3 regions 3 Exciting sparkling wines to try – Exploring bubbles on the fringe

Sparkling wines from around the world Cap Classique from South Africa, Blanquette de Limoux from France and Moscato d'Asti from Italy

3 regions 3 Exciting sparkling wines to try – Exploring bubbles on the fringe

It’s no secret, I love bubbles, from classic Champagne, to Cava, to Prosecco.  I even dive into some Cremant from various regions in France, sparkling wines from Washington, Oregon, and of course California.  I’ve sipped a few bottles of bubbles from down under in Australia as well as a pet-nat from Austria.

Recently I had the opportunity to dig a little deeper into some regions that I had heard of but had not yet tasted. These were wines to accompany a wonderful online session with Alan Tardi author of “Champagne, Uncorked: The House of Krug and the Timeless Allure of the World’s Most Celebrated Drink”. His session was the kickoff to the Society of Wine Educators 2020 Conference, which was held online last week.  They were exciting, delicious, and relatively affordable so I wanted to share them with you!.

The first bubbles!

Today we will begin with where historically bubbles first began.  No, not Champagne and no not England either.  The first recorded sparkling wine, that was intentional, not just an accident, actually came from the south of France in Limoux which sits within the Languedoc region.

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Map of the Languedoc-Rousillon Wine Region in France
The Languedoc-Roussillon Wine Region in France

Blanquette de Limoux the orignal sparkling wine

It was at the Abbey of Saint-Hilaire where monks, rational monks, (not those silly monks who thought bubbles meant the wine was possessed by the devil, lol), discovered or invented sparkling wine.  Records of this wine date back to 1531.  This, my friends was before Champagne. Rumour has it that Dom Perignon was a monk here before moving to the Champagne region.

Galerie du cloître de l'Abbaye de Saint-Hilaire Photo By olivierguerinphoto Adobe Stock
Galerie du cloître de l'Abbaye de Saint-Hilaire Photo By olivierguerinphoto Adobe Stock

These bubbles were light and were made in the Method Ancestral.  In this method the wine is bottled before the fermentation is complete and completes it’s fermentation in the bottle, which traps the CO2 bubbles which incorporate into the wine.  Likely this first happened accidentally.  When it got cold the fermentation stopped, but was not complete.  The wine was bottled and then when it warmed again in the spring, those little yeasties got back to work in the bottle.

Blanquette became very popular in the 19th century and is was a favorite of Thomas Jefferson, who kept quite a bit on hand at Monticello.

Thomas Jefferson, fan of Saint-Hilaire Blanquette de Limoux, image courtesy of Jack Poust Co
Thomas Jefferson's record of his cellar stash of Blanquette de Limoux, image courtesy of Jack Poust Co JEFFERSON AND WINE’ Published by the ViniferaWine Growers AssociationEdited by R. de TrevilleLawrence Sr.

Thomas Jefferson’s record of his cellar stash of Blanquette de Limoux, image courtesy of Jack Poust Co JEFFERSON AND WINE’ Published by the Vinifera Wine Growers Association Edited by R. de Treville Lawrence Sr.

Saint-Hilaire Blanquette de Limoux 2018 outdoors on a bench
Blanquette de Limoux Saint-Hilaire with it's aromatic profile of Lemon curd, sweet apple, lemon, mandarin orange, pear, sour dough and crystalized ginger
Seared Tuna steak with lemon zest

My bottle sadly, was not made in the Ancestral Method, but…it was from Saint-Hilaire!  The 2018 Blanquette de Limoux Saint-Hilaire was 90% Mauzac, 5% Chenin Blanc and 5% Chardonnay. Mauzac is a very old white grape that you don’t see much outside this region. It was made in the Traditional method in a Brut style, so it has residual sugar of 12 grams per liter.

This sparkling wine was dry, but flavorful with citrus and apple, lemon curd and ginger with yeasty notes.  It sits at 12.5% abv and runs just $12.99. This is bottled by Jack Poust and Company.

We paired this with lobster pate, apple, citrus, almond nougat, pear, crystallized ginger and lemon curd for our cheese plate and later enjoyed it with Tuna steaks and fries.

Tasting platter to pair with sparkling wines with sourdough, lobster pate, bleu cheese, lime, honey, peach, nectarine, mandarin orange, pear, crystallized ginger, apple, lemon curd orange, mozzarella, almond nougat, waffle cookies, sourdough bread, thyme, lemon, almonds and apple.

The next region, you have likely heard of but may not have sipped on in a while.

 

Moscato d’Asti DOCG

This wine hails from Italy’s Piemonte region and is made of Moscato Bianco, also known as Muscat Blanc a Petits Grains.

It was 1993 when Moscato d’Asti became a DOCG.

Map of Italy
Map of Italy (map by Albachiaraa, Adobe Stock)
Piedmont regional map with Asti (image By luisrftc Adobe Stock)
Piedmont regional map with Asti (image By luisrftc Adobe Stock)
Castiglione Tinella town, Langhe monferrato wine region, Piemonte Italy (photo by photomaticstudio Adobe Stock)
Castiglione Tinella town, Langhe monferrato wine region, Piemonte Italy (photo by photomaticstudio Adobe Stock)

Our wine came from Saracco, whose primary vineyards are in  Castiglione Tinella.   The soil here is layered with sand, silt and limestone which enhances the wines aromas.  The Saracco family has produced wines since the early 1900s. In the 1950 they sold their wines to the makers of Asti Spumante.  In 1988 Paulo Saracco decided to start bottling their Moscato making a balanced and beautiful Moscato d’Asti.

From the winery

“After harvesting, the bunches are gently pressed to extract the most flavourful juice from the outermost part of the grapes. The must is kept in stainless steel containers at -3°C, where it can be kept for months. When there is market demand, it is then transferred into autoclaves for temperature-controlled fermentation, microfiltered for purity and then bottled to keep the freshness and flavours intact.”

From the winery https://paolosaracco.it/en/wines-saracco-piedmont/moscato-d-asti-docg-saracco

 

 

Saracco 2019 Moscato d'Asti from Asti Italy photoed in front of a vivid wine painting
Saracco Moscato d'Asti with aroma profile of, citrus (orange, lime, mandarine) white peach and mineral
Ingredients for stone fruit panzanella, lemon, sourdough bread, peach, plum, nectarine, cherry, cherry tomatoes, mozzarella, olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt and pepper.
Stone fruit panzanella with plum, peach, nectarine, cherry, basil, mint, cherry tomatoes, and fresh mozzarella.

This is a sweet wine with 26 g/l of residual sugar, that is frizzante or lightly bubbled.  If you want more bubbles, that’s where you head for Asti Spumante.

The nose had orange blossom, peach & tangerine and on the palate, it was balanced with acid to counter the sweetness.  It sits at just 6% abv and was $14.99.

On their website, they suggested pairing this with a stone fruit panzanella and I couldn’t resist.  I had peaches, nectarines, cherries, plums, cherry tomatoes, sourdough bread, basil, fresh mozzarella and mint to meld with a lemon vinaigrette.  It was delicious and beautiful.

Finally we travel further south, into the Southern Hemisphere to South Africa for some Cap Classique.

 

Cap Classique the South African Sparkling Wine

Cap Classique is the term for a traditional method sparkling wine from South Africa.  The first wine of this kind was made in Stellenbosch in 1968.  The regulations require whole-cluster fermentations and 9 months on the lees.  But the Cap Classique Producers Association is working to increase that to 12 months.  Standards are the same as with most sparkling wines for residual sugar levels, so you can pick your sweetness just as you would with a Champagne.  Here all grapes are welcome.  Many producers do stick with the Champagne varieties, but Chenin Blanc is also popular, and was the case for the wine that we tasted.

Wine Growing Areas of South Africa - map credit Wines of South Africa
Wine Growing Areas of South Africa - map credit Wines of South Africa

Man Family Wines Method Cap Classique Brut

The grapes for this 100% Chenin Blanc Man Family Wines Cap Classique come from the Agter-Paarl region where they are head trained (bush-vine) and dry farmed.

The seal that you see on the cap, certifies that the wine has been produced in an earth-friendly manner.  In addition to verifying the variety, vintage and origin.

After a cold ferment, 30% of the wine goes into French oak for 4 months.  After secondary fermentation in bottle is complete, the wine stays on the lees for another 14 months before being disgorged and then gets another 3 months aging in bottle before release.

It sits at 12.5% abv, has 4.4 g/l of residual sugar. This wine ran me $23.99.

 

Bottle Man Family Wines Methode Cap Classique Brut bottle on a blue velvet background
Man Cap Classique with aroma profile of white peach, granny smith apple, pear, lemon, lime, and biscuit cookies.

The nose is bright with stone fruit like white peach, green apple (think Granny Smith), lime and pear.  You get sourdough from the lees.  The bubbles are fine and pervasive.

Our cheese plate included pear, peach, lobster pate, granny smith apples, sourdough bread to pair. For something more substantial, think oysters, lobster or go back the the tuna steak and fries we did before for a pairing.

 

 

 

 

There is so much more to the world of bubbles!

 

champagne glasses

There are bubbles being made all over the globe, good bubbles, unique bubbles!  Get out there and try them, ask for them.  Don’t settle for the same stuff all the time.  Variety is the spice of life my friends!  Explore those sparkling wines!

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Other great resources

After his fascinating session I am looking to pick up Alan Tardi’s book “Champagne, Uncorked: The House of Krug and the Timeless Allure of the World’s Most Celebrated Drink”. You can visit his website to see details on his studies and writing.

Alan’s session, as I mentioned, was the kickoff to the Society of Wine Educators Virtual Conference this year. The Society has been around for 44 years and has wonderful programs for wine professionals who want to increase their knowledge. I went through the CSW program last year and became a Certified Wine Specialist. Visit their site if you are interested in pursuing more wine knowledge.

Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.  You might also want to check out our YouTube channel where we have tons of videos on wines & pairings, wine regions as well as interviews with vineyard owners and winemakers.

Robin Bell Renken I have always loved people’s stories. I spent a career in Theatre helping to tell stories, as a Stage Manager. Daily enabling artists to freely and safely tell stories through their art. Then I fell in love with wine. There are so many details, so many nuances, not just in the glass, but in the vineyard, the region and the people. As I met winemakers and vineyard owners and even the people in the tasting room excited to pour me a glass and tell me the story of this wine, I knew these were stories I wanted to share. I completed my study and became a Certified Specialist of Wine and continue learning daily as I meet and interview people in this industry.

Robin Renken is a wine writer and Certified Specialist of Wine. She and her husband Michael travel to wine regions interviewing vineyard owners and winemakers and learning the stories behind the glass.

When not traveling they indulge in cooking and pairing wines with food at home in Las Vegas.

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Robin Renken
[email protected]
8 Comments
  • Andrea Lemieux
    Posted at 23:29h, 19 August Reply

    I love this post! Such great information but your photos are beautiful and I am making that panzanella!

    • Robin Renken
      Posted at 06:47h, 20 August

      Thank you, Andrea! The panzanella is so good!

  • rohnny
    Posted at 00:28h, 21 August Reply

    Hello Robin,
    I’m joining the club of bubbles lovers, just love-it and I already describe some on my new blog.
    Amazing post, really a good job, like-it.
    Great day to you and cheers.
    Rohnny

    • Robin Renken
      Posted at 07:24h, 22 August

      Thanks so much Rhonny! I look forward to reading some of your pieces!

  • advinetures
    Posted at 13:03h, 23 August Reply

    We are huge fans of bubbles and it’s truly amazing the spectrum of options just within this category of wine! We definitely need to explore more and expand our exposure to these lesser known sparkling wines. Thanks as always for inspiring us!

    • Robin Renken
      Posted at 15:44h, 23 August

      You are welcome! I keep discovering new bubbles and I’ll continue to share. Cheers!

  • Greig S.
    Posted at 08:27h, 25 August Reply

    Sparkling wine from Limoux is one of the best values out there in my opinion! Have been surprised by the quality again and again. The history here also makes it super special. I’ve yet to have much Cap Classique but looking forward to trying some when I can find it.

    • Robin Renken
      Posted at 08:42h, 25 August

      The Blanquette was an undiscovered joy for me. The Methode Traditionelle is on my list to find. You are right, it is an amazing value. I really enjoyed the Cap Classique and look forward to diving into more of this in the future. It is a really good time to support South African Wineries!

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