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08.06.2014

2014 Masters of Wine Champagne Tasting: September 29, San Francisco

Champagne will begin harvesting their grapes on Monday, September 8th this year, having recently received the official go-ahead from their appellation. And what better time to begin thinking about one of the best wine tasting events each year in San Francisco. The Champagne tasting put on by the Institute for the Masters of Wine. Very few opportunities exist to taste a lot of Champagnes side-by-side, even if you are a member of the trade. As a consumer, such opportunities are incredibly rare, especially compared to the relative frequency of opportunities to taste, say, as many Zinfandels as you want,... continue reading

12.24.2013

The Best Champagnes I've Tasted Lately

Champagne cap collection in Reims France © 2013 George Rose. When I look back on my days as a beginning wine drinker, I find many reasons to chuckle, and more than a few at which to shake my head. As we begin our journeys to becoming wine lovers there are so many things we do not know. Our limited experiences tell us something about the world of wine, but only much later do we realize how little. For many years after I started drinking wine, I didn't like Champagne. I found it bitter and parching, an angular sort of drink... continue reading

10.31.2013

Vinography Unboxed: Week of October 27, 2013

Hello from the bottom of the samples pile. This is the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles of sample wine that have crossed my doorstep recently. This week is the Sparkling Wine edition of Unboxed. Tasting sparkling wine is something best done in large quantities and all at once, right? So this week I popped the cork on a lot of the sparkling samples that I had sitting in a corner, and here's what I thought. The stars of the domestic set were certainly, and predictably a couple of the Schramsberg bottlings. All... continue reading

06.27.2013

Tasting the Stars of Trento: A Vertical Tasting of Cantine Ferrari

At the turn of the 20th century, people everywhere set their dreams adrift in the currents of a new era, hoping or feverishly working for a future that matched their visions. One man, born in the mountains of northern Italy was beginning a quest of historic proportions. Giulio Ferrari was in love with wine. But not just with any wine. He loved wine with bubbles. These days, sparkling wines are commonplace, and so beloved around the world that a majority of the world's wine regions produce them. But back in 1898, sparkling wine was still largely the province of, if... continue reading

12.17.2012

Cantine Ferrari, Trentino, Italy: Entry-Level Wines

Who knows what it is, exactly, about sparkling wine that entices us so. But go to any wine region around the world, and you're bound to find someone making sparkling wine there (for better or worse). Most, even the best contenders, have a hard time holding a candle to the benchmarks of Champagne. There are a select few regions and producers outside of France, however, that manage to make sparkling wines that are truly exceptional. Two of them (at least) are in Italy, and this is the story of one of them. At the turn of the 20th century, Champagne... continue reading

10.07.2012

The World's Best Champagne?: Tasting Bubbly with The Masters of Wine

There was a time I didn't care for Champagne. Now, a week doesn't go by without me wishing I had more Champagne in my modest little cellar. But perhaps even more often than that, I find myself wanting a glass in my hand. Champagne, it turns out -- at least when it's good, has all of my favorite things when it comes to wine: texture, complexity, savoriness, and acidity. My particular problem, however, is that I tend to find these qualities most concentrated with, and in direct correlation to, the price of the bottle. Turns out that I have Champagne... continue reading

09.10.2012

2012 Masters of Wine Champagne Tasting: October 1, San Francisco

I never liked Champagne until I had the really good stuff. For years I went to weddings and New Year's Eve bashes and dutifully tried all the bubbly, but didn't see what the fuss was about. My lack of experience with quality Champagne was understandable, given how much money I, and the people I hung out with, were typically spending on it. It's a sad reality of the wine world that by and large most quality Champagne starts at about $35 to $40 a bottle, and the really good stuff starts in the $60 to $80 price range. Once I... continue reading

09.20.2010

Where is All the Deeply Discounted Champagne?

Every day, I get e-mails with wines being offered at more and more outrageous prices. What you can get for $20 now astounds me, from Napa and Washington State Cabernet to Brunello di Montalcino. Hell, I got a 1978 Brunello di Montalcino for little more than $20 recently. That's just a little bit insane. It's not just the flash sale web sites. It's everywhere. While the newspapers are printing stories about how the wine world is weathering the recession pretty well, the offers that I am getting (and I'm subscribed to maybe 5 or 6 retailer's e-mail lists) tell a... continue reading

09.19.2010

Masters of Wine Champagne Tasting 2010: September 27, San Francisco

I never liked Champagne until I had the really good stuff. For years I went to weddings and New Year's Eve bashes and dutifully tried all the bubbly, but didn't see what the fuss was about. My lack of experience with quality Champagne was understandable, given how much money I, and the people I hung out with, were typically spending on bubbly. It's a sad reality of the wine world that by and large most quality Champagne starts at about $35 to $40 a bottle, and the really good stuff starts in the $60 to $80 price range. Once I... continue reading

07.13.2010

Dom Pérignon, Champagne, France: Some Current Releases

Where to begin with Dom Pérignon? It is a brand, a wine, and a historical figure welded into an idea that has transcended itself to become an icon of culture. Pretty much every wine drinker has heard of Dom Pérignon. Ask them and they won't necessarily be able to tell you how. But Dom Pérignon universally means luxury, and it means Champagne. It is truly one of the world's most revered brands. But of course, Dom Pérignon is more than just a brand. Unlike the Nike logo, which will get slapped on everything from T-shirts to flip flops, the signature... continue reading

07.04.2010

Schramsberg Vineyards, Napa: A Few Current Releases

At the risk of oversimplifying things past the point of reasonableness, I'd like to suggest that there are really two kinds of wineries in Napa Valley. Those that have been made great in modern times and those that were great long before Napa Cabernet cost more than even $1.00 a bottle. There are a handful of wineries that must be considered some of the valley's historical treasures, and those that continue to make excellent wine (not all do) are to be treasured even more for it. The famous sign that welcomes the world to Napa Valley hosts a quote by... continue reading

11.04.2009

NV Henri Billiot "Cuvee Laetitia" Grand Cru Brut Champagne, Ambonnay, France

It seems that this week has me on a sparkling wine kick, and I see no reason to stop. As I often say (to myself and others who bother to listen): it took me a while to get here, but now I realize that we are all drinking far too little Champagne. These days, the whole world isn't drinking much Champagne, which is why the industry is in a bit of a crisis -- at least the really big players are. But this is not the wine of a big player. To say that Serge Billiot runs a small winery... continue reading

11.03.2009

Farmer Fizz: Tasting the Terry Theise Champagne Portfolio

Ask most people to name a good Champagne, and most will likely stall after a couple of well known names like "Cristal" or "Dom Perignon." Like many industries, the world of Champagne (and at this point I'm not talking about sparkling wine in general, but literally the stuff from the Champagne region of France) is represented in the minds of many and the world media by a few mega-brands whose very identities have come to stand for Champagne, and who often literally eclipse many others with their popularity. By some estimates, however, there are more than 3500 producers within... continue reading

10.31.2009

2002 Ferrari "Perlé" Blanc de Blancs Sparkling Wine, Trentino, Italy

Who knows what it is, exactly, about sparkling wine that entices us so. But go to any wine region around the world, and you're bound to find someone making sparkling wine there (for better or worse). Most, even the best contenders, have a hard time holding a candle to the benchmarks of Champagne. There are a select few regions and producers outside of France, however, that manage to make sparkling wines that are truly exceptional. Two of them (at least) are in Italy, and this is the story of one of them. At the turn of the 20th century, Champagne... continue reading

09.29.2009

Tasting Notes for Top Champagnes of the World

You might call me a born-again Champagne fanatic. There was a time when I didn't care for the stuff, but that was only because I had lived my life without ever tasting really good Champagne. Now, unfortunately, I've had the chance to understand the difference between the stuff you can get for $30 and the stuff costing around $200, and I live in a constant bittersweet state of longing that marks the lives of the truly devoted. I've written before about the travesty of wine and its associations with upper class sensibilities in this country. Equally as tragic, and no... continue reading

01.03.2009

Alfred Gratien Champagne, Epernay, France: Current Releases

The more good Champagne I have, the more it seems to me that you really get what you pay for. Unfortunately, what you have to pay for the really good stuff is out of the reach of most wine lovers, which was why I didn't like Champagne until several years after I started getting into wine. Now I love it, but only because I've been able to taste Champagnes like these. Alfred Gratien represents an interesting class of Champagne producer. When we speak of those who make Champagne, we most often talk about the Champagne "Houses" -- the massive brands... continue reading

11.12.2008

1999 Perrier Jouet "Cuvee la Belle Epoque" Brut Champagne, Epernay, France

As some of you know, there was a time when I didn't really care for Champagne. But like so many preferences formed early in our lives, it turns out that I just hadn't had the good stuff. Unfortunately for my pocketbook, I eventually did find out what all the fuss was about, and now I enjoy it immensely. That is, as long as it is good. And good Champagne, invariably means expensive. I run the risk of coming off as snobbish, or at the very least elitist by saying this, but more so than most wines, you really get what... continue reading

11.07.2007

Iron Horse Vineyards, Green Valley, Sonoma: Current Releases

Spending my summers in Sonoma County starting at about the age of five, I have soft-focus memories of wine tasting with my grandparents from an early age. Driving around Sonoma in my Grandfather's Buick was always a treat for me, mostly because of the automatic windows and the particular spot on the glove box that would magically make the horn beep if I hit it just right. I didn't have much of an eye for the scenery at that age. Neither did I pay much attention to the wine tasting. The adults would disappear into some big building and I... continue reading

09.04.2007

Masters of Wine Champagne Tasting: September 17th, San Francisco

There was a time, I am not ashamed to admit, that I wasn't really a fan of Champagne or sparkling wine. Frankly I didn't see what all the fuss was about. People I knew, wine lovers especially, would rave about how amazing Champagne was. I would read quotes from famous epicures, chefs, and even wine critics, suggesting in not so many words that given the opportunity they'd drink Champagne every day with every meal without ever tiring of it. "Man," I thought to myself, "what is the big deal, here? It doesn't taste that good!" And then I found out... continue reading

07.29.2007

IPNC 2007: Grower Champagnes

DAY TWO (continued): The second morning's sparkling wine seminar was followed by another that focused specifically on "grower Champagnes", this time moderated by Eric Asimov of the New York Times and Pete Wasserman, an consultant and importer with Le Serbet / Selection Becky Wasserman, and an expert on both the wines of Burgundy and on Champagne. Grower Champagnes are those wines that are made by small producers who also grow their own grapes (as opposed to the large champagne houses like Bollinger who purchase grapes from sources far and wide). This second session consisted mostly of winemakers and importers telling... continue reading

07.29.2007

IPNC 2007: The Secret Life of Pinot Noir

DAY TWO: Hello again from McMinnville, Oregon, where I am attending the 2007 International Pinot Noir Celebration, a conference and celebration of Pinot Noir in all it's incarnations. The morning of the second day began with the repeat of a session that had been given to half of the attendees the day before. Dubbed "The Secret Life of Pinot Noir" this was pair seminars about Pinot Noir and the role it plays in Champagne. The first hour and a half was one of the most remarkable and educational sessions I have had the pleasure of attending at any wine related... continue reading

07.14.2007

The World's Best Prosecco: Tasting Conegliano Valdobbiadene

We Americans aren't deprived of much in the world when it comes to wine, but if there's one segment of the wine universe that remains highly unexplored by the average American wine drinker it's the world of non-Champagne sparkling wine. And I'm obviously not not talking about California wine. I'm talking about the hundreds of different types of sparkling wine made in dozens of countries around the world. Thankfully, as more people begin to appreciate the pleasures of bubbly but can't always spring for the price tag of Champagne, there is an increasing demand for alternatives, such as Prosecco. Prosecco... continue reading

10.25.2006

Where do Those Bubbles Come From?

I've always been a bit bemused when confronted with the phrase "food science." There's just something....hokey about it. I can't help suppressing a chuckle when I read it. It calls to mind men wearing thick rimmed glasses, white lab coats, and very serious expressions as they measure the elasticity of peanut butter between two cracker crusts. But food science is a real discipline, and there are lots of people out there who are doing some pretty bizarre interesting research. I've done a lot of Champagne reviews recently, so one of their latest studies caught my eye as I browsed through... continue reading

10.24.2006

Tasting The Terry Theise Champagne Portfolio

The average wine consumer can name the number of champagne brands they know on the fingers of one hand. Many might not be able to blurt out more than "Cristal" or "Dom Perignon." Like in many industries, the world of Champagne (and at this point I'm not talking about sparkling wine in general, but literally the stuff from the Champagne region of France) is represented in the minds of many and the world media by a few mega-brands. By some estimates, however, there are more than 3500 producers within the bounds of the (relatively small) Champagne appellation. For those willing... continue reading

09.24.2006

Tasting Notes For Some of The Best Champagnes in The World

In addition to the side benefit of providing you, my readers, with information about a large number of wines, I go to public tastings primarily to learn. There is absolutely no better way to educate your palate than to deliberately and comparatively taste through a large number (however many you can handle) of similar wines with the goal of taking mental or actual notes. You will never get around to tasting enough of any single kind of wine just by ordering it at restaurants or picking up a bottle on your way home to ever learn anything substantial about a... continue reading

09.18.2006

Which Champagne Should I Buy?: WBW#25 Roundup Posted

All I have to say is that I'm glad as hell I never have to run for class president against my friend Sam Breach, of Becks and Posh. Her popularity, charm, and sheer force of blogging personality resulted in the highest ever turnout for this month's virtual wine tasting event, Wine Blogging Wednesday. She has posted the roundup of forty-one Champagne reviews on her site for your pleasure. Yes, you heard right. Forty-one. No more excuses about how you're not so familiar with Champagnes.... One of the benefits of Sam's massive readership is that this month's tasting event included dozen's... continue reading

09.13.2006

NV Henri Billiot Fils "Cuvee Laetitia" Tete de Cuvee Champagne, Ambonnay, France

I'm not a huge sparkling wine drinker, but many of the wine lovers I know are Champagne nuts. They literally rave about the stuff as if it's the nectar of the gods. Usually the bigger the wine nut, the greater the ravings. I used to detest the stuff, but like many things often go in the wine world, I eventually discovered I had just been drinking the wrong stuff. Champagne is indeed a wonderful beverage, and the best of them can be transcendent. I've learned to love them with sushi and as the last drink of the evening, something to... continue reading

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This page only has the last sixty entries in this category. If you're interested in digging farther into my archives, you'll want to use the complete list of archives to access my articles by month.

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Most Recent Entries

2014 Masters of Wine Champagne Tasting: September 29, San Francisco The Best Champagnes I've Tasted Lately Vinography Unboxed: Week of October 27, 2013 Tasting the Stars of Trento: A Vertical Tasting of Cantine Ferrari Cantine Ferrari, Trentino, Italy: Entry-Level Wines The World's Best Champagne?: Tasting Bubbly with The Masters of Wine 2012 Masters of Wine Champagne Tasting: October 1, San Francisco Where is All the Deeply Discounted Champagne? Masters of Wine Champagne Tasting 2010: September 27, San Francisco Dom Pérignon, Champagne, France: Some Current Releases

Favorite Posts From the Archives

Masuizumi Junmai Daiginjo, Toyama Prefecture Wine.Com Gives Retailers (and Consumers) the Finger 1961 Hospices de Beaune Emile Chandesais, Burgundy Wine Over Time The Better Half of My Palate 1999 Királyudvar "Lapis" Tokaji Furmint, Hungary What's Allowed in Your Wine and Winemaking Why Community Tasting Notes Sites Will Fail Appreciating Wine in Context The Soul vs. The Market 1989 Fiorano Botte 48 Semillion,Italy

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Required Reading for Wine Lovers

The Oxford Companion to Wine by Jancis Robinson The Taste of Wine by Emile Peynaud Adventures on the Wine Route by Kermit Lynch Love By the Glass by Dorothy Gaiter & John Brecher Noble Rot by William Echikson The Science of Wine by Jamie Goode The Judgement of Paris by George Taber The Wine Bible by Karen MacNeil The Botanist and the Vintner by Christy Campbell The Emperor of Wine by Elin McCoy The World Atlas of Wine by Hugh Johnson The World's Greatest Wine Estates by Robert M. Parker, Jr.