Vintages Pre-Release Tasting: Holiday Fizz

December 5th, 2013

Reported by Colleen Hyslop

This year’s pre-holiday fizz tasting offered many delights over the course of its four flights. The event was sold-out as usual, with 24 tasters eager to sample a total of 14 wines. The products were sourced from the current or previous Vintages releases, except one that came from a consignment agent and one that was ordered from the Vintages Classics Collection. The first flight featured five “value” sparkling wines, the second included five medium-to-high priced bubblies, the third consisted of three rosés, and the final flight was a sparkling dessert wine.

Each of the five wines in the first flight was from a different country. The first offering was from Italy, the Astoria Prosecco La Robinia (593855, $13.95). One quarter of the group voted it their favorite of the flight and thought they would pay $16-$20 for it. It had lovely floral and tropical fruit notes on the nose and good fruit on the palate. There was some residual sweetness, but enough lemon for a cleansing finish. Some tasters found it too subdued and one-dimensional, especially as it warmed up. But most agreed that it was very drinkable and, as the least expensive bubbly sold by the LCBO, well worth a try.

The second sparker was from France, the Charles Duret Brut Crémant de Bourgogne. It was made in an older, more traditional style with brioche, yeast and oak on the nose, and peach/pear on the palate. As the name suggests, it was very dry. Although all agreed that it was very well made, only a couple tasters voted it their favorite of the flight.

The most popular wine of the first flight was Niagara’s Jackson-Triggs

Entourage Grand Reserve Méthode Classique Brut Sparkling 2009 from a September release. More than a third of the tasters voted it their favorite. This fizz was made in a classic French style with a subtle nose of brioche and roasted hazelnut. The high acidity and lively mousse made it dance on the tongue. A touch of anise on the palate hinted at grapes that were picked fresh and young. This was a winner but sadly, only a handful of stores still have some.

The offering from Spain was the Juvé y Camps Cinta Purpura Reserva Brut Cava 2009. It was the third most popular of the flight, with several tasters voting it their favorite. The style was rounder and fuller on the palate, not too zippy. On the tongue it had a lovely flavor profile of aged fruit, baked apple, oak and gingerale. This was a very pleasant Cava at a good price.

The last wine of the flight was a surprise, the Kir Yianni Akakies Sparkling Rosé 2012 from Amyndeon, Greece. This consignment product was made from 100% Xinomavro, the main red varietal of northern Greece. Its brilliant raspberry color showed beautifully in the glass. On the palate it tasted of strawberry, cherry and cranberry, with a long finish. Folks guessed that they would pay up to $23 for it, so it seems a bargain at $17.95. As with many Greek products, it punches above its price point. The wine can be purchased from the agent at http://www.kolonakigroup.com.

The second flight of higher-priced bubblies opened with the André et Michel Drappier Pinot Noir Brut Nature Champagne from France. It was the flight favorite for more than half of the tasters, who thought they would pay up to $50 for it. Made from 100% Pinot Noir, it was medium-bodied, with zippy acidity, some ginger spiciness on the palate and a good finish. Its nose was reminiscent of a plum eau de vie.

For the price, this Champagne was good value.

The second offering was the Lanson Gold Label Brut Champagne 2002. This is an iconic style of champagne, more round on the palate and not as zippy as some. The nose had lovely aromatics of vanilla, almonds and brioche. The finish was long and lemony— someone compared it to a rich sake or lemon bread. Although it was a favorite of the consultants, only a few of the tasters chose it as their favorite of the flight. This wine is already 11 years old and could age well for another 10 or more.

The next fizz was a home-grown surprise: the Benjamin Bridge Méthod Classique Reserve Brut Sparkling 2007 from Nova Scotia. Medium-bodied, it was well balanced with zippy lemon acidity, some yeast and oak on the nose, and a good finish, but not as complex as the previous two . Four tasters voted it their favorite of the flight. If you’re curious to give it a try, it’s only available at the LCBO’s flagship store on Rideau Street.

The last two wines of the flight were an interesting pair. About a quarter of the group voted each their favorite of the flight. In both cases, several tasters weren’t sure they were true Champagnes. The first was a remarkable dark gold in the glass and had a pungent nose reminiscent of Raclette or Gruyere! It turned out to be a 25-year-old Champagne from the Classics Collection—Fleury Pére et Fils 1988 (332031). The acidity was still good and the complexity on the palate was intriguing—almost like a sparkling Sherry or Vin Jeune. Certainly an acquired taste and at the price of $169, probably one you will not get used to.

The last sparkler of this flight was a Dom Pérignon 2003. It had a slight pink tinge in the glass and a complex smoky nose after some initial sulfur blew off. The acidity was not zippy, but the mousse was very

fine, the palate complex and the finish long. 2003 was a very hot year in France and that likely accounts for the ripeness evident in this classic beauty. It was drinking very young and would need another 10 years to reach it potential.

The third flight was a delightful trio of pink champagnes. First up was the Nicolas Feuillatte Brut Rosé Champagne. Twelve tasters voted it a favorite, for which they would pay as much as $80. It was salmon- colored in the glass and had a fresh, delicate quality of muted strawberry and plum. The body was good, with zippy acidity, some tannin and a long finish. It would be a good match with duck or pâté and could equally be enjoyed on its own.

The second was the Moutard Pére et Fils Rosé de Cuvaison Brut Champagne. It had a rich cranberry hue in the glass and lovely strawberry and cherry notes on the nose and palate with evident tannin. Since it’s a Blanc de Noirs (made mainly with Pinot Noir), it has a complexity and meatiness that screams for food—try it with pâté, duck, lamb, or wild boar.

The final pink was the Bollinger Brut Rosé Champagne. This is a great example of the house style— delicate with good acidity and very fresh in its fruit flavors of strawberry and cherry with a long and balanced finish. The nose showed some nuttiness from oak aging of the base wines. Seven of our tasters chose it as their favorite.

The fourth and final flight consisted of one wine—a dessert fizz. It turned out to be another home- grown surprise from Benjamin Bridge of Nova Scotia—the Nova 7 Sparkling. It was made by the Charmat method (the second fermentation takes place in pressurized tanks), so the mousse is not overly exuberant. But the nose bursts from the glass with the lychee, rose petal, pear, honey and candied fruit aromas typical of Muscat grape varieties. It was off-

dry, but has enough acidity to be refreshing. Try it with a fruit dessert like trifle or flan, with a light cheese plate, or simply as an enjoyable afternoon sipper.

Flight 1: Value Sparkling Wines

• Astoria Prosecco La Robinia, Italy, 593855, $13.95

• Charles Duret Brut Crémant de Bourgogne, 185694, $18.95

• Jackson-Triggs Entourage Grand Reserve Méthode Classique Brut Sparkling, 2009, Niagara, Ontario, 234161, $22.95

• Juvé Y Camps Cinta Purpura Reserva Brut Cava, 2009, Cava, Spain, 352864, $17.95

• Kir Yianni Akakies Sparkling Rosé 100% Xinomavro, 2012, Amyndeon, Greece, Consignment Agent, $17.95

Flight 2: White Sparkling and Champagnes

• André et Michel Drappier Pinot Noir Brut Nature Champagne, 179275, $45.95

• Lanson Gold Label Brut Champagne, 2002, 722520, $79.95

• Benjamin Bridge Méthod Classique Reserve Brut Sparkling, 2007, Nova Scotia, 275396, $74.95

• Fleury Pére et Fils, 1988, Classic Catalogue, 332031, $169.00

• Dom Pérignon, 2003, 280461, $222.95

Flight 3: Rosé Champagnes

• Nicolas Feuillatte Brut Rose Champagne, 267039, $57.75 • Moutard Pére et Fils Rosé de Cuvaison Brut Champagne, 340091, $47.95

• Bollinger Brut Rosé Champagne, 100503, $96.95

Flight 4: Dessert Sparkler

• Benjamin Bridge Nova 7 Sparkling, Gaspereau Valley, Nova Scotia, 256289, $25.95