Back in December 2014, we compared six bottles of bubbly from around the world, blind tasting for quality as well as for place. This month was our opportunity to try this exercise again, with six new bottles.
Like last time, the true Champagne was the winner, easily besting the competition, but after that the voting became harder, with vintage-dated bottles from California and New Zealand rising to the top. And while the rest received fewer points, we all agreed that they were very good bottles, and would be welcome starting wines at the beginning of a meal.
How good were we at identifying the origin of these wines? As usual, not great. Some correctly identified the Cava and Champagne, but most of the other bottles we were clueless about. More studying is in our future.
First Place: Duval Leroy Champagne Brut Non-Vintage. Complex nose of yogurt, cappuccino, coffee cake, tart cranberries, roasted chestnuts, currants, coffee nip candies, and red apples. Toasty. Smelled like it has some age. Big and broad in the mouth, and reminiscent of orange marmalade, red apples, red berries, and baked apple pie. Shows weight, heft, and power. Long finish. Kristin & Ali correctly identified this one. Received first place votes from Kristin, David, Andy, and Ali for a total of 32. Kristin's bottle. About $35
Second Place: Iron Horse Brut "X" 2009 (Green Valley of Russian River Valley). Smells clean, like white flowers, green apples, and biscuit, but also interesting notes of white mushroom, active bread dough, honey, cranberry, clementine, rubber tire, and butterscotch. Tastes like red delicious apples, as well as cranberries, baking spices, with a nice long finish, showing some earthiness. Made from 74% Pinot Noir and 26% Chardonnay, and aged over 3 years. Jamie's favorite. Received 24 points. Jay's bottle. About $60.
Third Place: Kim Crawford Fizz Small Parcels 2012 (Marlborough). Tasters found notions of old box on the nose, plus bruised yellow apple, mushrooms, cat pee, dried citrus rind, and forest floor. Musty. David was reminded of "Kristin's parent's basement." Red apples, honey, limes, pineapple, and hazelnuts on the palate, along with plenty of acidity. Lots of flavor here, like some dried fruit that made us guess that it might be older than it is. Ali found gelatin and lime Jolly Rancher on the finish. Made in the traditional method from 55% Chardonnay and 45% Pinot Noir. Jay's favorite. Received 22 points. David's bottle. About $20.
Mirabella Franciacorta Satén Non-Vintage. Jay described this as, "I just walked through the perfume department at the Emerald Square Mall", along with "freshman girl in my Greek history class", while Ali found "Something blue about it, blue-flavored bubble gum." Others found stale gumball and talcum powder. The taste is very different from the nose, and the mouthfeel isn't as refined. On the sweeter side of brut, with not a lot of nuance, but good acidy, and chalkiness on the finish. Notions of flat Sprite, cider, green apple, and a hint of spearmint. 3 points. Jamie's bottle. About $32.
Bailly Lapierre Brut Réserve Crémant de Bourgogne Non-Vintage. The nose was like Comet or Ajax, plus green apple, butter mint, and a little mustiness. Jay was reminded of "Bar Keepers Friend." A little bit of lemon rind in the mouth, like a French 75 cocktail, or quinine or Aperol. 2 points. Ali's bottle. About $19.
Naveran Cava Brut 2017. Very bubbly, and almost foamy, with aromas of vanilla, chalk, creme de menthe, toothpaste, peppermint Life Saver, menthol, and cotton candy. A bit shy. Ali announced that "the attack is not for me", with Jay deciding that it was "so neutral as to be backward." Bone dry, and inoffensive, but doesn't do a lot. Most visually active, but least active on taste. Made from 50% Xarel-lo, 30% Macabeo, and 20% Parellada. Jay, Jamie, and Ali correctly identified this. One point. Andy's bottle. About $17.