Just in time for year-end celebrations, we gathered six brown-bagged and numbered bottles of bubbly from around the world. The challenge here was to be able to identify the origin of the bottles blind, as well as vote for quality.
The winner was a complex, attention-grabbing Champagne that received top votes from every taster. Made by a cooperative of growers farming Grand Cru vineyards surrounding the village of Le Mesnil-Sur-Oger, this was easily sniffed out as being Champagne.
Also easy to determine was the Prosecco, probably because they are produced using the bulk method of making them effervescent. Most of us figured out the Cava relatively quickly, but harder were the Oregon and Australian entries, since we don't have a large frame of reference for them.
In second place was a value sparkler from California, often recommended on the reviews page.
First Place: Le Mesnil Champagne Brut Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru Non-Vintage. More golden in color than the others, and offering scents of bread dough, caramel, cheese, white mushrooms, and SweetTarts. Smells elegant. Katie noted "smoked sea salt". Very well-balanced, with flavors of red fruit (cranberries?) and bosc pear. Andy felt that "this one you pay attention to". Pomegranate on the long finish, ending soft and velvety. The unanimous winner, with 36 total points. Josephine's bottle. About $45.
Second Place (tie): Roederer Estate Brut Non-Vintage (Anderson Valley). Brighter initially, with tasters finding aromas of white flowers, must, freesia, beeswax, cream, granite, and petroleum/latex. Not super-dry, with suggestions of flowers, strawberry, coconut, and grenadine. Josephine was reminded of "peeled white grapes" and "candied tartness" on the finish. Ali stated, "I really don't like it" initially, but reversed course later, giving it 3 points. Everyone felt that it improved with air, showing more bread dough and hazelnut notes. Received 21 points. Katie's bottle. About $20.
Second Place (tie): Jansz Premium Cuvee Non-Vintage (Tasmania). Bread, smores, lemon, flowers, toast, and jasmine on the nose. Katie felt that is was "like Christmas". Elegant in style, with good texture and volume, showing red apple and cinnamon flavors. Josephine described it as "graceful". Had the second longest finish of them all, and everyone felt that this would be versatile and extremely food friendly. Received 21 points. David's bottle. About $20.
Third Place (tie): Casteller Cava Non-Vintage. Dusty, with aromas of cardboard, burning embers, lily, and sawdust. There's a perfumed quality that appeals to David. Floral in the mouth, and has some volume and tartness, with a lemon rind and orange note. Good texture, but not as complex. Kristin described it as "a breakfast bubbly". Tonic water on the finish. Received 3 points. Andy's bottle. About $15.
Third Place (tie): Argyle Brut 2010 (Oregon). Lemon rind, cranberries, wet pebbles, honey, green apples, and a saline quality on the nose. Green apples in the mouth, plus white tea, Jolly Rancher candied, and lemons. Not very bubbly, with lemon thyme on the finish. Josephine stated that "I kind of want to take another sip to override the aftertaste", while Katie summed up with "simple". Received 3 points. Kristin's bottle. About $23.
Lamberti Prosecco Extra Dry Non-Vintage. Tasters found scents of cantaloupe, pear, smoke, crushed glass, syrup, and bubble gum. Thin in the mouth, with notions of blueberry and lemons. Ali felt that "the aftertaste is hangover mouth". No points. Ali's bottle. About $13.