Sparkling wine masterclass in East Fremantle
Last Tuesday night I attended the first sparkling wine masterclass at The Wine Store in East Fremantle. It was hld in the cellar under the store from 6:30 – 8:30pm. Along with a choice of 7 sparklings there was plenty of water and for nibbles a choice of 3 delicious French cheese, crackers and honey. The Wine Store’s Sommelier Marine Duplan hosted the evening with an introduction from one of the owners, Rob Bates-Smith. It was an informative and educational masterclass where we tasted through 6 different sparklings and Champagne. The evening kicked off with a taste of Argentinean Jed Blanc de Blanc in our glass followed by Marine’s explanation of how Champagne and other sparklings are made. There are more stages and steps than you would think and it was very valuable to have this discussed in the room before the tasting really got going.
The Champagne process is anything but quick but for the sake of keeping my post to under 1000 words, in summary the process starts with the vintage. Then once the vines are picked and fermented (all separately), then follows the blending. Second fermentation in bottle is next (which gives the wine the bubbles), then maturation with ageing on the lees (dead yeast cells) followed by riddling, disgorgement and finally the dosageT then after several weeks or months the wine is shipped off to market. Back to our wine! So during the evening, we tasted:
1. Jed Blanc de Blancs NV from Argentina, $22.00: You’d never think of Argentina as a place to make sparkling but its high altitude means it’s cooler than you’d think and cool conditions are perfect for growing grapes made for sparkling as it helps to retain the necessary high acidity. This wine is made from Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc – the latter not a common grape variety in a sparkling. Such a refreshing, lean and yet lively wine with high acidity on the palate with aromas of apple coupled with a slight complexity of biscuit.
2. Zuccolo Prosecco NV from Italy, $25.00: Made from the Glera grape grown the north east corner of Italy bordering Slovenia, this wine is made in a different style, the Chamat method. This is the same method as the ‘traditional’ or ‘champagne method/méthode champenoise’ but instead of the second fermentation in bottle, it takes place in tank. The grape variety and the method of making the wine reflects the style they are looking for in this wine; fresh, fruity and aromatic. You wouldn’t keep this wine long but at $25 I shouldn’t imagine it would last long in many peoples’ fridges let alone their cellars!
3. MVSA Cava NV from Spain, $20: From the Penedès region of Spain, north east of Barcelona, this wine is produced the same way as Champagne but the grapes are very different indeed – they are indigenous Spanish grapes; Macabeu, Parellada and Xarel·lo. The three grape varieties bring a different dimension and quality to the wine; Macabeau adds the fruit and acidity, Parellada the aromatic aromas and the Xarel·lo, its structure. A refreshing and easy drinking style with aromas of apple and peach – you can’t go wrong with $20!
4. Silverstream Brut NV from WA, $25: Made from 100% Chardonnay from Denmark WA, this has spent 24 months on lees and as a result has developed some complexity on the palate; brioche with refreshing acidity and hint of stone fruit.
5. Cruzat Rosé Brut NV from Argentina, $40: This is made from 100% Malbec which is a red grape variety normally more famous as a single varietal from this country. The winemaker’s aim is to make better Champagne than the French – I love his goal so whether he does or not will depend on the results of future tastings. In any case I found this an interesting and complex wine. Made by the ‘traditional method.’ I don’t know how long he left this wine in tank and then in bottle before he sold the wine but the secondary aromas of yeast, biscuit and intensity could make me guess at least 3 years.
6. Canard-Duchêne from Champagne, $58: We ended the night with a famous Champagne house. Champagne is made from 3 grape varieties, Chardonnay (white grape), Pinot Noir (red) and Pinot Meunier (red). The reason this Champagne (and many like it) are not rosé in colour is because the red grapes were not pressed too harshly. Only the juice was extracted from these grapes – not the skin. Chardonnay makes up 25% of the blend with 25% Pinot Meunier and 50% Pinot Noir. As with Cava, each grape gives something different to the wine; the finesse and elegance from Chardonnay, structure and red fruit from Pinot Noir and the fruitniess from the Pinot Meunier.