WINE REVIEW MAY 2019

COLD SPARKLERS ON HOT DAYS

With Royal coronations and election results dominating the calendar for May it’s the perfect time to pop the cork on a bottle of sparkling wine in salute of these all-important events. It’s also worth noting that enjoying a bottle of refreshing bubbly is no longer limited to those with big bank accounts but open to nearly anyone choosing spritz over still wine—particularly pleasant during these scorching days.

While certainly true that premium vintage sparklers from the vaunted French department of Champagne can run well into five figures per bottle depending on age and availability, there are literally hundreds of alternatives costing as little as about Bt500 a bottle. The vast difference in prices owes primarily to the method by which the wines are made and the quality of the grapes used but does not mean there isn’t pleasure in both. More often than not it’s the nature of the occasion that dictates which wine is preferable.

Putting the sparkle, carbon dioxide in other words, in wine first occurred centuries ago when yeast continued fermenting after it was thought to have ceased and the container capped. The resulting sparkle was a pleasant surprise and gradually evolved into the methode classique used by all winemakers in Champagne. It’s a time consuming and expensive procedure requiring fermentation in each bottle then opening the bottle to extract dead yeast cells followed by adding a small dose of sugar then recapping the bottle for further aging. Premium vintage Champagnes spend a minimum of seven years aging before being released.

Modern technology entered the sparkling wine market in the early 1900’s with the advent of the Charmat method of fermentation developed by Eugene Charmat. Instead of fermentation inside each bottle it occurs in large pressurized steel tanks after which it is filtered then bottled eliminating much of the laborious and time consuming steps in the traditional method. While some complexity and bubble finesse is lacking in most tank produced sparklers the lower price, often a tenth of that of vintage Champagne, makes it a popular option.

Italy has capitalized on the tank method with its multitude of sparkling wines from Asti and Prosecco. Villa Sandi, Martini, Fontana Fredda, Cascine and Breganza are few of many Italian brands available in Thailand, ranging in the Bt600 to Bt 800 per bottle. From Australia Jacob’s Creek moscato and Woolshed pinot-chardonnay blend are in the same price category as are many in the same range from U.S. For those who prefer the more complex flavors of sparklers made using the traditional method Codorniu and Frexinet from Spain and Chandon from Australia are pleasant options under Bt1000 each.

Following up as promised on last month’s Big Brew Bust IPA competition at the Roadhouse BBQ the winners were: 1st, Hop City DDH IPA; 2nd, Weekend Vibes IPA; 3rd, Invalids & Convalescents IPA; 4th, Resting Brew Face IPA; and 5thFresh Squeezed IPA. All are on limited availability at the Roadhouse.

Cheers!

Written by: R. James Mullen