) For their benefit, as well as my own as I play with the right words to describe tastings, I’m posting an occasional glossary entry.
Whenever I’m at a tasting or reading a wine book, the words tannic and acidic come up. Sometimes I wonder if the folks tossing the words around really understand what they’re saying, or if they’re just randomly using "wine words." In any case, thanks to the helpful glossary at Finewine.com, I can tell you what the words mean:
Acid/Acidic: A natural byproduct of
fermentation in wine. The acids provide the backbone of a good wine,
but too much can be unpleasant, while too little leaves a wine without
character. It gives a wine a sense of body and structure. Acidity is
never obvious in a balanced wine.
Tannins/Tannic: Referring to the presence of
tannic acid that comes from the skins, seeds and stems of the grapes.
Tannin is a necessary component of good wine, especially good red wine,
and is most evident in the first few years of maturity. Eventually, it
subsides during the maturation process. Tannin when young tastes or
feels like a cotton swab is being run down your tongue. It is that
drying sensation in your mouth not to be confused with the
mouth-puckering of acidity.
Still confused? Try this. Remember in college when you drank too much and the next day you had a dry, cottony feeling in your mouth? Well, if you’re drinking a wine and you get a bit of a reminder of those days with that dry cottony thing, that’s the tannins. As the wine matures, the tannins recede, much in the same way as hairlines and drinking binges.
Acidity is easy. You know that mouth-puckering feeling that you sometimes get with fresh orange juice? That’s the acid. You don’t want that in your wine. No puckering unless you’re out to kiss someone, and even then, best pucker on your own and not because of the taste of the wine.
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