Lucien Albrecht Crémant d’Alsace – Offering Both Quality and Value

Americans have have a hard time relating to historical significance as our country is not even 250 years old with the Columbus voyage just 525 years ago.  Yet, almost 600 years ago -- in 1425 -- Romanus Albrecht started producing wine that would eventually evolve into one of Alsace's famous brands: Lucien Albrecht. The current winery traces its heritage to Balthazar Albrecht, who in 1698, settles in Orschwihr after the end of the Thirty Years’ War and cultivates vines. After the phylloxera epidemic and Alsace's return to France post WWI, Henri Albrecht replants vineyards by grafting rootstock to the vines and his success leads to Lucien Albrecht and Crémant d’Alsace. Albrecht leveraged the the work of Julien Dopff and began test productions of sparkling wines in 1971. Five years later the official AOC Crémant d’Alsace designation of origin is established mandating that the sparkling wine be made in the ...

Bubbly From The Middle East And Latin America

Middle Eastern Wine, Latin American Wine High quality, affordable bubbly comes from some totally unexpected places around the world. While many winemakers use traditional production methods, local grape varieties and growing environments make these wines entirely unique. For example, champagne is made using the Traditional Method (sometimes called méthode champenoise), a technique which involves making bubbles through a second round of fermentation in the bottle. This same approach is applied in Brazil and Mexico, regional flavors and styles give these wines their own distinct profiles. Similarly, Italian prosecco is made in the Charmat Method, with the second fermentation happening in the tank, rather than in the bottle – for a fresh take on this classic style, look to Argentina. While some haven’t gone mainstream and may still be hard to source, it’s worth the effort to track down these yet-to-be-discovered bubbly wines… to see the full list, I ask you to please click over to ...

Loimer NV Brut Rosé: A Wow-Worthy Sparkling Wine from Austria

Hello Friends,

I’m sure you’ve heard the saying: “While all Champagne sparkles, not all sparkling wine is Champagne.” The terms are often used interchangeably, but a sparkling wine can only be called Champagne if it comes from the Champagne region of France. And just about everyone, at least in my sipping circle, enjoys the heck out of a good bottle of Champagne. However, equally as satisfying and worthy—and oftentimes less expensive—are “traditional method” sparkling wines like this appealing Brut Rosé from Fred Loimer. Whether you see classic method, traditional method, méthode traditionelle, etc. on the label, these wines require that the bubbles be produced within bottle by a second fermentation in the same way as Champagne. While this method is more labor intensive, time-consuming and costly, it generally produces tiny, longer-lived bubbles and wines of high quality and complexity.

Loimer NV Brut Rosé

The Loimer Brute Rosé is bio-dynamically ...

Loimer NV Brut Rosé: A Wow-Worthy Sparkling Wine from Austria

Hello Friends,

I’m sure you’ve heard the saying: “While all Champagne sparkles, not all sparkling wine is Champagne.” The terms are often used interchangeably, but a sparkling wine can only be called Champagne if it comes from the Champagne region of France. And just about everyone, at least in my sipping circle, enjoys the heck out of a good bottle of Champagne. However, equally as satisfying and worthy—and oftentimes less expensive—are “traditional method” sparkling wines like this appealing Brut Rosé from Fred Loimer. Whether you see classic method, traditional method, méthode traditionelle, etc. on the label, these wines require that the bubbles be produced within bottle by a second fermentation in the same way as Champagne. While this method is more labor intensive, time-consuming and costly, it generally produces tiny, longer-lived bubbles and wines of high quality and complexity.

Loimer NV Brut Rosé

The Loimer Brute Rosé is bio-dynamically ...

Nino Franco Summer Kir: A Refreshing Cocktail to try with Nino Franco Rustico Prosecco and Root 23

Hello Friends,

Nino Franco is one of the quality pioneers of Italian Prosecco. The winery was founded in 1919 by Antonio Franco and is located in northeastern Italy in the prominent wine growing region of Valdobbiadene. Nino Franco’s Rustico label honors the historic name of the original method used to make Prosecco, which was second ferment in bottle. Pressurized vessels are used today in what is known as the Charmat method. This method lowers the cost considerably, so sparkling wine can enjoyed any time of year, not only during celebratory occasions and holidays.

Beat the heat with this delicious, pretty cocktail! 

Classic cocktails such as the Mimosa and Bellini, which uses Prosecco and other sparkling wines, are delightful, but let’s kick it up a notch with something new and exciting. How does a flute or coupe of Nino Franco Summer Kir sound? You need only three ingredients: a bottle ...

Wine of the Day, No. 415


The Bianchi Extra Brut Sparkling Wine, non-vintage, hails from Argentina’s Mendoza region, where it is made by Bodega Valentin Bianchi. A blend of 60 percent chardonnay and 40 percent pinot noir grapes, grown at 2,460 feet elevation, this charming sparkling wine was produced in the Champagne method of second fermentation in the bottle. The color is very pale platinum blond, animated by a steady foaming stream of tiny bubbles; notes of roasted lemon, spiced pear and fresh-baked brioche are twined with hints of quince and ginger and an undercurrent of limestone that burgeons across the palate; there’s a faint, tantalizing touch of almond blossom. It’s quite crisp and dry, revealing lovely tone and presence, and culminates in a finish that delicately evinces the limestone-chalk element. 12.2 percent alcohol. A delightful aperitif on a warm Summer afternoon. Excellent. About $22. Imported by Quintessential Wines, Napa, Calif. A sample for review.

Weekend Wine Notes: Allons, enfants de la patrie!

The wine regions of France, especially Bordeaux and Burgundy, long served as the models and the ideals for producers and winemakers all over the world. Even nowadays, when wine-making has proliferated worldwide and expanded far beyond the so-called “noble grapes” of French origin, Burgundy is often seen as the apotheosis of chardonnay and pinot noir, Bordeaux the epitome of cabernet sauvignon and merlot, Champagne the ur-text of sparkling wine. I offer today, in celebration of Bastille Day, 12 examples that illustrate, even if in a severely limited degree, the diversity and the versatility of French wine production. Some of those noble grapes are involved — cabernet and merlot, indeed, chardonnay and pinot noir, riesling — but also a more everyday variety like gamay and obscure grapes like jacquere. In one blog post, no one could begin to assay the immense complexity of France’s geographical extent and appellation system, but I ...

Wine of the Day, No. 399


The Kuentz-Bas “Tradition” Brut, Crémant d’Alsace, nv, a blend of pinot noir, chardonnay and pinot blanc, according to the back label, is an absolutely delicious Crémant d’Alsace, made in the Champagne method of second fermentation in the bottle. (The estate goes back to 1795, if you keep track of that sort of thing.) The color is pale gold, animated by a surging froth of tiny glinting bubbles; it’s an incisive, steely, smoky sparkling wine that offers notes of pear and almond skin, jasmine and seashell, all delicately strung along a fine-boned, tensile structure. On the palate, this is a gratifying combination of crisp acidity and creaminess, making for a lip-smacking texture that flows like cool silk through the mouth, all these elements bound by scintillating limestone minerality and lively effervescence. 12 percent alcohol. Excellent. About $24. Imported by Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant, Berkeley, Calif.

Wine of the Day, No. 376

A whimsical name belies a seriously well-made sparkling wine in the Inman Family “Whole Buncha Bubbles” Blanc de Noirs 2014, Russian River Valley. Made completely from pinot noir grapes, as is the tradition for blanc de noirs, derived from the winery’s OGV Estate vineyard and aged three years on the lees, this champagne-method sparkler offers a very pale straw-gold hue and an abundant radiant shimmer of tiny bubbles. Alluring scents of jasmine, smoke and steel, roasted lemons and pears unfurl just a hint of fresh-baked brioche. as well as notes of quince and ginger, seashell and heather. The whole construct is elegant, delicate and fine-boned, like a china tea cup so thin that it’s almost translucent, yet there is no mistaking the tensile foundation in flint and limestone minerality nor the clean acidity that lends the structure a crisp, chiseled aura. 12 percent alcohol. A real pleasure to drink, now ...

Wine of the Day, No. 355

Brooks Wines, in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, and what better way to commemorate that milestone than with a bottle of the recently-released Brooks Sparkling Riesling 2015. One hundred percent riesling and aged 15 months in bottle on the lees — disgorged in August 2017 — this pale gold sparkler shimmers with a froth of tiny glinting bubbles. Aromas of spiced apple and pear are woven with seashell delicacy (and a touch of salinity) with a background of flint and almond skin; it’s quite dry yet bristling with acidity that refreshes the palate and keeps you going back for another sip; a touch of roasted lemon precedes notes of heather and hay that open to an intriguing hint of meadow flowers; the finish is lithe and chiseled. 12.5 percent alcohol. Thoroughly delightful to drink now and capable of resting undisturbed for a few years to ...

Wine of the Day, No. 349


Looking for a terrific and inexpensive sparkling wine with which to toast your sweetheart, baby or doppelganger of whatever gender, ethnicity, spiritual orientation or galactic origin for Valentine’s? Why of course you are! Here’s my advice: Find and enjoy a bottle of the Domaine Paul Mas M Côté Mas Blanc de Blancs Brut, from France’s Côteaux du Languedoc appellation. Non-vintage-dated, 100 percent chardonnay and made in the traditional Champagne method, this delightful quaffer offers a hue of palest blond and an attractively clean and fresh character enlivened by a fount by energetic bubbles; hints of pear and spiced peach open to notes of lime peel and almond skin. The whole sleek package is taut and crisp, light and delicate, with an elegant tide of limestone minerality that finishes with fragile seashell salinity. 12 percent alcohol. Very Good+. Impressive for its detail and dimension, and no one will know that it ...

A Cava for Valentine’s Day

Pata Negra Brut Rosé Cava

We received a sample of Pata Negra Brut Rosé Cava. This cava is produced by J. Garcia and Carrion Winery, established in 1890. The cava is a blend of Trepat and Pinot Noir and spent a minimum of twelve months aging during the secondary fermentation. The cava’s color was a reddish orange. Their were multiple columns of tiny bubbles forming both a center and circumference mousse on the wine’s surface. The aroma was reminiscent of strawberries, raspberries and blackberries. The mouthfeel was creamy and lively. The taste included berry fruits with cherries on the finish. The cava retails for $14.99. The varietal grape, Trepat, is an indigenous grape to the Catalonia region. It is one of the native grapes approved for use in the production of rosé cavas. This cava pairs well with several occasions, especially Valentine’s Day. The red color and lively bubbles ...

30 Great Wine Bargains of 2017

I suspect that while many readers may find the annual roster of “50 Great Wines” interesting, they don’t necessarily find it essential. Today’s post, however — “30 Great Wine Bargains of 2017” — I hope will be greeted with expectation and gratitude. Who doesn’t love a bargain, especially when the price is attached to a wine that performs above its weight and class? Prices on this list range from about $7 to $20. Twenty-five of these selections rate Excellent, with the next five rated Very Good+, and each one offers a hefty and distinguishing serving of quality. The breakdown by genre is 15 white, 13 red and 2 rosé. By country or state: Italy 7; California 6; France 5; Spain 3; Germany 2; and one each from Argentina, Chile, New Zealand, Oregon, Portugal, South African and Washington. Whatever, it’s not the statistics that count but the wine inside the bottle. ...

12 Days of Christmas with Champagne and Sparkling Wine: 12th Day

So here we are, friends, the last post in the 11th edition of “12 Days of Christmas with Champagne and Sparkling Wine.” It’s Twelfth Night, traditionally a time of revels and misadventure, though of course I devoutly hope that no misadventure befalls you. Tomorrow is the Feast of the Epiphany, a word that means “made manifest” but which we nowadays think of as implying some sort of revelation, as in “When I was watching ‘The Big Sick’ last night I had an epiphany about the meaning of life.” Well, in any case, good luck with that. Today I offer four sparkling wines, an actual and true Champagne and examples from Bordeaux, South Africa and Oregon’s Willamette Valley. I hope, as always, that this series is entertaining and educational, and I wish you all a Happy New Year and prosperous 2018. Peace and love will triumph yet. Maybe. These ...

50 Great Wines of 2017

The prices of these 50 Great Wines of 2017 range from an unprecedented $15 to a whopping $250. Not that I expect My Readers to hasten out and snatch up a bottle of wine that costs $250, but when an extraordinary wine crosses my horizon and I rate it “Exceptional,” well, it goes on this list no matter the price. That’s one of the criteria for this annual roster: Every wine I rated Exceptional in 2017 is included automatically, followed by wines I rated Excellent and that I go back through the reviews and parse very carefully. Now I’m sure My Readers understand that by “50 Great Wines” I’m not saying that these are the 50 greatest wines in the world, just that they’re great wines — as I interpret greatness — that I tasted during the year in question. What makes a wine great? Purity, intensity, integrity, authenticity, as ...

12 Days of Christmas with Champagne and Sparkling Wine: 11th Day

Pricing is power, but sometimes producers get ahead of themselves in terms of ambitious tariffs. These examples today illustrate how makers of sparkling wine in the Charmat process of second fermentation in tank, rather than in the individual bottle, as in Champagne and other regions, over-reached and did a disservice to consumers. These wines were samples for review.
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Le Grand Courtage sparkling wines are made in Nuits-Saint-Georges in Burgundy but have nothing to do with that great appellation and its 27 Premier Cru vineyards. Le Grand Courtage “Grand Cuvée” Blanc de Blancs, nv, for example, is a blend of chardonnay, ugni blanc, colombard and chenin blanc; of that quartet of grapes, only chardonnay is permitted in Burgundy, which is why the Grand Courtage wines — there’s also a brut rosé — carry the broadest possible designation: France. Nothing in the material associated with the products indicates the fashion of ...

12 Days of Christmas with Champagne and Sparkling Wine: 10th Day

Established in 1691, Domaine Valentin Zusslin is run now by the 13th generation, brother and sister Marie Zusslin and Jean Paul Zusslin. The 16-hectare estate (about 39 acres) converted to biodynamic principles in 1997 and is certified by Ecocert and Demeter. The Valentin Zusslin Brut Zero Cremant d’Alsace, nv, is a blend of 95 percent auxerrois with dollops of chardonnay and riesling made in the traditional method of aging in the bottle on the lees. It is finished without sulfur or an additional dosage. A very pale straw hue is animated by an exhilarating upward rush of tiny bubbles; this is an incredibly fresh and appealing Cremant d’Alsace, offering notes of spiced pear, lime peel, orange blossom and almond skin in a dry, lithe package powered by bright acidity, scintillating limestone minerality and a bracing saline finish. 12.5 percent alcohol. Loaded with flair, integrity and a sense of authenticity. ...

12 Days of Christmas with Champagne & Sparkling Wine: 9th Day

Two renditions of brut rosé, one a Champagne that displays lovely style, tone and elegance, the other a well-crafted and delicious Cava from Spain. You pays yer money and you takes yer choice. These wines were samples for review.
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For four generations, the parents and grandparents of André Jacquart only produced Champagne grapes. In 1958 André introduced a new spirit in the family, producing his own estate-bottled Champagne in Le Mesnil-sur-Oger. Since 2004, Champagne André Jacquart has been located in the village of Vertus. Major work was undertaken, and the fifth generation, represented by Marie Doyard (the grandchild of André Jacquart) stepped in to run the business and inspire it with her own philosophy. Winemaker is Floriane Eznack. (Champagne André Jacquart should not be confused with Champagne Jacquart, a cooperative founded in 1964 that expanded from 30 to 1,800 growers today and for which Floriane Eznack is also the ...

12 Days of Christmas with Champagne and Sparkling Wine: 8th Day

We drank the Laurent-Perrier Brut Millesime 2007 for New Year’s Eve, along with paper-thin slices of pepper-and-cognac-cured gravlox that I started on Saturday. What one wants from a vintage Champagne is a certain tone, style and sense of elevation and elegance befitting its provenance and price, and the Laurent-Perrier Brut Millesime 2007 delivers. This is 50 percent each chardonnay and pinot noir, aged seven years in the bottle on the lees. The grapes derive totally from Grand Cru vineyards. The color is brilliant medium gold with slight rose-gold highlights; bubbles are abundant, shimmering and glinting in their upward rush. The first impression is of roasted lemons and spiced pears, woven with quince and crystallized ginger and undertones of heather and acacia, lime peel and flint; full-bodied on the palate, yet spare and lithe, this Champagne displays the verve and momentum of a thoroughbred, balancing bracing acidity and scintillating limestone ...

Pét-Nat: Bubbles for a New Year

Pét-nat bubbles are produced by the oldest and least interventional method, méthode ancestrale, which originated in Limoux in the South of France. Pét-nat ways predate bubbly Champagne and bear distinct qualities derived from fermentation in the bottle, generated by yeasts that are native to the vineyard or winery. Because it is bottled under a crown cap (think of a beer bottle) during fermentation, carbon dioxide remains in the bottle, resulting in bubbles. Winemakers don’t hand-hold the fermentation process – what happens in the bottle stays in the bottle. This results in a vibrant, lively, alive fermentation process – a method of delivering all that vivacity direct-to-drinker. Flavor profiles vary due to the grape varietal and other conditions, so bottle-to-bottle uniqueness is the rule. I had the opportunity to talk to Central Coast winemakers Ian Brand and David Baird about pét-nat wines – how they are made and why winemakers ...