There’s so much dull Prosecco made that it could probably have its own lake in north east Italy, but a little searching can bring great rewards in terms of both outright quality and interest. On one hand there are some fantastic Col Fondo Proseccos which are aligned with the natural wine movement and low intervention. There are also some quality conscious producers – particularly in the DOCG areas of Conegliano, Valdobbiadeneand Asolo– who strive for more interesting wines through planting on hillsides, harvesting at low yields and controlling quality.
One of Valdobbiadene’s innovators, Ca’ Salina, has chosen another route for one of its wines, using technology as a way to produce a cleaner wine:
Disclosure: sample provided for review, opinions my own
Ca’ Salina are located in the heart of the Valdobbiadene DOCG area and have an excellent reputation for quality. However, this offering does not carry the DOCG label – or even the lesser DOC tag – due to innovative methods used in the production process.
The “Flotation Method” is designed to remove from the juice anything which isn’t directly from the grapes – yeast, bacteria, other fungi and anything else coming in from the vineyard. Air is mixed into the must using a centrifuge pump which creates billions of tiny bubbles. Their electrostatic charge attracts the impurities and so the bubbles and detritus all rise to the top as a dark foam over a perfectly clear juice. This process takes a few hours, after which the foam is removed and selected yeasts are added to begin the second fermentation.
The purity of the must means that for this wine no sulphur is added at any part of the process. Of course naturally occuring sulphites are still present, as in all wine, but at the very low level of 10 mg/L compared to the legal limit of 210 mg/L. The dosage is on the light side at 8 g/L, making this a Brut.
And the most important part – the taste! Firstly, this is unmistakably a sparkling wine from north east Italy, no matter whether it has the DOCG label or not. Made from 100% Glera (the grape formerly known as Prosecco) is has lovely citrusand pearnotes, with just a touch of biscuitand brioche. The modest dosage allows the refined fruit to come through without being swamped in sugar and leaves a crisp finish. This is better than pretty much all Prosecco you will find in a supermarket.
I don’t know if this new technique will catch on, but in the hands of a good producer such as Ca’ Salina it can make a very good wine!
For winelovers, Christmas is a time when we look forward to drinking – and even sharing – a special bottle or two. This might be a classic wine with traditional fare or just something different we’ve wanted to try for a while. I asked some wine loving friends what they were looking forward to and they have kindly agreed to write a blog post for me.
Julia Phillips founded Just Perfect Wines to further her passion for wines and apply her knowledge of marketing. She works with family firms in the DOCG regions of Conegliano-Valdobbiadene and Asolo.
A Twist on Prosecco for Christmas
This Christmas I am particularly looking forward to sharing with friends a couple of my Prosecco based wines which both have something a little different about them.
The first is ‘Giorgia’, my new Italian sparkling wine. It’s made by one of my Prosecco wineries, Ca’Salina, using Glera grapes from the premium Prosecco region, Valdobbiadene – however, it can’t be called Prosecco as it’s made in a different way (the floatation tank method).
The result is an amazing well-balanced sparkling wine with fruity notes, plus a subtle layer of complexity that you tend to get from wines made in the Champagne method, with aromas of honey, butter and brioche, giving a clean and fresh taste. A Brut style with 8g sugar/ litre, 11.5% abv and wait for this….no added sulphites, so in theory no hangover! Just perfect don’t you think?! Something I shall be putting to the test with friends over the festive season, perhaps even one for Christmas Eve when you want to enjoy a good wine but don’t want to feel any ill effects the next day.
My second wine is the beautiful ‘Furlan Rosé Spumante Brut’. As Rosé Prosecco doesn’t exist, this pink sparkler comes close being a blend of Glera, Manzoni Bianco (a white grape which adds complexity and increases the abv to 12%) and Cabernet Sauvignon. I really love this blend; the gorgeous pink colour and the wonderful aromas and taste of strawberries and cream is divine.
I’m sure this one will be making an appearance on Christmas Day.
Both wines have a RRP of £17.99 and are available from www.justperfectwines.com, Amazon or il Gusto stores in Staffordshire.
Strictly speaking, there’s no such thing as Rosé Prosecco , as the DOC and DOCG rules do not permit it, but if they did then this wine would be a great example. Furlan was founded in the 1930s and is now in the hands of the third generation. They have vineyards in the DOCG Conegliano-Valdobbiadene, DOC Treviso and DOC Piave areas, producing sparkling and still wines from indigenous and international grape varieties.
Let’s start with the blend: 70% Glera, 27% Manzoni Bianco and 3% Cabernet Sauvignon. Of course Glera is the grape formerly known as Prosecco, so no surprise there. Manzoni Bianco is intriguing – it’s a (deliberate) cross between Riesling and Pinot blanc, created nearly a century ago by Professor Luigi Manzoni at Italy’s oldest school of oenology located in Conegliano. Among the many crosses created by the eminent professor, this is probably the most successful and is well established in the Veneto. And finally, Cabernet Sauvignon adds the magical colour.
With 13 g/L of residual sugar, this technically creeps into the Extra Dry bracket, though to be honest the Brut label it has is a better descriptor – the sugar balances the acidity well and adds to the fruitiness without making it overtly sweet.
On pouring this has a lovely strawberry nose, then a smorgasbord of fresh red fruit on the palate – redcurrant, raspberry and strawberry – plus some pear and floral notes. For me the key is the balance between fruit and sweetness, this would make an excellent wine for the table as well as aperitivo!
Disclosure: sample kindly provided for tasting; opinions are mine and mine alone.
With the Rio Olympics looming over the horizon, what better time to sample Brazil’s vinous delights. What? Brazilian wine? Yes indeed, and though as a whole the country isn’t a viticultural paradise there are some tasty wines being made there. Here are a couple from M&S that I tried recently:
Riosecco Sparkling Glera NV (11.5%, €13.29)
Rioseccois a portmanteau of Rioand Prosecco, a not too subtle hint that this is a Brazilian alternative to Italy’s Prosecco. Before 2009 the grape used in DOC Prosecco was often referred to as by the same name, which meant that other areas could use the Prosecco name without being made in the same region (…or even country). When the even stricter DOCG was created in 2009 the old synonym Glerawas adopted, and that’s what we have on this Latin American bubbly.
It’s pleasantly fruity but refreshing and dry on the finish. A better effort that many ordinary Proseccos. Give it a try!
I tasted this without looking closely at the information provided and was a bit stumped – I just didn’t know what to make of it. “Can I get back to you on this?” I told my notepad. Then, noticing the blend was 70% Riesling and 30% Pinot Grigio, it started to make sense.
It has the refreshing acidity and citrus bite of Riesling plus a bit of the rounder fruit and texture from Pinot Grigio. This could actually pass for an Alsace blend from a cooler year – not quite as round as an average Edelzwicker as it doesn’t have any Pinot Blanc. It’s a well made, modern wine which deserves to be sipped while sitting in the sun.
For the first of my posts on Valentine’s Wines I thought I would try something a little bit different from the norm. My wife and I invited her elder brother Andrew and his girlfriend Paula round for dinner to and to try some different wines in advance of Valentine’s Day.
It’s good to hear the opinions of other people – wine tasting can be very social and lots of fun. I heartily recommend you try forming your own tasting panel now and again, with friends from absolute novices to MWs.
Before we get into the wines, here is the delicious meal they accompanied:
Cantaloupe Melon drenched in Pineau des Charentes
Slow Roasted Loin of Pork with a Bramley apple glaze, server with roasted potatoes, julienne carrots and petits pois, roasted root vegetables, apple and citrus jus
Apple Strudel with Cornish Vanilla Ice cream and / or Homemade Vanilla Custard
Selection of: Brie de Meaus, Abbaye du Mont des Cats, Diliskus semi-soft Herbed.
Disclosure: the wines tasted below were kindly provided by O’Briens, but opinions are entirely our own.
Rizzardi Prosecco DOC Spumante Extra Dry NV (€20.99, currently €17.99)
Valentine’s connection: who doesn’t like popping the cork on some fizz?
The label “Extra Dry” on Prosecco is usually a misnomer – the wine is often on the sweet side. A little sweetness can make Prosecco very easy to drink and is one of the factors behind its current boom in sales. However, Rizzardi’s style is actually dry on the palate. Being a Spumante it had a proper cork and was fully sparkling.
On tasting the main flavours we noted were pip fruit such as Granny Smith’s apple and pear, citrus (even Lemon Sherbet) and a sour sweetness (if that makes any sense) – a bit like the sensation from Sour Squirms sweets.
A little sweetness did come through on the finish once it had warmed up a little in the glass (it was served straight from a domestic fridge).
Andrew 5 [not a fan of fizz]
Paula 8 [can I have another glass please?]
Jess 4 [found it too dry]
Frankie 7 [preferred it to most other Proseccos]
This wine clearly divided opinion on the panel, but that’s no bad thing. Hopefully the comments give you the information to decide whether this Prosecco is for you, or perhaps try a sweeter one.
Les Auzines Fleurs Blanches Vin de France 2013 (€14.49, currently €12.99, O’Briens)
Valentine’s connection: say it with (white) flowers
Although labelled as a Vin de France, which could come from almost anywhere in France, this was made in the Corbières region of the Languedoc, quite close to the Mediterranean coast. The name property name “Les Auzines” comes from the Occitan meaning “little leaves from the oak tree”, owned by Laurent Miquel and his Irish wife Neasa Corish.
The blend is based on Grenache Gris, with perhaps a dash of Grenache Blanc. It is classed as an oaked white as 85% was fermented and aged in second and third-use oak barrels, but although it has gained texture and complexity it doesn’t taste typically “oaky”.
Smooth and rich but tangy, it shows flavours of Macadamia nuts, lime, gravel and mineral, fennel, lavender and other herbs – it’s really interesting. Alcohol is surprisingly modest at 11.5% – it doesn’t feel lacking in any way.
Andrew 7 [Nuts and gravel]
Paula 8 [Soft and easy-drinking]
Jess 7 [A white wine for red wine drinkers]
Frankie 8 [what a find!]
Fleurs Blanches was an amazing match for the main course – perhaps helped by the dash of Fleurs Blanches which went in the jus. O’Briens’ notes reckon that it “bears a closer resemblance to fine Burgundy than to Corbiéres” – I would clarify that by saying it could double for maturefine Burgundy – it’s that good!
Henri Bourgeois La Porte Caillou Sancerre 2013 (€22.99, currently €19.99, O’Briens)
Valentine’s connection: woo your Valentine with a classy, classic white wine.
Sancerre was the first wine region famous for varietal Sauvignon Blanc, but as is the way with Appellation-based fame, it is open to use and abuse. If you’ve ever bought a Sancerre in a French supermarket then you will know that quality can be very variable…
So what to do? Find a good producer, of course – or a greatproducer, such as Henri Bourgeois.
Minerality is a buzzword in wine at the moment, but the chalk soils of HB’s vineyards impart a magnificent flint character to his wines. The very name “Porte de Caillou” means Pebble Gate, so that should give you an idea!
As well as the minerality (liked by one taster to sucking on gravel!), there’s lots and lots of fruit: very green, but ripe, fruit such as gooseberry and grapefruit, plus a little restrained tropical fruit. There’s lots of acidity but it’s smooth rather than spiky, with more body and texture than you might expect from a Sauvignon.
Andrew 8 [An integrated continuum from the nose though to the palate]
Paula 7 [Lovely and fresh]
Jess 6 [Prefer fruity Sauvignons]
Frankie 8 [Classic Sancerre!]
Food friendly Sauvignon that the Kiwis are now trying to emulate. This shows how Sancerre should be done, and why it became a classic in the first place.
Ars Nova Navarra Gran Reserva 2007 (€17.49, O’Briens)
Valentine’s connection: an appeal to the finer things in life – and seductive in the glass.
Named after the Mediaeval Latin for “New Art” (as in New Technique), this is a blend of 40% Tempranillo (well known in Rioja and elsewhere in Spain), 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot (both from Bordeaux). Its home region of Navarra had non-native (mainly French) varieties planted from the 1980s onwards, so now winemakers have a wide choice of ingredients.
As a Gran Reserva it has spent eighteen months maturing before being bottled – the producer mentions nine months in French oak so I’m guessing a further nine in a larger format of vessel. Alcohol is punchy but not overblown at 14.0%.
It shows smoke rather than vanilla characters from the oak, followed by red fruit (strawberry) moving into black fruit (blackberry, blackcurrant, blueberry) and a savoury finish. There’s perhaps an edge of leather and liquorice but they don’t dominate. Overall the impression is of fruit sweetness, plenty of tannin, well balanced.
Andrew 8 [My kind of wine, fruit and tannin together]
Paula 9 [My favourite wine of the night]
Jess 9 [Easy going, smooth, could drink this every day]
Perfectly poised between (fruit) sweet and (tannin) savoury, this was a big hit with everyone. It was a good match for the cheese but would also be great with beef, lamb or venison. Without the renown of Rioja, the winemakers of Navarra have really upped their game. The only downside to this wine was that a Lussac St-Emilion tasted afterwards was dry and thin in comparison!