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Champagne and sparkling wines tasting notes

Champagne and sparkling wines tasting December 2010.

Finest Prosecco di Valdobbiadene - Veneto, Italy - Non vintage - alcohol 11.5%

Prosecco is probably the best known of the Italian sparkling wines and is increasingly popular outside Italy. It is made by the Charmat or closed tank method. This usually results in a softer, fruitier wine than Champagne. The tasting wine is made from the Prosecco grape in the Veneto area of Italy. It is produced by one of the best Prosecco producers, Bisol. Bisol owns its own vineyards and production facilities. This is a creamy, smooth sparkler with notes of peach and pear. Good as a light aperitif and with smoked salmon.

Codorniu Pinot Noir Cava - Cataluña, Spain - Non vintage - alcohol 12%

Cava is the name for the sparkling wine of Spain and is produced mainly in that part of Cataluña just inland from Barcelona. In the UK people now drink more Cava than Champagne. Companies like Codorniu have been making sparkling wine from local grape varieties for over 150 years. They use the champagne method but age the wine on the lees for far less time. Standards have risen in recent years and producers like Codorniu are making greater use of international grape varieties. Our tasting wine is 100% Pi not Noir. Always plenty of Cava to choose from in supermarkets and there is almost always a special offer. Codorniu and Freixenet are generally reliable. Maybe not the depth and finesse of Champagne or some other Champagne method wines but a good party wine.

1531 Blanquette de Limoux – Languedoc, France - Non vintage - alcohol 12.5%

Blanquette is the traditional sparkling wine of Limoux and the area claims to have produced the first sparkling wine, about 150 years before Champagne. The name "1531" is reputedly the year in which the Benedictine monks discovered sparkling wine. Traditionally, the local grape, the Mauzac, was harvested late in the autumn and so the fermentation started slowly in the colder Limoux winters and the second fermentation happened much later, in the spring. It is 90% Mauzac, the minimum level required by the appellation, 5% Chardonnay and 5% Chenin Blanc. The Mauzac grape gives the wine good acidity and freshness. Limoux also produces a Cremant de Limoux sparkling wine made from mainly Chardonnay grapes with a little Chenin Blanc and Pinot Noir. Both wines are produced by the Champagne method. Notes of peaches, apples and toast can be found.

Lindauer Special reserve Brut Cuvee - New Zealand - Non-vintage - alcohol 12.0%

Although sparkling wine can be made in almost any climatic conditions it is generally agreed that cool climates produce the better wines. Cool climates can help ensure an optimum acidity level. New Zealand produces Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir - both cool climate grapes - and it is, therefore perhaps not surprising that the country produces sparkling wine from these grapes. The tasting wine is from Lindauer and made from grapes grown on the north island. It is the most popular sparkling wine in both Australia and New Zealand and increasingly successful in Europe. It is produced using the Champagne method. Lindauer produces two sparkling wines that look very similar; the other one is Lindauer Brut and is usually a little cheaper. There are important differences between them. Brut is 60% Chardonnay, 40% Pinot Noir and is aged on the lees for 12 months. The tasting wine is 60% Pinot Noir, 40% Chardonnay and is aged on the Ices for 24 months it is also delicately pink. The tasting wine is therefore fuller bodied with more noticeable biscuit and yeasty notes that result from the longer bottle ageing. Drink as you would Champagne. Pelorus from Cloudy Bay is another New Zealand sparkler available in the UK in both vintage and non vintage.

Ridgeview Merret Bloomsbury - Ditchling, Sussex - 2008 - alcohol 12%

Ridgeview is a family estate founded in 1994 on the South Downs and producing only sparkling wines. It is planning to expand its 30 acres of vines fourfold over the next few years. The Merret name is in honour of Christopher Merret who in 1662 presented a paper detailing how the addition of sugar could produce bubbles in wine... well before the process was documented in Champagne. Merret was a scientist who also had a particular interest in glass making. He combined the benefits of a second fermentation in the bottle with the need for a stronger glass bottle to prevent explosions. He is, therefore, usually credited as the "inventor" of Champagne. The grapes are the three Champagne grapes and production is aligned with the requirements of Champagne including the Champagne method of production. The estate is a frequent winner of major awards. The tasting wine, one of several made by the estate, is 54% Chardonnay, 26% Pinot Noir and 20% Pinot Meunier. The Chardonnay dominance gives the wine freshness and finesse while the two red grapes provide greater depth and structure.

Moet & Chandon Brut Imperial - Epernay, Champagne - Non Vintage - alcohol 12%

Moet was founded in 1743 and quickly established itself as a prestige supplier. It courted relationships with Napoleon Bonaparte and European royalty. Today, it is the largest Champagne producer and easily the best known. It produces around 30 million bottles a year. It is also the largest vineyard owner. Today, Moet is part of the LMVH corporation that also owns Veuve Clicquot, Krug, Mercier and Ruinart. Dom Perignon is the premium brand of Moet - and always a vintage. The tasting wine is 10% Chardonnay, 50% Pinot Noir and 40% Pinot Meunier. Its headquarters are in the Avenue de Champagne and the company offers well organised tours of the cellars. Located just behind Moet is a B&B - Le Clos Raymi - once owned by the Chandon family.

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