December 2012 – Sparkling


Taste to Learn – December 16, 2012 Sparkling Wines


The December taste to learn was at the Stacey house.  18 members attended.  We tasted 9 different sparkling wines.  Leann gave a history of champagne and the methode champenoise also referred to as methode traditionnelle. Ellie also provided much valuable information.   She said that we want to see tiny bubbles in a solid “string of pearls” to indicate a good sparkling.  Information and comparison tastings were done for French Champagne, Spanish Cava (2), Italian Prosecco (2), American sparkling (3), and an Italian Asti.  Moet and Chandon Imperial Brut was presented as the benchmark French champagne. The benchmark American sparkling presented was a Schramsberg Blanc de Blanc Brut.  Schramsberg was the first hillside winery in Napa, established in 1862 and has extensive caves and a rich history. Leann and Michael had toured this winery when they were in Sonoma and Napa in 2007.  While the tour costs ($25 in 2007) and requires reservations, Leann highly recommended it as a very educational and enjoyable activity for anyone visiting Napa.  The Cavas and Proseccos tend to be a good, light, and less expensive sparkling wine compared to French champagne.


A comparison was made between sweetness levels of sparkling wine. Brut is drier than the extra dry. Domaine Ste Michelle was used to compare between extra dry and Brut.   There was also a difference in sweetness between the two Cavas presented. The Segura Viudas presented was extra dry and the Vega Medien was a brut.  The Santo Moscato D’Asti was the sweetest of the wines presented.


Information was also presented on the types of glassware used to drink sparkling wines and their history.  A comparison was done between flutes and the coupe or saucer-type glass.  The flute style glass is the recommended glass because the coupe allows the champagne to lose it carbonation more quickly, and is also less satisfactory for appreciating the bouquet and aroma of the champagne.  Ellie noted that it was very important to wipe out the glass with a paper towel or napkin frequently in order to remove residuals such as from lipstick or saliva that will reduce the bubbles in the sparkling wine.


The group rated the Schramsberg Blanc de Blanc the highest with an average of 17.0; this cost 34.49.  The second highest rating went to the Moet and Chandon Imperial Brut with an average score of 16.47; this cost 39.99.  The third highest rating went to the Domaine Ste Michelle Extra Dry with a score of 16.03; this cost 8.99.  Cost was discussed as a factor, especially when entertaining for a larger group.