Suburban Wino 2: The Wordpress Experiment

Sparkles with only a few Shekels | July 27, 2009

With all due respect to the coup de gras of elementary school hangouts growing up in suburban Atlanta, this post has nothing to do with Sparkles Roller Rink, where I first crafted my lifelong mastery of being awkward and unattractive to the opposite sex (my re-imagination of the scene: “get a load of the guy with the matted hair and the sweatpants playing “Altered Beast” in the arcade…hot tamales!”).

Actually, I can’t believe it’s still around…lots of memories; none of them memorable.

But like I said, this isn’t about my repressed sources of social anxiety. Today, we talk about sparkling wine, often- mistakenly- referred to as Champagne.
Sure, I know that came off as snobby. I assure you I’m about as snobby as the lonely kid playing video games in the corner of a roller rink while the pretty girls skate with that jerk Tommy Olsen, what with his new Members Only jacket and penchant for wedgies. But I just need to clear the air (apparently on many issues). Champagne is a region in France. Like most French wines (or most European wines, for that matter), wines are named for the region, not the grapes or style…it has something to do with their sacred concept of terrior (pronounced “tehr WAH”), but that’s another post. Sparkling wine, however, is a catch-all term for the myriad styles of wine that simply have bubbles. How the bubbles get there, well, also another post. Looks like you’re saddled to a gravy-train of content, coming to a poorly-thought-out blog soon! Bottom line: if it says “Champagne” on the bottle, but doesn’t say “product of France” also, it ain’t really Champagne. I guess it’s the same as taking farm-raised Thailand shrimp and selling them as wild-caught U.S. gulf shrimp. Basically, it’s lying for the purpose of marketing, so that may be why people get so “snobby” about it.

However, sparkling wine is made in almost every wine region in the world. Furthermore, due to the overwhelming popularity of French Champagne, many of these regions are making great stuff, but aren’t charging a lot as they try to get established in the consumers’ minds. Yep, I smell bargains too. I decided to grab a few bottles from 3 major wine regions in the world: Spain, Italy, and Germany. I also decided- mainly because this is a labor of love- that I’d try to find bottles that were under $12. If you want to try them, I conceded to the big-boys and bought these at Total Wine. Without further ado, here they are, and here’s what I thought:

E. Soria Prosecco Spumante NV: For anyone new to wine out there, the “NV” stands for “non-vintage”, meaning that this is a blend of wines from different years, which is pretty common in sparkling production. Anyway, this wine is from Italy, and it’s made from the Prosecco grape. Generally known as a light, simple quaff, it’s not meant to be complicated, and I found this one to fit that profile. Refreshing and not overwhelming at 11.5% ABV, I got pears, a little bit of apricot and other stone fruit on the nose (think peaches, nectarines), and some floral notes. It tasted of crisp, tart appless and more of that apricot. I was a little disappointed at how quickly it lost its fizz, but that’s too be expected, as it’s made in the charmat method, creating larger bubbles that- subsequently- take carbon dioxide out of the beverage more quickly. All-in-all, nothing special, but it’s not meant to be. Just an easy-drinking warm weather cocktail that won’t hurt your wallet.

Segura Viudas Cava Brut Reserva NV: In my opinion, the best of the bunch (and, to my delight, the cheapest, at around $8). Cava, a term designating sparkling wines from Spain, really is a great bargain. Made from the Parrellada, Macebeo, Xarel-lo (and increasingly, Chardonnay) grapes, this wine brings serious value because it is made in the Método tradicional- or “traditional method”- meaning a secondary fermentation takes place in the bottle, creating the smaller bubbles naturally (and smaller bubbles stay “fizzy” longer!). Furthermore, the contact with the yeast during secondary creates tasty flavors of bread, biscuits, and toast. I got those slightly in the mouth, along with a mixed bag of tart apple and almonds. The nose suggested a heavy dose of Chardonnay in this blend, as I got apples, butter, and toast. It also delivered an 11.5% ABV, just enough to put some “hitch in your giddyup.” Not an earth-shaker, but at $8-9, it’s hard to beat. Try it with some raw oysters and live the good life on a “suburban wino” budget.

Henkell Sekt “Trocken” NV: “Henkell” is the brand, “Sekt” is the term for sparkling wine in Germany, and “Trocken” simply means “dry”. Tomorrow, we’ll learn how to say “is this a snowball fight?”

This wine, like the other two- had 11.5% ABV. It was probably made in the charmat method like the Prosecco, and in the same way, it lost its fizz pretty quickly. At first, it didn’t smell like anything, but when I came back later, I got some faint scents of stone fruit and a little bit of “biscuitiness”, as my notes say. Actually, the nose was pretty similar to the Prosecco in my opinion (this isn’t too surprising, as cheaper Sekts are often made with grapes from Italy or France). In the mouth, I wasn’t too impressed. It tasted almost like cheap, alcoholic ginger ale…maybe Vernors? At $12, it was probably the worst for the money, but- quite frankly- I enjoyed it just fine as the night went on. Like the prosecco, it was uncomplicated and ended up being enjoyable. Perhaps it was just a little disappointing after the fuller flavors of the Spanish Cava. Hey, it was a lot better than Cook’s.

Whether I liked them all or hated them all, I hope you give all of these wines a try. Not only will you be experiencing a whole new world of sparklers, but you’ll also be trying something you maybe haven’t tried before. To me, that’s what’s so addictive about wine….hundreds down, millions still to try. Just don’t try them all at once.

Oh, and if you’re a pretty girl at the roller rink, and you see the nerdy kid in the sweatpants playing video games, go grab him and get him out on the rink. Who knows: he may grow up to be a lowly-paid wine writer someday. Actually, you probably shouldn’t be reading a blog about alcohol in that case. How’d you find this site?!

Anyway- until next time, Cheers, Sláinte, Salud, Prost, Skål, Konbe, and Kampai!
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