Wine 101: Sparkling Wine Terms

sparkling wine

As the fall & winter holidays approach, many wine consumers turn their sights away from rosé and towards sparkling wines. Champagne, crémant, pétillant naturel, frizzante, Cava, and Prosecco are all different types of sparkling wine, yet many people use the term “Champagne” to refer to any sparkling wine. This is a widely accepted, though incorrect use of the term. In this blog post, I will cover various types of bubbles and what the names actually mean.

Champagne: A variety of sparkling wine from the Champagne region in France. Only wines made according to the Champagne AOC rules may bear this term on the label (with a few exceptions). The grapes must be grown in Champagne, and the wine must be made using méthode champenoise (called méthode traditionnelle outside of Champagne). Champagne blends allow the use of chardonnay, pinot noir, pinot meunier grapes. Pinot blanc is also sometimes allowed.
Buy Champagne from Winelandia.com

Crémant: A term used to describe sparkling wines from France made outside of Champagne. For example: Crémant de Limoux, Crémant du Jura, Crémant d’Alsace, Crémant de Bourgogne – you get the picture. Crémant is made utilizing méthode traditionnelle, and can be made from a number of different grapes (depending on AOC rules). Not all sparkling wines made outside of Champagne are called crémant.
Buy Crémant du Jura from Winelandia.com

Cava: Sparkling wine from Catalonia (Spain) produced utilizing méthod traditionnelle. Cava blends typically contain the indigenous Spanish grape varieties macabeu, xarel-lo, and parellada.
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Prosecco: Italian sparkling wine from Veneto, produced using the charmat method. Prosecco must be made from the glera grape variety, though other varieties are sometimes blended in.

Frizzante: An Italian term for sparkling or semi-sparkling wine.
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Pétillant naturel: Also referred to as “pet-nat”, a French term used to describe wines produced utilizing méthode ancestrale. In this method, the wine is bottled before primary fermentation is complete. Primary fermentation completes in the bottle, adding a natural effervescence to the wine. Pétillant naturel wines are typically un-disgorged (meaning the lees is left in the bottle), though many commercial pet-nats are disgorged (lees removed) to be more appealing to a wider audience of wine consumers.
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Special Offer: Four Festive Wines for Thanksgiving Day

Wines for Thanksgiving Day

The holidays are fast approaching, and we’re here to help you select the perfect wines for Thanksgiving Day. We’ve put together a special Thanksgiving 4-pack to pair beautifully with your holiday creations. We’ve hand-picked each of these delicious, crowd-pleasing wines with food-friendliness in mind, and all of them are bound to impress your guests.

Each order includes all 4 wines listed below. Email orders@winelandia.com to reserve yours today!*

Price on 1: $107 ea. + tax & delivery
Buy 2 or more and save 10%!

*Available to California recipients only

The Wines:

2012 Champ Divin Zéro Dosage, Crémant du Jura
Type: Sparkling wine, Biodynamic farming
Country: France
Blend: Pinot Noir & Chardonnay
Course: Serve this fun sparkler when your guests arrive to get their appetites going and the conversation flowing.
Tasting Notes: Fresh and exuberant, with notes of apple cider and a touch of minerals.
Pairing: Perfect for any appetizer, but smoked trout canapés on thinly sliced apples will really make it shine.

2013 Celler Frisach “Vernatxa”, Terra Alta
Type: White wine, organically farmed
Country: Spain
Blend: 100% Grenache Blanc
Course: Serve with your first course of soup or salad, or with a cheese plate.
Tasting Notes: Texture! Minerals! Ripe meyer lemon!
Pairing: Winter squash bisque, cheese plates, hearty radicchio and arugula salad with roasted delicata squash, shaved fennel, and pomegranate seeds.

2013 Teutonic Pinot Meunier, Willamette Valley
Type: Red wine (light), sustainably farmed
Country: United States (OR)
Blend: 100% Pinot Meunier
Course: Serve this with your second or main course.
Tasting Notes: Succulent red fruit, sweet herbs, and delicate earth. Light-bodied yet lush, with super-soft tannins and juicy acidity.
Pairing: Herb-roasted birds, mushroom ragout, braised rabbit, ham

2013 Brea Cabernet Sauvignon, Paso Robles
Type: Red wine (bold), sustainably farmed
Country: United States
Blend: 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Cabernet Franc, 5% Petit Verdot
Course: Enjoy this bold red wine at the end of your meal, and continue to enjoy it after dinner in front of your fireplace.
Tasting Notes: Black currants, peppers, spice, and herbs. Beautifully structured and balanced.
Pairing: Braised beef cheeks, roasted rack of lamb, prime rib

Winery Visit: Copain Wines

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt’s no secret that I’m obsessed with wines from the Jura. White, red, yellow, sparkling, rosé – I love them all. The red wines are particularly delicious to me, so you might imagine how excited I was to find that Copain – a local producer based in the Russian River Valley – was growing and making wine from the Trousseau grape. There are only a handful of Californian producers that I know of making wine from Trousseau – one being the renowned Arnot-Roberts – which they have made since 2009. It turns out, the Copain plantings of Trousseau are grafted from the original vines used to produce the Arnot-Roberts Trousseau.

Colleen happened to be the person to introduce me to this great wine from Copain. We enjoyed a bottle of it over dinner at her house one fateful night. I was taken aback by it’s freshness, finesse, texture, and the outright Jura-ness of it. A California red wine epiphany. It was like drinking red Jura without the reductive aromas often found in Jura reds. I was in love with this bizarre little bottle from our home turf.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA(above photo is a Jura red, not the one from Copain)

I eventually found this wine again at Ruby Wine in Potrero Hill, and snapped up a bottle before it was all gone. Revisiting this wine really cemented how I initially felt about it, and it was showing even better the second time around. It was floral, spicy, and fruity all at once. It’s not often you can find a wine from California with so much elegance, complexity and femininity. It was full of texture while still being light on it’s feet. I was crushed when I found out that the Trousseau was all sold out for the year – I’d hoped to score some of it for the Winelandia Wine Club. I guess I can wait until next year.

The Copain Trousseau is what inspired a trip to the Copain winery in the Russian River Valley – just off Eastside road in Healdsburg. I headed up there just this past weekend to taste through their current offerings and to see the estate. You have to make an appointment to visit, so be sure to call before stopping by. It’s conveniently located just off Highway 101 in Healdsburg.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAUpon arriving, I was immediately enamored by the beauty of their estate. Small and rustic, it overlooks Riverfront Regional Park, a gorgeous little oasis complete with a redwood grove and multi-use trails for bikes, equestrians and hikers. The park would be a great place to enjoy a picnic at if you are visiting the winery, as the picnic area at the winery is reserved for wine club members only. They have 13 acres planted here – all of which is Picpoul Blanc, Trousseau and Poulsard. Everything is farmed sustainably, encompassing both organic and Biodynamic practices (although they are not certified for either). I took a seat at one of the comfy wooden chairs out front, and Phil graciously began my Farm Table tasting beneath the strangely warm January sun.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPhil poured for me all of their current offerings, beginning with their estate Picpoul Blanc. This neat little wine is aged in neutral French oak, which gave it body and character not normally found in your typical Picpoul Blanc porch-pounder. It was a great entrance to the wines that would follow, which included their entry-level “Tous Ensemble” Chardonnay, followed by several Pinot Noirs and Syrahs. The Pinot Noirs, mostly from the Anderson Valley area, showed rich and flavorful typicity of the region. The Syrahs – from the Yorkville Highlands – were dark, savory, and brooding. All of their red wines (the Syrahs in particular) showed tons of aging potential with great structure and balanced acidity. Copain wines are definitely Californian in style, but with restraint and balance normally reserved for the Old World.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Farm Table tasting also included a delicious spread of local cheeses, meats, and snacks. I especially enjoyed the crostini with white bean purée and fried rosemary. Everything paired beautifully with the wines that were served, the abundant sunshine, and the relaxing view. It doesn’t get much better than this – it’s the Holy Grail of the wine country experience.

I appreciate the warm hospitality shown to me by my host, Phil, and the beautiful wines made by Wells Guthrie. Winelandia hopes to offer wines from Copain in the future, as we feel they are one of the better producers in California. We highly recommend you stop by Copain for a visit if you’re planning a trip to the Russian River Valley – you won’t be disappointed. They are just an hour and a half north of San Francisco. Be sure to call ahead to schedule, as they are appointment only.

Copain Wines
7800 Eastside Road
Healdsburg, CA 95448
(707) 836-8822

Secret Wine Club: Jura

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis weekend, Colleen and I hosted another wine tasting for our friends. The theme was Jura wines.

The Jura is a a cool-climate, mountainous region in France between Burgundy and Switzerland, and is composed of six regions including Arbois, Macvin du Jura, Côtes du Jura, Crémant du Jura, Château-Chalon, and L’Étoile. Within these regions, wines are produced from poulsard, trousseau, savagnin, chardonnay, and pinot noir. White, red, rosé and sparkling wines are produced from these grapes.

The most famous wine from the Jura is called vin jaune (literally, yellow wine). This wine is made from the white savagnin grape which is picked when it’s very ripe. The finished wine is put into large oak barriques, and is allowed to evaporate through the staves of the barrel until a pocket of air forms at the top. A special strain of indigenous yeast forms a veil (or voile, au Français) over the surface of the wine, imparting a unique salinity and oxidative quality that gives vin jaune it’s trademark aroma and flavor. Vin jaune is quite intense, an acquired taste, and very hard to find.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMany white wines from the Jura have a similar (but not as intense) oxidative quality to them, since they are often made in the same method. However, the difference between vin jaune and standard white wine from the Jura is the duration for which it’s aged. Vin jaune must be aged for a minimum of 6 years, while other white wines aren’t required to age for as long. Some whites from the Jura are aged in a barrel without that pocket of air, creating wines that are still very uniquely Jura, but much fresher in flavor and less intense.

The red wines from the Jura are very unique as well, and a little more approachable than their white counterparts. The reds are light but structured, with aromas of fruit, spice and earth. Poulsard makes the lightest of the red wines, while trousseau makes more robust (but still pretty light) reds. Pinot noir is also grown in the Jura and made into red wine, but the straight varietal wines are difficult to find.

Our wine list for the evening:
2011 Les Dolomies Savagnin, Côtes du Jura
2009 Domaine de Montborgeau Chardonnay/Savagnin, L’Etoile
NV Phillipe Bornard “Tant-Mieux” Pétillant Naturel of Poulsard
2012 Michel Gahier Trousseau, “Les Grands Vergers”, Arbois
2011 Jacques Puffeney Poulsard, Arbois
2006 Jacques Puffeney Vin Jaune, Arbois

Choosing the correct food pairings for these wines was really fun, as they are wonderful with food and the Jura has some really interesting regional culinary specialties. Wild mushrooms seemed to be quite common in the Jura, and in the winter I’ve been told that potatoes topped with melted raclette are a staple. The Jura is also a fly-fishing destination (weird, right?), so I wanted to make something out of freshwater fish. We also found some regional cheeses, and a rustic cream tart sort of thing called a Toétché, for which I could only find a recipe in French. Our resident Francophile Colleen was able to follow it just fine, no surprise there.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOur menu for the evening:
Toétché (above)
Trout rillettes
Fresh baugette
Sautéed wild mushrooms (yellow foot, black trumpet, oyster, hedgehog)
Warm salad of roasted rose finn potatoes and wild mushrooms
Morbier & Comté cheeses
Wickson apples
Breakfast radishes with cultured butter and grey sea salt
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe found that the Toétché paired perfectly with the vin jaune. This made me very happy, since I wasn’t sure what the Toétché would even taste like. Big ups to Colleen for making it come out perfectly, it was absolutely beautiful and delicious. The morbier and comté cheeses were also wonderful with the white wines, although they did not pair particularly well with the reds. The trout rillettes were lovely with all of the wines, while the apples provided a nice, palate-cleansing counterpoint to all of the savory foods. I especially loved the breakfast radishes with cultured butter and sea salt, while others in the room weren’t so enthused (I learned of this snack from a Frenchman who was so graciously hosting me at a winery some time ago). Perhaps it’s an acquired taste, but I find that radishes are an excellent vehicle for butter. The sautéed mushrooms were lovely piled atop fresh bread and enjoyed with the poulsard and trousseau.

As for the wines, we found that most people loved the ‘Les Dolomies’ ($28)– a white savagnin aged in a topped-up barrel. It was fresh, rich, and awesome with food. The Gahier trousseau ($39) was definitely the stand-out, everyone really loved it (it was my favorite as well). The Puffeney vin jaune ($80) was intense, too intense for a lot of people in the room. I also wish I’d opened it earlier and possibly decanted it, but my decanter was full of the Bornard ‘Tant-Mieux” ($32)which was absolutely reductive, sweet, and generally awful (not surprisingly, it tasted much better the next day). A friend also brought a bottle of Chardonnay from Côtes du Jura, which was great to balance out all the savagnin in the room.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI hope everyone who came had a great time and learned a lot about these rare, unusual wines. I had a blast curating the list and finding foods to pair. I hope that everyone took away some useful knowledge and would feel confident ordering a glass from the Jura section on the wine list at their favorite French restaurant.