The Cellar: Sparkling Wines From France + California

Friday, May 03, 2013


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I think every wine enthusiast has periods where one can’t get enough of certain style of wine, or wines made a certain place or from a specific variety. I am going through such a phase at the moment. The style of wine I simply stay away from these days are sparkling wines, especially sparkling wines made the ‘Traditional Method’, i.e. serious (food) bubbling wines that offer great alternatives to Champagnes. For an article that described how these wines are made click here.

Lucien Albrecht Crémant d'Alsace Rosé, Alsace, France

One of my favorite places for serious sparkling wines is Alsace where winemakers produces delicious Crémants made from all of the Pinot varieties (Blanc, Gris and Noir), as well as Riesling and Chardonnay.

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They take their Crémants very serious in this French region, producing more than 33 million bottles annually. There are a lot of rules and regulation governing the production of these wines. For example, the grapes must be picked in whole clusters, by hand and carried in containers holding no more 220 lbs (100kg). There are yield restrictions and rules regulating how ripe the grapes must be at harvest – there are even rules regulating the ‘juice-extraction-rate’ which can’t exceed 26 gallons per 330lbs of grapes. This is serious business!

A Crémant sub-category that I am especially digging these days is the Rosé category, which in Alsace must be made exclusively from the Pinot Noir variety. This week’s example is made by the Albrecht family, who have been making wine in the region since 1425. The current owner, Jean Albrecht, is the 9th generation of his family to be making wine at this historic Estate. It was Jean’s father Lucien who really placed their Estate on the map after he expanded holdings, re-invented the winery and started focusing on Crémants almost exclusively. In making their Rosé, the long and soft pressing procedure (which allows for a period of skin contact) gives the juice a beautiful light salmon color. After 9 months on the lees the wine is bottled resulting in a gorgeous, medium bodied wine filled with delicious mix of ripe and under-ripe strawberries but also displaying considerable minerality and acidity on the finish.

Roederer Estate Brut, Anderson Valley, California

This week’s second sparkling wine is the non-vintage Roederer Estate Brut, which is made from Estate grown Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes (60%/40%). In making this cuvée head winemaker Arnaud

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Weyrich uses only about 70% of the total 1st press (the first 120 gallons/ton) of juice and none of the juice from the subsequent pressings. In keeping with the traditions at Roederer, Arnaud also adds a little aged reserve wine to the must. This adds body to each blend and gives the wine a depth of flavor it wouldn’t have otherwise.

The result is a fantastic wine. Light, crisp and refreshing on the initial attack, but then it broadens on the palate with notes of baked pears and cinnamon. It finishes lively, though a tad more yeasty than the before mentioned Crémant. This is another medium-bodied sparkling wine. Both of these wines retail for around $20 and are wines that can stand alone in any setting, but also works extremely well with most foods.


Steffen Rasch is a Certified Sommelier and Specialist of Wine. Feel free to email him at [email protected] with any wine-related question. If you want to further explore your passion for wine consider signing up for one of his tastings through the Providence Wine Academy.


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