It’s the time of year when my job really does go to the next level of toughness. So many bubbles. So little time. How to taste, rate and write about all the good bottles of bubbles on the market, let alone enjoy the occasional glass or three.
This weekend we will pop the cork on a very large bottle of celebratory bubbles because we have finally found a new place to call home – in the wonderful Wairarapa town of Martinborough. It’s not called the silly season for nothing. Did I mention we are not only snowed under with work (like half the world right now) but we also bought and settled a house in less than a week (did I hear the world’s smallest violin playing just for us?). It’s easy to get absorbed into one’s own problems, first world or not, so, conscious of the bigger issues in the world and of the festive season, here my top 12 bubbles of the year. I hope you enjoy them and the hopeful chance for rest and relaxation over the next few weeks, wherever in the world you are.
Quartz Reef Brut NV $29-$34
Quartz Reef Brut was the brainchild of winemakers Rudi Bauer and Clothilde Chauvet (daughter of champagne maker Marc Chauvet) who pioneered Central Otago’s best known bubbly, which has now become Bauer’s flagship sparkling wine (he also makes a stunning vintage blanc de blanc and a rosé). This one, like most wines from Otago, is based mostly on Pinot Noir (now 72% of the blend) with the balance being Chardonnay. It’s aged on lees for two years and it’s almost a travesty that it costs so little, given the intense flavours, great body and length. Not that I’m complaining because if I had a house pour wine, this would be it (and, okay, I have to admit, it often is).
Villa Sandi Cartizze Vigna La Rivetta DOCG $62.99
Cartizze is the hillside heart of Prosecco country where the best bubbles are made. Its steep hillsides equal higher sunshine, which equals riper grapes and more flavoursome wines. And this bottle proves the point because it comes from the Vigna La Rivetta Estate, a cru Prosecco that lives up to its importers’ suggestion that it sits among the best sparkling wines of the world.
If you’ve ever wondered if there was such a thing as next level Prosecco, well, here it is.
Tohu Rewa Rosé Methode Traditionelle $40
Rewa Rosé is all about Pinot Noir and is aged for two years on lees, which provides its rich, savoury, toasty flavours and lingering flavoursome finish. A stunning wine that punches well above what its price suggests. Delicious.
Tohu Rewa Blanc de Blanc $30 to $31
The South Island of New Zealand is home to some of the world’s tastiest and best value bubbles, including this creamy smooth, 100% Chardonnay with all the richness, weight and length of sparkling wines that usually cost a lot more than this.
2013 Saint Clair Dawn $37 to $49
This sparkling wine was made in honour of its namesake, Dawn Ibbotson’s 100th birthday in 2014. She has now turned 105 and still lives alone, with a little daily help – and a fresh crisp, dry and full bodied glass of this stunning wine to enjoy every day. It’s made from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir; all hand harvested. The Chardonnay was tank fermented with malolactic fermentation to add softness while the Pinot was fermented in aged French oak barrels.
Champagne Lallier R015 $49.99
Lallier is a stunning champagne house based in Ay and the R015 is the flagship wine. It’s made from 61% Pinot Noir, 39% Chardonnay and 80% of the grapes come from the 2015 vintage, which is where the name R015 comes in. R stands for recolte (harvest) and the remaining 20% is 2008, 2009 and 2012 reserve wines. The result is dry, full bodied, toasty and complex.
Bollinger Special Cuvee $89
If a five star rating suggests perfection, that’s because the fine bubbles, intense flavours and impeccable balance in Bollinger’s flagship bubbly, the Special Cuvee, is outstanding. And don’t just take my word for it. Bolly is made from 60% Pinot Noir, 25% Chardonnay and 15% Pinot Meunier; over 85% of which are from Grand and Premier Cru vineyards – top vineyard sites.
2012 Brown Brothers Patricia Brut $29.99
If 800 metres above sea level in northern Victoria isn’t reason enough to grow grapes to make cool climate, high quality sparkling wine, then I don’t know what is. This blend is 80% Pinot Noir and 20% Chardonnay with long lees aging providing richness and dryness to this full bodied, flavoursome bubbly.
Champagne Taittinger Prelude Grands Crus Brut NV $129.99
Another tasty champagne from a well known house and grand cru vineyards. Love the freshness, full body and dry taste of this beautiful bubbly. A must try for champagne lovers.
2017 Alpha Domus Cumulus Methode Traditionelle $28.99
A blancs de blancs made from hand picked, whole bunch pressed grapes (gentle extraction, great concentration). Bone dry with one gram of residual sugar, 12.5% ABV, creamy smooth flavours and firm acidity adding freshness and length. It’s made from 26 year old Clone 6 Chardonnay vines grown at Bridge Pa in Hawke’s Bay and was disgorged at Soljans in West Auckland.
2012 Daniel Le Brun Blanc de Blanc $39.99
This is 100% from Chardonnay with all the rich, creamy taste and full body that suggests. A big brand that retains high quality in its production and a modest price to boot.
No 1 Family Estate No1 Rosé $47
Daniel and Adele Le Brun made their first bubbles in Marlborough in 1980 and have since forged a name as top producers of sparkling wines made the same way as champagne, only in the eminently more affordable region of Marlborough – and they are members of Methodé Marlborough. This is one of their extensive range of bubblies; dry, full bodied and with high but balanced acidity combining nicely with the intense toasty aromas, thanks to being 100% Pinot Noir.