Sunday, December 24, 2006

Wine Club - Sparklers

Every December, we like to taste some sparkling wines so we can find interesting things to serve at New Year's. Here's what we tasted this year.

Jean Laurent Champagne Blanc de Blancs Brut $45.00
Faded sunflower color. Nose of melon, citrus and straw - noticeable chardonnay aromas. On the palate, it opens with a hint of sweetness but resolves dry, with flint/mineral flavors and a long tart finish. Score: 4.0 Range: 3/4.5

2000 Rotari Riserva Brut, Trento, IT $13.99
Nose of vanilla and melon. "Smells just like pinot grigio." Fairly one-dimensional, with some butterscotch and cherry flavors in a light bodied wine with moderate acidity. Short finish. Score: 3.2 Range: 2/5

Henri Maire Vin Fou Blanc de Blancs Cuvee du Centenaire $11.99
Our original bottle was bad - low fizz, nose and palate of banana candy, bitter and waxy. "This can't be right!" A replacement bottles was better, with just a hint of banana that some found pleasant, but it wasn't anything to write home about either - one-dimension and fairly uninteresting, but good enough given the value price.

Jaillance Cremant de Bordeaux Cuvee de L'Abbaye Brut $18.99
Immediate perception of spice and nutmeg, followed by some lily of the valley and lavender. Big and bright on the palate, with those spicy flowery aromas coming through in the flavor as well, and a minerally finish that hints at salt. Nice balance of sweet and acid. (Generally quite well liked, with one outlier who said it "smelled like the bottom of a Maneschevitz bottle left in the sun.") Score: 3.6 Range: 1/5

As usual, we had a couple of nice cheeses as well.

On the left, Ailine de Vigne, an 8-month aged French goat cheese. And on the right, Green Hill, a soft cow's milk cheese made in Georgia by Sweet Grass Dairy. Both were excellent. And that's a piece of my no-knead bread behind them.

We tasted the wines blind, and without anyone but me knowing about the price range beforehand. When we were about to reveal, I said "If I told you one of these bottles cost $45, which one would you say it was?" And everyone chose the Jean Laurent - it was clearly a superior wine. But not that much better than the Jaillance Cremant de Bordeaux, which would have scored nearly as high if not for that one person. So for $19 vs $45, I know what I'll be buying for New Year's Eve. Don't get me wrong - I absolutely loved the Jean Laurent - it had everything I love most about wine (rocks and acid) - but I just find it really hard to pay that kind of money on my budget!

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