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Friday, January 4, 2013

Champagne Extravaganza Sparkles The Holiday Season

Florida 002Bubbly was on parade at the recent Champagne Extravaganza at Walt Churchill’s Market Briarfield location. An assortment of eight sparkling wines from around the globe were highlighted.

Green Dragon and I arrived late, but Wine Manager Austin Beeman was happy to pour as well as dispense some knowledge about sparkling wines. We were able to sample a quartet of wines especially suited to this festive time of year.

We opened up with the Raventos 2009 Cava Reserva Brut, an estate bottled wine from Spain. The winery has been in operation for 500 years, and they have learned a thing or two along the way. Green Dragon quickly categorized this as a crowd pleaser and I appreciated the subtle touch of sweetness. For $19.99 this has quality that surpasses lower end US sparkling wines as well as lower tier Champagnes.

The next taste was a surprise indeed. Austin told us he would let us in on a dirty little secret. The secret is one I would never expect: Michigan produces better sparkling wine that California. This, he explained, is because the cool NYE 2012 001climate and temperature variation lends itself to better growing conditions for this type of wine than the hot climate of the Golden State. He suggested that if European growers were serious about growing quality sparkling wine, they would look to begin operations in Michigan and Ohio.

To illustrate his point, he poured the L. Mawby Blanc de Blanc sparkling wine. This wine is made with 100% Chardonnay grapes from the Leelanau Peninsula in Michigan and is made with the traditional Champagne method (although true Champagne only comes from the Champagne region in France). This was a delightful wine with crisp effervescence, a clean finish and a trace of sweetness. At only $21.99 we snatched up a bottle.

We then moved up to pricier Champagnes, the first being a Chartogne-Taillet Champagne Brut “Saint Anne.” This is a 50-50 Chardonnay and Pinot Noir blend. This was much drier than our first two samples and had a distinct biscuity flavor. It has a smoky flavor with tons of character. It lists for $45.99.

To wind up, we sampled the Lassalle Champagne Brut 1er Cru. This dry Champagne has a mix of minerality and light berry flavors. The streaming bubbles lend a delicious texture. By the time we tasted, this wine was only slightly cool. We prefer our bubbly very well chilled and expect this would enter the category of awesome at the right temperature. This wine from the Chigny-Les-Roses region of Champagne sells for $49.99.

For New Year’s Eve, we brought the bottle of Mawby Blanc de Blancs to our friends who were hosting the evening’s get-together. The wine was chilled down divinely and was the perfect toast as the clock struck midnight.

It’s easy to face a new year with a flute of great bubbly!

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