By Rick Riozza
And just like that, Thanksgiving 2018 is already fast approaching. There is so much wine out there to recommend, why don’t we narrow our focus to a type and style of wine that simply and forever speaks of holiday joy and celebration—Champagne & Sparkling wines!
Bubbly is produced from vineyards all over the world. And due to ever increasing improvements in winemaking practices, the sparkling wine market continues to excel—with very reasonable prices persisting.
However, as we must declare—either as an homage or from well-earned respect, France’s Champagne region retains its place as the world’s premier sparkling wine producer. And as we all know, in order to call itself “Champagne”, the wine must have been made in that French region, everything else from everywhere else is happily deemed “Sparkling wine”.
Last year my particular recommendation was a sparkling wine type: a brut rosé. Like its “still wine” counterpart, rosé wines can pair and match with almost every food on the holiday table. Rosé Champagnes often take twice the time to produce because of the cumbersome rosé winemaking process of blending or bleeding, along with aging, thus the selling prices per bottle can often reach the ceiling.
For instance: Piper-Heidsieck Rare Rosé 2007–$700.; Dom Pérignon P2 Rosé 1996— $1500.; Cristal Vinothèque Rosé 1995–$4,000. Dreaming of a “Pink Christmas”—are we? Fortunately, we’ll hear from our esteemed column guest, the valley’s wine guru, Costa Nichols, who’ll chime in with some wonderful holiday bubbly recommendations, both as to quality and price.
My personal pick this season is a blanc de blancs Champagne. Where Rosé Champagne has various amounts of Pinot Noir in the blend, Blanc de Blancs are made with only the Chardonnay grape. You readers seem to be quite familiar with this style of bubbly: it’s always selling out at my store—never mind what haters say about Chardonnay, when it comes to a sparkler, it’s clean and crisp.
Champagne Henriot Brut Blanc de Blancs is one of my all-time favorites. As their company has always stated, “With history that dates to 1808, Champagne Henriot has been guided by the pursuit of the purest expression of Chardonnay for 200+ years, acquiring only family-owned properties that boast exceptional terroirs. Champagne Henriot is one of the few remaining family-owned Champagne houses and the first to venture into Burgundy.”
Henriot’s Brut Blanc de Blanc is the Champagne House’s flagship label and is indeed one of the purest expressions of 100% Chardonnay at a reasonable price range. Actually, I think the entire Maison Henriot portfolio which includes Bruts, Roses, and Cuvees, are some of the best wines for the price. We did a comparison with the Veuve portfolio a couple of years ago, and Henriot consistently showed better and was priced lower.
The non-vintage Henriot Blanc de Blanc is especially delicious. I believe that’s because up to 40% of the bubby is from reserve wine—it simply shows in the flavor. The nose is lively and fresh with soft floral nuances, hints of ginger, pear and citrus around some minerality. Quickly the aromas impress that an exquisitely made wine is before you.
What surprises everyone is that for a blanc de blancs, it is a full-bodied bubbly with lots on the palate. We get honey, toasted brioche, quince, orchard fruits, candied lemon peel, toasted nuts with a touch chalky and stony presence that simply drives us brut devotees crazy!
At around $60, it is the enthusiast’s treat of the season. It’s the holidays, so why not enjoy a great bottle of Champagne!–cheers!
And now, we welcome the wise wine recommendations from our friend Costa Nichols, owner of the beloved Palm Springs wine, beer & spirits shop of all time here in the valley, Desert Wines & Spirits, and, GO DELI MARKET, at the same location in the Sun Center Mall on Palm Canyon Blvd.
There’s nothing more satisfying for us wine folk than to support this venerable wine shop that is still family owned. For the up-coming holidays, Costa tells us, “We are passionate about providing thoughtful, worldly and hand-picked selection of the fine wines and spirits gifts available.” Gift services include wrapping and shipping!
And of course, we love to mention their Saturday wine tastings at the wine bar. Do get on their email list to keep up with all the weekly theme bottles being poured. Here are Costa’s picks and comments for your holiday pleasure:
Sensi Prosecco Brut $19.99
This GOLD bottle from Sens is a very approachable Prosecco that is loaded with generous apples, pears and stonefruit, with a refreshing and dry finish; a sublime sparkling wine, pleasantly-refreshing and superbly lively on the palate. Great as an aperitif!
Canard-Duchene Brut Champagne 29.99
Here you can have the real thing, an excellent French wine that over delivers in quality for the price. It is truly elegant, fine, fresh and well balanced. Light gold, with fresh apple and lemon aromas and flavors that are complemented by subtle floral and honey nuances.
Domaine Laurier Brut Rosé 10.99
This is an excellent bargain in that the sparkler is made in the French method (Methode Champenoise) and not in the bulk process. It offers good fruit, lovely bubbles and finishes dry. A great holiday buy for the price!
Sensi Pinot Noir Rosé 19.99
Sensi makes two wines and this dry Italian sparkler (spumante, in Italian) in a beautiful pink bottle is a lively wine to pair with turkey and all the trimmings. The aroma is fresh, pleasant and fragrant, enriched by pungent notes of white flowers and soft fruits like blackberries, raspberries and strawberries.