Posts Tagged Sparkling Wine

Germany’s Comprehensible Sekt

5 September 2012

Try as I might, I’ve never been a fan of Sekt, Germany’s sparkling wine. Almost ever time I’ve tried it, Sekt has lacked any grace whatsoever, with huge, clumsy bubbles and one-note, unexciting flavors. My German heritage has not been able to overcome my natural, human distaste for the stuff. In researching this post, I felt vindicated by most sources I checked.

Germany produces just under half a billion bottles of Sekt each year, compared with about 250 million bottles coming out of Champagne. With that production level, it’s impossible to maintain a high level of quality. But then, if The Oxford Companion to Wine is to be believed, “The average Sekt consumer buys a branded wine, and is interested neither in its method of production…nor in the origin of the base wine.” In fact, some 85-90% of Sekt is produced with fruit grown outside Germany, coming from Italy or goodness knows where in the E.U.

For some reason, Sekt has a “peculiarly domestic appeal,” The Sotheby’s Wine Encyclopedia dryly notes, “that sparkling wine drinkers in most international markets cannot comprehend, whether they are used to Champagne or New World bubbly.” Perhaps that’s why “foreign markets represent barely 8 percent of sales.”

Despite my dislike of Sekt, I decided to give it one more try. I was browsing the sparkling wine aisle at Binny’s when I noticed a bottle of Dr. Loosen Sparkling Riesling. One of the finest Rieslings I’ve tasted was a Dr. Loosen, so I decided what the heck, I’ll take a risk. If nothing else, I’ll save it for the end of a party and foist it on some half-drunk guests.

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The World’s Oldest Sparkling Wine

18 January 2012

In the sparkling wine section of large wine shops, you’ll sometimes see a funny, rather squat bottle mixed in with the crémant and the Champagne. That would be Saint-Hilaire Blanquette de Limoux, the only Blanquette de Limoux I’ve ever seen on an American wine shelf. According to The Oxford Companion to Wine, Limoux locals claim it pre-dates Champagne, since bottle-fermented sparkling wines were in production at the Abbey of Saint-Hilaire as early as 1531.

The appellation of Limoux stretches into the foothills of the Pyrenees, just south of Carcassonne in southern France. Its altitude ensures a cool climate, giving Limoux perhaps more in common with the far northern Champagne region than its neighboring coastal appellations along the Mediterranean.

The appellation makes both still and sparkling wine, but its bubbly is far better known. Oddly, the region produces both Blanquette de Limoux and Crémant de Limoux, the latter a more refined, international-style sparkler made primarily from Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc, as opposed to the more “rustic” Mauzac which forms the base of Blanquette. The Sotheby’s Wine Encyclopedia notes that Limoux was supposed to have chosen one name or the other for the appellation back in 1994, but since the Crémant didn’t exactly catch fire as planned, both styles continue to be produced.

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Some Odd Resolutions

31 December 2011

Many of us use the beginning of the new year to take stock, examining our lives and bodies and, finding faults, we resolve to correct them. For the next month or two, we flail around the gym in sweaty desperation, lay siege to armies of dust soldiers in their well-defended closet fortresses, or simply try to “be more positive.” Worthy pursuits, all.

But surely you deserve a fun (and easy) resolution or two as well. Consider adding one of the following to your list:

1. Drink more sparkling wine. Many people indulge in elegant Champagnes tonight, but for most, it’s the only time of year they break out the bubbly. Cava, Prosecco, Crémant and, yes, Champagne, are wonderful at any time of year, and pair well with all sorts of foods. The pop of a cork makes any gathering feel more festive.

2. Drink some dessert wine. I’ve attended very few parties where one has been served, and I can’t think of the last time a dining companion ordered one in a restaurant. Any dessert wine worth its salt isn’t just candy in a bottle; it will exhibit a delicious balance of sweetness, acid and perhaps even some minerals, wood or other flavors. Ask for a recommendation in your price range at your local wine shop, and I am 100% certain you’ll delight your guests. Or heck, just drink it yourself.

3. Drink some rosé. Sweet, boring White Zinfandel ruined the reputation of rosé in this country, therefore any American winemaker who produces a proper dry rosé probably really puts his or her heart into it. But dry rosés from anywhere can be a delight, particularly in warmer weather. I can think of few finer ways to lunch than sitting outside in the sun, dining on simple picnic fare with friends, a glass of rosé in hand.

4. Get out of your cocktail rut. Type “Classic Cocktails” into a search engine, and you’ll find all sorts of fun, time-tested ideas (or, of course, you can click on one of the spirits listed just to the right). If you’re feeling more adventurous, make your own cocktail recipe. A good rule of thumb is to use a base liquor (like vodka, gin, brandy, etc.), a smaller amount of a liqueur (like triple sec, crème de cassis, maraschino) and a mixer (fresh lime juice, pineapple juice, cranberry juice). If it feels like it’s missing something, add a dash of bitters.

5. Go into your favorite wine shop and ask for something weird. Sometimes for my birthday, I request that party guests do this for my gift. I’ve received everything from root beer schnapps to a wine from Santorini that tasted like stone and sunshine. If the wine store employee looks at you like you’re crazy, resolve to find another wine store.

Happy New Year!