Apr 10 2009

Sparkling Californian White Bests Champagne in Clash of the Titans

In Thursday night’s “Clash of the Titans: Champagne vs. the World,” Just Grapes customers were put to the test in a blind tasting of seven sparkling wines, including one true champagne.  Asked to rank the seven bubblys from one to seven (seven being the highest quality sparkling and one being the lowest), the tasters chose a surprising winner: the NV Schramsberg “Mirabelle” sparkling Chardonnay/Pinot Noir from California.

The only actual champagne in the line-up, the NV Duval Leroy Cuvee “Paris” Champagne was ranked fifth.

Tasters were shocked upon our revealing each sparkler and many couldn’t believe they’d ranked Champagne fifth, but are the results truly that surprising? As Just Grapes’ Managing Director Don Sritong explained during the class, Champagne is made using “méthode Champenoise,” or the traditional method, which features an in-bottle second fermentation, requiring more personal touch and hands-on involvement than sparkling wine fermented in large vats. The Mirabelle sparkling wine, which is 71% Chardonnay 29% Pinot Noir (two of the three grapes used to make Champagne; Pinot Meunier being the third), is made through méthode Champenoise.

We believe this wine was chosen over true Champagne–and several others–because of its fruit forwardness, with a subtle strawberries & cream aroma, and notes of pear and citrus. The Duval Leroy “Paris” Champagne features the yeasty “toastiness” (that bread-like taste) that we celebrate in a great Champagne, along with notes of toasted walnut and almond, and for many who have never or rarely tasted true Champagne before, these are new and surprising characteristics in a wine.

From highest-ranked to lowest, the full results were as follows:

1. NV Schramsberg “Mirabelle,” California
2. NV Brun Terres Dorees “FRV 100” Rose Gamay, Beaujolais, France
NV Gran Sarao Brut, Cava, Penedes, Spain
Adami Prosecco Garbel, Colbertaldo, Italy
5. NV Duval Leroy Cuvee “Paris” Champagne, France
NV Black Chook, Sparkling Shiraz, Australia
NV “Syn” Cuvee Blanc Sparkling, McLaren Vale, Australia

Thank you so much to the participants in last night’s taste-off. If you’d like to try your hand at an upcoming blind taste-off at Just Grapes, check our “upcoming events” page for “Clash of the Titans Part II: Bordeaux vs. Burgundy!”

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