The ICC group met on Thursday 5th March to taste Sparkling Wines – or, more specifically, Sparkling Wines from 6 European Countries made from local grapes. So no Champagne, no hint of Chardonnay or Pinot, and all made by bottle fermentation – not always the most common method in all the countries.

We were looking at Sparkling wine from two aspects, really – as a party / celebration / event wine or as a more widely usable food wine. You might call these aspects vivacity and vinousity. My comments will touch on how the wines sit with those different perspectives, but the scores are all-things-considered expression of both. Against my own rules I had to resort to ½ points as some of the wines were very close

Here are my notes:

SOLTER BRUT RHEINGAU RIESLING SEKT NV   –   12½%   (Oddbins – £18)
Bready and yeasty first nose, leading to Riesling elements of elderflower and citrus. Very supple acidity with a light “spritzy” recessed mousse even when the bubbles have died down, later peach notes appear. Very satisfying and long; vivacious and food friendly; and about 40% voted for it as the favourite.
Quality: 16.5/20   Value: 15.5/20

BLANQUETTE DE LIMOUX 2011 (CH. RIVES-BLANQUES)   –   12½%   (LSFW- £14)
This has a “gluey”, almost Cava-like, first nose. Then hints of baked apple and honey. Palate has a nutty element, then some grape flavours and a intensifying mineral line climbing to a spicy finish. Later, when the bubbles are less interesting, a bitter orange peel finish becomes apparent – a food-friendly development that earns an extra point. Definitely vinous and not vivacious, though.
Quality: 15.5/20 Value: 15.5/20

MARIA GOMES METODO ANTIGO NV (LUIS PATO)   –   12½%   (Oddbins, Highbury Vintners – £15)
This has a fragrant nose with apple, honey and blossom (a little Chenin-like). Slightly pear, confectionery palate with an early and slightly bitter herbal finish. A bit disappointing in current company, but not bad.
Quality: 14/20 Value: 14/20
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GRÜNER VELTLINER BERG 2012 (HUBER)   –   12½%   (Oddbins – £18)
Lovely Grüner Veltliner nose: with apples and white pepper, citrus, peach and only a hint of Brioche. The palate is as complex with the mousse just another, extra, dimension. The finish has a food-friendly mineral twist and the whole package is very well balanced between celebration and vinous pleasure. For me the best all-rounder, and about 20% agreed.
Quality: 17/20 Value: 16/20

DENBIES WHITEDOWNS SPARKLING WINE    –   11½%   (Grower- £22)
Light yeasty nose, citrus and hints of blossom. Very fruity mousse adding an elderflower flavour to the lightness. The bubbles froth up and almost dissolve in the mouth, giving a pleasure not unlike eating good ice-cream on a sunny day. In fact this conjures  “Hissing of Summer Lawns” impressions of mythical English Summer afternoons, no doubt on the Croquet Lawn. Expensive but lovely!
Quality: 15.5/20 Value: 14/20

METODO CLASSICO “WHITE FLOWER” (BRJNDA)   –   13%   (Vini Italiani- £18)
Yeast and flowers again, although the nose moves to a heavier darker blossom tone. The palate has a persistent mousse, dryness and light citric flavour, but the weight and length of a good Champagne. A well made wine but – in the context of this tasting – IMO – a bit four-square.
Quality: 15.5/20 Value: 15/20

So, a very interesting tasting with wines that each show well, the only disappointment, for me, being the Portuguese wine. Value is pretty good too, even without comparing with Champagne prices. A case can be made for each wine, I certainly thought one of the most interesting with food, the Blanquette, and the most party-focused, the English – could be from different worlds and only the bubbles makes one think of comparing them. Indeed if I was planning a wine for a summer afternoon picnic the Denbies would be lovely. However the best all-rounders, combining aperitif, qualities, vivacity and serious wine qualities too were the Sekts. For me the Grüner Veltliner just shades it on grounds of complexity, but it’s very close. Very enjoyable all round, you can never have too much Sekt.

Until next time.

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