Corks were flying at our Napa office on Friday, and that was a good thing.
Tim Fish and I tasted a couple dozen new releases of California sparkling wine for our annual report, due later this year, and this research turned into an exciting afternoon of sparklers.
The reason for my enthusiasm is that in the past two years, when we’ve tasted the current offerings of bubbly, the results have been, well, flatter than we’d like.
While we’ve found plenty of good sparkling wines in recent years, too many of the wines were simply uninspiring, lacking the kind of complexity you hope for with sparkling wine.
This year, the wines are richer, more focused and more complex. We found enough goodies in the very good to outstanding range to be encouraged that this category of wines is in better shape than it’s been in recent years.
One reason is that the wines used for the nonvintage Bruts are either of superior quality or based on better vintages. Or wineries are making more deliberate cuvées and focusing on their best wines. (Nonvintage Bruts are typically blends of several vintages, and the right mix makes a difference.)
And it’s likely that producers, anxious to prove they can make superior cuvées, are pushing quality as well.
Some of my favorites came from the bigger, established sparkling wine houses, including Domaine Chandon, Domaine Carneros, Gloria Ferrer and Mumm Napa.
Chandon has also moved to a crown cap (like you find on beer bottles), which it believes is better for wine preservation than cork, for its étoile cuvées. Both the Brut and Rosé were excellent.
Our comprehensive report, covering all the major wineries and cuvées, comes out in December, when Tim will summarize our findings.
Until then, there’s a good reason to slip down the California sparkling wine aisle and grab a couple of bottles.
Everyone needs an excuse to celebrate something.