Tips & Information About Champagne : Sparkling Wine vs. Champagne: Part 2


Now, even in Italy, however, there are some
very serious makers (and I don’t mean to say that these people aren’t serious in Italy
and Spain in terms of their sparkling wine) but there are others who have begun to emulate
the Champagne style in France even more. So we get to Bella Vista which is probably the
greatest producer of sparkling wine in Italy. And this is their Franciacorta. There are
those who would say it is almost as good, if not equally as good, to a number of champagnes.
And I’d have to say for the most part, I do agree. The bubbles are a little bit smaller,
so the effervescence is a little bit more fine. There’s a little bit more toastiness
to it, which means it was aged in a wood a little bit longer and left in contact with
its skin (otherwise known as the leaves) for a while, so it had greater leaves contact.
It’s very dry. The dosage, which is the very little bit of sugar they put in at the very
end before they bottle champagne, is very low. So it’s very, very dry wine and it’s
really quite elegant. So you can get an elegant wine, even outside of France, in terms of
sparkling wine. And this is one of them and Franciacorta is the name. Now, then we come
to the new world. And I have to say that although there are some great producers of California
sparkling wine, to my mind, it really wasn’t until the French came over and actually bought
land in and around Carneros and Napa and that region and began to make champagne. You’ve
got cuvee Mumm which is the Mumm house; you’ve got Taittinger which is at Domain Carneros;
you’ve also got Louis Roederer who makes one of the highest priced champagnes in all of
France. So just as there are different levels of quality, and attention, and price in champagne,
there are in the new world sparkling wines. Italy, although it is not new world, has recently
begun to make wines that are of a higher level and Franciacorta is one of them. In California,
you have a couple of different areas where they make sparkling wine. And to my mind,
it really wasn’t until the French houses came over and bought land in these areas that California
sparkling wine really got to the next level. However, there are a couple of different exceptions.
Scharffenberger (who also makes amazing chocolate, I have to say), does make some very, very
good sparkling wine in California. And this is their non-vintage brute. Once again, it’s
not made in a specific year. It’s mixed vintages from a number of different years so that they
maintain a classic house style; so that it’s familiar. And then we’ve got one of the top
of the line champagnes. And this is made by the house of Louis Roederer which is the same
house in France that makes Cristal (one of the most expensive and highest prestige cuvees).
And this is their prestige cuvee from California and it is called Le Hermitage. They do make
a non-vintage brute. They also I believe make a rose, but this is really their top of the
line. The effervescence is very similar to champagne (to true champagne). And I have
to say, although I know there are those who will argue with me, this is a wine that for
a special occasion, for a much less price (and I don’t mean that it’s not expensive;
but it’s not hundreds and hundreds of dollars; maybe sixty dollars or so) you are talking
about an amazingly good sparkling wine. It’s something that I would not be at all embarrassed
to pour to people who even enjoy true champagne and feel that that’s the only thing to drink.

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