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 Worlds 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.
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.
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’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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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!
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!
If you need more on sparkling wines…we’ve actually been tasting quite a few lately check out these pieces
- Montlouis-sur-Loire – 2 Rivers, 3 Zeros and some delicious sparkling wine
- Unexpected Sparkling Wines from Around the World
- Zweigelt – Pink and Natty and so satisfying
- Champagne & BBQ, Chartogne-Taillet meets Rollin’ Smoke
- Cava: Traditional Method Sparkling Wine from Spain
- Prosecco: Bubbles from Northern Italy’s lush green hills
- Lambrusco: A Virtual Visit and an Odd Pairing
- Bordeaux Bubbles
- Champagne – a history beyond the bubbles
- The Multiple Expressions of Vouvray!
- Sparkling Vermentino –“tears of laughter and joy”
- Where are the Women in Champagne
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 Worlds 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.
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.