The Effervescent Trio

by Cynthia Sin-Yi Cheng
April 23, 2009


2006 Steininger Grüner Veltliner Sekt
September Wines & Spirits
100 Stanton St
@ Ludlow St
New York, NY 10002

2004 Gérard Bertrand Crémant de Limoux
Gérard Bertrand website

2002 Ferrari Perlé
Chealsea Wine Vault
75 Ninth Ave
@ 16th St
New York, NY 10011
(inside Chelsea Market)

I drink champagne more often in a week than most people do in a year. Even so, I am not a champagne snob. Don’t get me wrong, I do love it and want to see more people drink it as a meal accompaniment year-round for no specific “celebration.” That’s why I write about it and host events promoting this message through my champagne consultancy, cyn-et-vin, which hosts events promoting this message.

However, I am also a lover of sparkling wines from other regions outside of Champagne. To me, there is no competition. A well-made sparkling wine is an expression of the terroir, the grapes, and the winemaker’s style. Both sparklers and champagnes should be judged and drunk for their own merit.

This past week, I tasted some vastly different bubblies ranging from an Austrian Grüner Veltiner sekt from Langenlois to a vertical of vintage Italians from Trentino dating back to 1983. In between, I had some serious champagne, which I will dedicate a separate article to.

Three different expressions:

1. 2006 Steininger Grüner sekt ($24)
I had no idea what to expect since I’d never tasted a sparkling Grüner before. Young winemaker Eva Steininger makes eight different sparkling wines for her family’s winery, many of which are single varietal expressions (ie. Zwigelt, Riseling, and Burgunder). This is definitely a wine geek’s wine. Unexpected. Not your run-of-the-mill light aperitif. With a longer hang time, it’s an expression of ripe yellow fruits and complexity. Try it alongside a still Grüner to compare the grape in two different forms.

2. 2004 Gérard Betrand Crémant de Limoux ($18)
It’s hard to find a well-made sparkler at a good price point, so when I tasted this crémant from the South of France, I knew I’d found a gem! From Limoux, the origin of sparkling wine in France, it predates champagne. Made from the unique blend of 60% Mauzac, 20% Chenin Blanc and 20% Chardonnay, the heavy percentage of Mauzac adds a layer of je ne sais quoi to the wine. The Chenin and Chard give it beautiful acidity and citrus notes, while the Mauzac seems to keep it all in line. It’s so creamy and elegant. I would love to have this as a house sparkler. Easy drinking but no compromise in taste or cost. This wine will soon be on the New York market, so stay tuned as I will surely mention it again.

3. 2002 Ferrari Perlé ($40)
For something a bit more complex and food-friendly, this blanc de blancs (100% Chardonnay) is from hillside vineyards surrounding Trentino. Here we have a wine from a winery specializing in blanc de blancs-style sparklers. In fact, the top-of-the-line, Giulio Ferrari, from this producer is a mono cru Chardonnay vineyard, Maso Pianizza. The Perlé shows ripe yellow fruits (ie. quince) with good structure and a clean finish. I was having it as an aperitif but kept preferring it with the scrumptious hors d’oeuvre of Parmigiano nests filled with Fontina cheese. Definitely have it with cheese or a light entrée.

All three of these wines are made in the traditional method (ie. second fermentation in bottle), ensuring the highest level of sparkling winemaking. I learned this week that méthode champenois is strictly designated for champagne. I think it’s good to have this distinction not just to protect the champagne appellation, but to let sparkling wine make its own name and reputation.

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