Hello, and welcome to my periodic dig through the samples pile. I’m pleased to bring you the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently.
This week I decided to make it sparkling wine week, and open up all those sample bottles of bubbly lying around. If you’re looking for some ideas for holiday sparkle, then I’ve got a great list for you below.
The most notable wines this week were a remarkable trio whose very existence deserves respect, regardless of their quality, which happens to be astounding. The Benjamin Bridge project is among North America’s most ambitious and serious winery ventures I’ve had the pleasure of encountering in years. Established in the far reaches of Nova Scotia, these folks are making serious wines in the most marginal of conditions, with a dedication that is astounding. For starters, the wines all undergo at least 4 years of aging on the lees, a capital intensive exercise in patience that few winemakers anywhere will attempt, let alone on their first vintage. And the wines? Well let’s just say that those who have claimed these to be the best sparkling wines made in Canada couldn’t possibly be wrong, as these wines can easily hold their own with the best of California and Champagne. If you’re looking for an exotic treat, seek them out. Unfortunately, they don’t make much, and most is sold in Canada, so we’re a bit out of luck here in the U.S.
And as long as we’re on the topic of ambitious projects, we can transition right into the sparkling wines of Raventos i Blanc, the best Cava that isn’t Cava. The estate has decided to leave the Cava appellation, but remains dedicated to the soils and the unique grape varieties of the Penedés region of Spain, which they marshall to make some of the most profound sparkling wines in the country. If you’ve not had them, these should help set your bar for what is possible with Cava.
In addition to these two sets, this week included a couple of nice wines from Champagne Jacquart, and a unique sparkling wine from Italy’s Marche that is worth checking out.
All this and more below. Enjoy, and happy holidays!
NV Adami “Garbel” Prosecco, Treviso, Veneto, Italy
Pale greenish gold in the glass with moderately fine bubbles, this wine smells of bubble gum and white flowers. In the mouth a soft mousse of white flowers and pear and pear skin leaves a faint citrus tang on the palate through a long-ish finish. Nice acidity and a faint chalky, tannic quality make for a nicely complex package. 11% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $14. click to buy.
NV Velenosi Passerina Brut Spumante Passerina, Marche, Italy
Pale gold in the glass with medium fine bubbles, this wine smells of citrus, pear, and white flowers. In the mouth, the wine has a coarse mousse but a lovely floral aspect with pear and citrus pith brightness mixed with just the faintest hint of sweetness. If you like Prosecco, you’ll love this wine. It’s hard not to appreciate. Made from 100% Passerina, a variety indigenous to Italy’s Marche region. 12.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $16. click to buy.
2011 Raventos i Blanc “Textures de Pedra Blanc de Negres” Brut Nature Cava Blend, Spain
Light gold in the glass with very fine bubbles, this wine smells of butterscotch, wet chalkboard, and toasted sesame bagel. In the mouth, dried citrus peel and almond butter flavors mix with toasted bread and pear. Nice acidity and a very caramel-like quality that lingers in the finish. A blend of 30% Xarel-lo, 20% Xerel-lo Vermell, 20% Sumoll, 20% Bastard Negre and 10% Parellada. 12% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $??.
2012 Raventos i Blanc “De la Finca” Brut Nature Cava Blend, Spain
Pale gold in the glass with moderately fine bubbles, this wine smells of lemon zest and freshly cut Asian pear. In the mouth, a soft mousse delivers flavors of lemon, pear, and a hint of white flowers that are bright and juicy thanks to excellent acidity. These mouthwatering flavors sit above a deeply mineral wet chalkboard quality that lingers for a long time in the finish along with citrus pith. A blend of 50% Xarel-lo, 40% Macabeo and 10% Parellada. 12% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $30. click to buy.
2007 Raventos i Blanc “Enoteca Personal Manuel Raventos” Brut Nature Cava Blend, Spain
Light greenish-gold in the glass with very fine bubbles, this wine smells of lemon marmalade and toasted sourdough. In the mouth, wonderfully saline flavors of lemon and pear are brushed with the scent of white flowers. Grapefruit pith lingers in the finish along with white flowers. Wonderfully mineral and bright with fantastic acidity, this is a regal wine. A blend of 80% Xarel-lo and 20% Parellada. 12% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $60. click to buy.
2006 Ferrari Riserva Orgoglio Italia Brut Chardonnay, Trento, Italy
Light greenish gold in the glass with fine bubbles, this wine smells of lemon pith and butter brioche. In the mouth, gorgeously bright lemon oil and lemon juice flavors mix with seawater and butter crackers, leaving a salty grapefruit quality in the finish that has my saliva glands on full throttle. Totally delicious and compelling, 12.5% alcohol. Score: around 9.5. Cost: $??.
2006 Jacquart Blanc de Blancs Chardonnay, Champagne, France
Light gold in the glass with medium-fine bubbles, this wine smells of baked apples, dried lemon peel, and a hint of butterscotch. In the mouth, butterscotch, marzipan and dried lemon peels are delivered on a bed of soft mousse with a faint tangy candied note that lingers in the finish. 12.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $58. click to buy.
NV Jacquart Brut Mosaique Champagne Blend, Champagne, France
Light blonde in the glass with medium bubbles, this wine smells of lemon curd, candied citrus, and pears. In the mouth, a soft mousse delivers flavors of candied citrus, pears, and a nice wet chalkboard minerality. Clean and crisp with just a hint of sweetness.12.5% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $50.
NV Jacquart Brut Rosé Champagne Blend, Champagne, France
Palest coppery-pink in color, this wine smells of sweet berries, citrus peel, and dried flowers. In the mouth, a velvety mousse offers up completely mouthwatering flavors of redcurrant and citrus oils. Fantastically bright acidity makes this a deliciously tangy mouthful. 12.5% alcohol Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $50. click to buy.
2004 Benjamin Bridge Blanc de Blancs Chardonnay, Nova Scotia, Canada
Light gold in the glass with extremely fine bubbles, this wine smells of crushed stones, lemon oil, and new snow. In the mouth, a soft, and not very persistent mousse delivers mouthwatering, even electric flavors of lemon juice and SweetTart with a sour pith note that persists for a very long time in the mouth. Totally delicious and compelling, with a depth that is quite remarkable. Not much fizz left in this bottle at this point in its evolution, but that hardly matters. This is gulpable stuff. 12% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $n/a
2004 Benjamin Bridge Brut Reserve White Blend, Nova Scotia, Canada
Light gold in the glass, with very fine bubbles, this wine smells of marmalade, marzipan, and wet stone. In the mouth a voluminous mousse carries flavors of apples, lemonade, pink grapefruit and marzipan across the palate, leaving a juicy, even racy citrus sourness in the finish that is very pleasing. A blend of 57% Pinot Noir, 22% Chardonnay, 15% Vidal, and 6% l’Acadie, the latter two being Canadian hybrids suited to the cold weather of Nova Scotia. 12% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $52.
2008 Benjamin Bridge Brut Reserve Methode Classique Champagne Blend, Nova Scotia, Canada
Light gold in the glass with very fine bubbles, this wine smells of white flowers, pears, and new snow. In the mouth, gorgeously bright and linear flavors of lemon, pink grapefruit, and a touch of apple have a mouthwatering sourness as they are nestled into a soft cloud of mousse on the palate. Gorgeous, bright, and utterly delicious. A blend of 61% Chardonnay and 39% Pinot Noir. 11.5% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $52.