Okay. Bubbles. Fizz. Popping the cork for celebration! Nothing wrong with that. Enjoy. Wine- like food, humour and company is for sharing.
Grapes traditionally used in making true branded French Champagne are chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier. All three are usually blended in the familiar mass-produced French fizz we see in NZ as Moët, Veuve Cliquot, Bollinger, Lanson, Pol Roger etc.
And I do mean mass production. We are talking millions upon millions bottles of bottles per year pumped out by French Champagne houses to satisfy the thirsty masses. There are variations on the theme: Blanc de Noir (pinot noir and/or pinot meunier), and Blanc De Blanc (100% chardonnay). And then, there are Rosé style “pink Champagne” sparklers, where sometimes the pinot noir has been left on the skins a short while to ferment and extract a blush of pink colour.
And the characteristic fine beaded frothy bubbles are the result of a secondary fermentation in the bottle after the wine has been sealed with added yeast and sugar. And … it’s the CO2 bubbles in the wine which make the alcohol absorb more quickly into the bloodstream and the brain. It may make you feel a little bit dizzy, totally fabulous, funny … and also may make you fancy complete strangers. (So I have been told.)
‘NV’ on a bottle means non-vintage i.e. the Champagne is made from a blend of various years’ base wines. Vintage Champagne is made solely from the grapes of a particularly good year, and that year is determined by the region’s producers. It is these vintage wines which can last ten years or more. NV Sparklers are designed to be consumed on release and won’t benefit from extended cellaring.
Anyway. Here are some fantastic small production local New Zealand Champenoise styles that – in my opinion, totally rival some of the best pretentious French labels. And at about half the price. Drink local. Drink fabulous. Enjoy.
Mudbrick Vineyard Methode Traditionelle (NV) $NZ 30
Wow. 24 carat gold colour. Aromas of beeswax, brioche and clover honey. In the mouth, it’s a complex and lush palate of preserved peach, ripe apricot, toffee and hint of toasty oak with a slow golden sunset finish. I’m in love.
Peacock Sky Reserve Waiheke Blanc de Noirs 2014 $NZ 45
Black grapes – 59% merlot and 41% cabernet sauvignon. Pale rose gold pink with fine beaded bubbles. Smells like almond nougat and brioche with a good whiff of CO2. Lovely rich, ripe and generous palate of sour cherry, almond and summer fruit compote.
West Brook Waimauku Methode Traditionelle 2012 $NZ 39.90
Blanc de Noir style from Waimauku pinot noir. Very subtle and mineral French style that is best served just lightly chilled. Gold hues. Aromas of almond croissant. On the palate it’s crisp, dry, and restrained with hints of apple, almond nougat and mandarin.
Soljans Brut Methode Traditionelle 2012 $NZ 33.00
Award-winning Kumeu sparkler from third generation family winemakers. Traditional pinot noir/ chardonnay blend. Yellow gold colour. Aromas of yeasty baked bread. Rich, complex and integrated palate of mandarin, peach crumble, and rock melon, with a dry crisp finish.
Soljans Brut Methode Traditionelle 2013 $NZ 33.00
A drier style than the 2102. Yellow gold. Smells like Packham pear, apricots and hazelnut nougat. Frothy bubbles on the palate with flavours of frangipane tart, yeasty croissant and canned peach – with a crisp dry finish.