Champagne, Prosecco, Cava and Kir Royals

This week we will sample an array of sparkling wines including three grower Champagnes imported by Terry Theise as well as a sparkling wine mixed beverage made with Creme de Cassis imported by Neal Rosenthal. In addition to the grower Champagnes and Creme de Cassis we will also try a limited-production vintage Glera (previously known as Prosecco) that’s imported by Neal Rosenthal and a good-value Cava called Conde Subirats.

We are super excited about this weeks tasting, especially because two of our favorite importers will be represented (Rosenthal Wine Merchant and Terry Theise!). We hope you will join us for this special event!

Terry Theise: “Michael Skurnik Wines, in partnership with Terry Theise Estate Selections, has been importing some of the best, small production, Grower Champagne available for over a decade. Terry Theise Selections represents the largest Grower Champagne portfolio in the country – 15 different producers from 14 different villages throughout Champagne’s 3 main departments, with over 80 different cuvées available. 5 of these producers are current members of The Special Club (Club de Tresors de Champagne, see link below), and account for 45% of all Special Club Champagne houses imported to the United States. Among all Grower Champagne sold in the United States the Terry Theise name can be found on the back of 1 out of every 2 bottles. These numbers may not mean much at first glance, but what they represent is Michael Skurnik Wines’ commitment to tirelessly working to bring you the best champagne available from a wide range of styles, terroirs, and perspectives. In a time when consumer consciousness of Grower Champagne is at its highest, and a myriad of other importers are bringing in wines from the region that have not long been seen in your market and are of varying degrees of quality, Michael Skurnik Wines and Terry Theise Estate Selections remain names that can be trusted for continually representing quality. We can proudly stand behind our track record of representing Growers with excellent press, consistent customer satisfaction, and participating in the pioneering spirit of “Farmer Fizz”.”

This is from Terry’s Facebook page: “Terry Theise is a leading importer of wines from Germany, Austria and Champagne. An insightful and humorous writer, Terry has a book published by UC Press. Awarded 2008 James Beard Outstanding Wine and Spirits Professional and 2005 Food & Wine Magazine Importer of the Year.”

From Wikipedia: “Grower Champagnes are produced by the same estate that owns the vineyards from which the grapes come. While large Champagne houses, such as Mumm, may use grapes sourced from as many as 80 different vineyards, Grower Champagnes tend to be more terroir focused, being sourced from single or closely located vineyards around a village. Today there are over 19,000 independent growers in the Champagne region, accounting for nearly 88% of all vineyard land in the region. Around 5000 of these growers produce wine from their own grapes. A Grower Champagne can be identified by the initials RM (meaning Récoltant-Manipulant) on the wine label.”

Jean Milan “Cuvee Speciale” Brut Blanc de Blancs NV– Champagne, France. Chardonnay. Terry Theise says: “This is now the “N.V. Brut” of the estate; the “Carte Blanche” we knew is no more. Or rather, it is no longer Grand Cru, but rather Chardonnay from the Sezannais, and it’s decent in a kind of brusque and obvious way. But that’s not the business I’m in. We sell indecent wines, if we’re lucky. So, the wine in question is all Oger Chard, half-half ’06-’07, rather on the dry side (6g), and entirely impeccable; oystery, cool, yet ripe; especially good finish of oyster-shell and ore. Expressive considering disgorgement on the 8th of February 2010, and it will be starched, tasty and long when it’s over its post-disgorgement muteness.” 92 Wine Advocate: The NV Brut Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru Speciale, equal parts 2009 and 2008, bristles with considerable energy, focus and tension. Lemon, lime, white flowers, crushed rocks all jump from the glass in a gorgeous expression of Chardonnay from Oger. There is a crystalline purity in the Speciale I find hugely appealing. Readers who like tense, wiry Champagnes will love this Blanc de Blancs. Disgorgement date: July 26, 2012. Anticipated maturity: 2012-2018.” Tasting $49.99

Marc Hebrart Brut Rose NV– Champagne, France. Blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Terry Theise says: As always this is an intellectual lady-librarian with, shall we say, an ooh-la-la taste in undergarments, and perhaps a fetching tattoo hidden beneath them. You think it’s “correct,” it starts to vamp, you think it’s “sexy,” it starts to admonish you with its elegance and command. 46% CH, 45% PN and 9% Mareuil still PN (from ’06); the blend is 70% ’07, 30% ’06. 12/09 disgorgement. This is an extroverted rendition of this always-delicious Rosé. It’s almost giddy, silky, with crisp diction, yet baby, what ripe berries are in this basket.” Tasting $49.99

Mousse Special Club Brut 2006– Champagne, France. Cabernet Franc. 91 Wine Advocate: “The 2006 Brut Special Club is one of the few Champagnes readers will come across made entirely from Pinot Meunier. Dried pears, light honey, crushed flowers and almonds are some of the nuances that take shape in the glass. There is an attractive combination of richness and weightlessness in the 2006 I find especially appealing. The wine has the flavor profile of Meunier, but with a level of freshness and sheer vibrancy that acts as a nice foil to some of the richer notes in the glass. Disgorgement date: May 4, 2012. Anticipated maturity: 2012-2018.” Robert Parker says: “These are the first wines I have tasted from Mousse Fils, a small producer based in Cuisles. Quality is a bit inconsistent throughout the range, but the best wines point to a grower clearly capable of making beautiful Champagnes. I can only say I look forward to following these wines more closely over the coming years.” Tasting $79.99

(“Champagne’s Special Club is a unique collection of 26 Grower-Producers who all have the common goal of promoting the expression of terroir in the region. Their efforts and the wines that result are the best argument for the further exploration of specific terroirs in Champagne. It serves as a jury of peers that ensures that every Special Club bottle sold is of exceptional quality.”)

Neal Rosenthal: Neal is one of our favorite importers due to his strict adherence to the concept of terroir, strong principled approach to buying and selling, commitment to growers and customers, and his overall honest/purist approach (that unfortunately is waning in our business). I can go on and on about Rosenthal, but during this busy Christmas season I’m a bit short on time… so following is his “theory” about terroir (please visit his website to continue reading):

“Since our inception in late 1977, we have been engaged in the business of bringing to the market distinctive wines that reflect our devotion to the concept of “terroir”. When we began our work, there was little debate about this fundamental notion. Since that time the business of wine has boomed, the media has focused its attention on this aspect of life, technological change has come at a rapid pace and enormous amounts of capital have been invested in our world of wine. Many of these influences have resulted in a vast improvement in the overall quality of wine. We have benefited immensely from these developments and we are grateful for having been involved at such a stimulating moment.

That being said, we are also obliged to note that there have been trends during this period that are deeply disturbing to us. There is a fine line between making necessary refinements to a fundamental process and turning priorities on end. There is little mystery to the crafting of fine wine. At the core, one must start with the proper vineyard site and excellent viticultural practices. We had wonderful mentors who taught us early in our career that:
1) 90% of the ultimate wine is created in the vineyard; and,
2) the role of the winemaker is to let the wine make itself (“laissez le vin de se faire”).” Please click to read more…

Domaine Lucien Jacob: “The grandfather of the current proprietaire, Jean-Michel Jacob, created this domaine based in the village of Echeveronne in the hills above the villages of Pernand Vergelesses and Aloxe Corton. The estate was subsequently, and aggressively, enlarged by Jean-Michel’s father, Lucien, during the 1960s. Lucien was also politically active and served for many years in the National Assembly. We [Rosenthal] made the acquaintance of the Jacob family through a family connection: Jean-Michel’s sister, Chantal, had married Régis Forey, our long-term grower in Vosne-Romanée. We have now had the delightful privilege of representing the wines of the Domaine Lucien Jacob, run in cooperative fashion by Jean-Michel, Chantal and Jean-Michel’s wife, Christine, since the 1994 vintage.

The domaine originally specialized in growing cassis and framboise in the Hautes Cotes de Beaune and the prosperity occasioned by this type of farming provided the resources to purchase vineyards in the neighboring villages of Savigny Les Beaune and Pernand Vergelesses. Recently, Jean-Michel Jacob has further expanded the family holdings in the Cote de Beaune to include additional vineyard sites in several 1er Cru vineyards in Beaune.  The Jacob domaine now owns nearly 15 hectares of vineyards…”

Lucien Jacob Creme de Cassis– Beaune, France. Creme de Cassis is a sweet, dark liqueur made from blackcurrants. The blackcurrants are soaked in alcohol (ethanol) with sugar subsequently added. To make Kir Royal we will mix this Creme de Cassis with sparkling wine. Tasting $26.99

Bisson: “Enoteca Bisson was born in 1978 when Pierluigi Lugano fell in love with the wines of the Ligurian coastline. He began as a trader in small lots of bulk wine, later became a wine merchant and finally a grower in his own right. He now splits his time between his busy wine shop in Chiavari, the wine cellar and his vineyards…The small but very well equipped cellar is designed so that each lot of grapes can be vinified individually. With the exception of an occasional experiment with barrel aging, Lugano vinifies his entire range of wines in stainless steel to preserve the essential fruit of each vineyard site and each grape type.”

Bisson Glera 2011– Valdobbiadene, Italy. 100% Glera (formerly known as Prosecco). [This wine is] “the result of [Lugano’s] collaboration with a colleague with vineyards situated in the Treviso district of the Veneto. This lightly sparkling wine is particularly distinctive as Lugano insists on producing our cuvee in a bone-dry style. The Prosecco is bottled early to maintain its freshness and is released in the early months of the year following the harvest.  We recently converted to the use of a bottle cap closure for the basic cuvée, the “Glera” for ease of use and for its joyous accessibility.” Tasting $19.99

Grapes of Spain imports the final wine for the tasting, a great value Cava or Spanish sparkling wine called Conde Subirats. “Grapes of Spain, Inc. was established in November 2001, with its first container landing in the United States in Spring 2002, representing 8 producers. The company imports wines exclusively from Spain and currently represents 36 producers with a portfolio of 90+ wines from all corners of Spain. All of the wines are new to the U.S. market and are from family winegrowers and that focus only on high quality and limited production.”

Conde Subirats Brut Cava NV– Pendes, Spain. A blend of 55% Macabeo, 40% Parellada, and 5% Chardonnay. “This wine is produced from grapes grown in the heart of Sant Sadurni d’Anoia, the birthplace of Cava, among the high altitude hills of the subregion of Espiells. The grapes are harvested early to maintain naturally fresh, crisp acidity and are then fermented, separately in temperature controlled stainless steel to maintain the optimum of bright fruit aromas. The base wines are then blended and bottled with a bit of yeast to age for 18 months on lees prior to disgorging. The dosage is made with the most neutral flavored liquor to allow the flavor of the original grapes to shine.” Tasting $9.99

Neal Rosenthal at Lucien Jacob Neal Rosenthal (on right) at Lucien Jacob

Terry Theise 2 Terry Theise (looking very serious!)

Conde Subirats Bisson-Glera.  mousse jean milan marc hebrartlucien jacob

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