Bubble, bubble toil and trouble

By Celia Strong

Finally, it’s bubble time for everyone. And, like last week, we’re going to look at a list of some from our past. And a few new ones, too. Of course. Like we always do — an old friend and some new ones. That way we get what we like and keep moving forward all at the same time.

First, let’s do some cremants. You, hopefully, remember that these are sparkling wines with fewer bubbles than the usual amount in Champagnes and other “regular” sparkling wines. Cremants are usually made with a second fermentation in their bottles, just not as long. So, fewer bubbles. For us, fewer bubbles means a less full feeling if we drink as much as we want.  Almost every wine region in France makes a Cremant, and we have three to look at. First, from the Languedoc area, we have the Bertrand Cremant de Limoux Brut and the Bertrand Cremnat de Limoux Rose Brut. The cremant is made from 70 percent Chardonnay, 20 percent Chenin Blanc and 10 percent Mauzac, a local grape. This wine is dry, with apple and pear flavors and a great minerality on the finish. Usually about $15 dollars, we do have a deal on it for $9.99. Perfect for parties, crowds, and second, third and fourth bottles.

The Bertrand Cremant de Limoux Rose is also dry, and made from 70 percent Chardonnay, 20 percent Chenin Blanc and 10 percent Pinot Noir.  This small amount of the lone red variety adds a bit of body to the overall wine and the pale blush color. Officially, this is a “vin gris,” way lighter colored than most roses. Still definitely brut, too, and clean and crisp. All for $12.99.

Our third cremant comes from the Burgundy region. Simonnet-Febvre Brut Cremant de Bourgogne. Here the main grape varieties are Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, both used for this sparkling wine. (Just FYI, two of the same varieties used in Champagne.) For more years than I really want to remember, this wine has been a favorite of mine. Not the cost of real Champagne, but easily one of the very best I’ve had for its price. Extremely crisp, clean flavors with hints of lime zest, tart apples, and honey. Like most cremants, this one is non-vintage. That means it’s made from grapes from more than one year. That also means, thanks to that multi-year blending, the wine tastes the same year after year. Every time you have some. For $17.99.

Staying in Europe, we have to remember the Cavicchioli 1928 Malvasia. This one has the really pretty bottle painted with flowers. Malvasia is a white grape, not as dry as Chardonnay, but also not as sweet as Moscato. I guess that kind of makes it close to perfect for some of us. It’s also a perfect match for most desserts. That means you can serve dinner, then your pies or whatever, and keep sipping long after. Happily. For $9.99.

From California, we have so many to choose from. And many of them are owned and made by some of the big name Champagne houses. These are made from grapes grown in California, duh, made in California wineries, but with their French wine makers in many cases. A good example of all of this is Domaine Chandon, located in Napa, owned by Moet and Chandon in Champagne, the makers of Dom Perignon. In California, the basic sparkling is Domaine Chandon. A step up, the wine is called “Etoile.” This is the French word for “star,” the company’s symbol. ( Look at the bottom of their corks!) There is an Etoile Brut and an Etoile Brut Rose. Both excellent!  And both very serious sparkling wines. Medium bodied with long lasting flavors and textures, minute bubbles that linger on your tongue. All signs of a well made sparkling wine. They cost a bit more, but still less than French Champagne. Both for $29.99.

Also from California, the Carneros area at the southern end of Napa Valley, we get Domaine Carneros. This is owned and operated by the Taittinger house in Champagne. Domaine Carneros Brut is one of the few vintage dated sparkling wines at its price. (Of course, you can’t buy it just anywhere at our low price.)  I probably shouldn’t remind you of the lovely photo of me on the steps outside their Carneros chateau. Oh well. Too late now. This wine is absolutely wonderful. A bit lighter bodied than the Etoile. More perfumey and floral in its flavors. More creamy in its texture. Not necessarily better, just a different style. Which is why we have to try so many. For $22.99.

And not to be left out, the Domaine Carneros Brut Rosé. This one is special. I still remember the first time I tasted it, suppliers brought it to a dinner because they knew I liked good rosé Champagnes. If I hadn’t seen the bottle, I’m pretty sure I would have thought I was drinking French rose Champagne. In fact, the next year it was blind tasted with other Champagnes at two and three times the price. Very good tasters, mostly professional, and they all thought it was Champagne. When revealed, they all had a pleased reaction. And bought some too. Medium bodied with light strawberry essence flavors and the creamy texture of Taittinger.  A steal for $32.99.

Finally, we go back to France and a couple of “real” Champagnes. These we have to mention because of the great pricing we have on both of them. The first is Moet and Chandon Imperial. This is the label that has replaced the well known Moet White Star. White Star was a label this company made just for the United States market. It was an Extra Dry Champagne. The Imperial, for the last three or four years now, is a Brut, and I, personally, like it so much better. Intense layers of flavors and frothy bubbles and bubbles and bubbles. Over the last year, the price on this Champagne has crept up and up. But now, for us, the pricing is back down. Just in time I’d say. For $36.97.

And last, a very special Champagne — Krug Grande Cuvee. This is a non-vintage Champagne. As far as I know, it is the highest priced non-vintage that Champagne produces. We all know wines like Dom Perignon and Cristal cost more, but they’re the highest level at their houses, vintage dated, and made from the very best grapes of their vintage. This Krug is the entry level Champagne. And different from most other houses.  Partly because a large portion of the wines blended to make it have some barrel aging.   A technique that adds weight to the finished Champagne, flavors, and textures. Partly because Krug promises that they use no less than 10 different years of grapes in their blend. An expensive process because all the vintages have to be maintained separately, without any oxidizing allowed that would change them. Just imagine not getting your first dime back for at least ten years from when you grew a grape?  Usual wholesale cost on this Champagne is way over $150. Wholesale. Except this year. At our discounted price, and having not even tasted a tiny sip  Krug for over 10 years, I’m going to have to do it this year. But I will not be sharing. Sorry. For $109.99.

And there’s our bubble list. Sort of all over the place, but most of us like to drink all over the place. Ooh.  That doesn’t sound right. Most of us like to drink different wines, depending on where and with whom and how much we’ll be drinking. Hopefully, we can all get to several of these great choices. Happy happy everything. Enjoy!

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