I too was impressed with the 2013 Riesling Brut from Reichsrat von Buhl (read my review here). After years of producing just another Winzersekt the 2013 Riesling Brut was the first large-scale proof that, after years of being otherwise mediocre, Riesling also works well in sparkling wine. With the bone-dry signature of new winemaker Mathieu Kauffmann, the Von Buhl series (in particular the still Rieslings) has come back out of the shadows and, alongside Dr. Bürklin-Wolf and Von Winning, is back at the forefront of Pfälzer Wein.
The 2013 Rosé Brut was released a few months after the Riesling Brut to much anticipation. Now sold-out, orders were limited to six bottles per customer – my handler was only able to sell me four bottles before he ran out as well, unable to replenish stocks.
The wine is made entirely of Pinot Noir (or Spätburgunder in German). Aged for no less that 15 months on the yeast, the grapes are sourced from prime vineyards in the Pfalz region.
An elegant salmon pink with rose-gold gleam and a fine mousse.
Very fruity and yet incredibly discreet – nothing perfumed, nothing too bright and yet remarkably fresh: raspberry, strawberry and a hint of grapefruit with a toasty (although reserved) note.
The attack is both refreshing and yet not sharp: the sweeter side of grapefruit, raspberry and the strawberry in the nose are the first to appear and make up the body with the tarty appeal of rhubarb – no bitterness. The finesh is nice and toasty but in no way compromises either the freshness of the wine or the discreet appeal of the sweet red fruit. A touch of vanilla is perhaps there but plays a very background role.
A very well-made sparkling rosé and one of the best value-for-money bottles available in the pink bubbly sector altogether. Miles better than nearly all of the Champagne wines that retail for twice the 25€ price tag, the appeal is that it is so fresh. Whilst you might associate German Pinot Noir with earthy, Cassis-driven wines; this is clean, modern and very elegant.
If you can get hold of a bottle, you will not regret it. If you already have some in the cellar, it drinks beautifully now and will do for a long time yet.
During a three week holiday to Cornwall this summer, I stopped off in Nanstallon to pick up a few bottles of what is considered to be Cornwall’s best bubbly: Camel Valley. Apart from a backdrop of rain and grey skies on that very July day, the vineyard was a pretty sight – still not one that I am used to in England.
Unlike the flagship products of many other big-name UK wineries, Camel Valley’s Brut isn’t a Champagne wannabe but rather a unique and very English approach to winemaking. The varietals that make up the wine are therefore not Chardonnay, Meunier and Pinot Noir but Seyval Blanc, Reichensteiner and Huxelrebe.
Pale gold with a fine mousse.
Fresh orchard fruits, lots of grapefruit as well – an underlying spice with white pepper and fresh herbs – yeasty notes are rather covered up reminding of lemon cake rather than bread.
Quite sharp on the attack with green apple and grapefruit juice (only the sweet elements mind you). This moves on to a lovely lemon syrup that leads the way into a body of green fruit: green apple, ripe pears and gooseberry - the finish isn’t particularly big and powerful but it does allow the fruit to stay on the tongue long after swallowing. Fresh parsley and white pepper finish off the wine discreetly and expertly.
A good English bubbly – I like the English feel to it with the massive fruit in the body and on the nose and enjoy the way the wine’s finish doesn’t kill that off. The structure isn’t necessarily defined but I suppose that does make it easier to drink and less forgettable. Alongside Chapel Down, this is one of the best-priced English sparklers on the market – the Cornwall Brut might not be the most delicate of the English bubblies but it certainly is a true patriot when it comes to defining what the ‘English Style’ could possibly be – a true bulldog in a market sector where nearly everyone else is trying to be a poodle.
Whereas the majority of English wineries release their wines to retailers directly, a handful have a small production run that they chose to allocate the limited edition bottles themselves. One such winery is Sussex’s Hoffmann and Rathbone. The small estate is home to three wines, all of which were first made using the 2010 harvest of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier – the three varietals also grown in Champagne.
Aged for 44 months, this 100% Chardonnay is a sign of good things to come from this up-and-coming winery in a very exciting part of the country and possibly the ideal location to grow sparkling wine in England at all: Sussex. I was lucky enough to get hold of the first release 2010 wine through a small retailer in Germany, for information on purchasing this wine, please contact the winery directly here.
Pale straw yellow in the glass with a very fine perlage.
The wine reminds of high-quality lemon juice on the nose, there is also a Perry note to the wine with hints at both ripening pears and green apples. A toasty brioche note is in there as well and it is complimented by a faint sense of oak.
The wine is quite sharp on the attack with lemon juice, grapefruit and a hint of orange peel. This moves onto a body of orchard fruits: particularly green apples and it reminds of French cidre or English Perry on the body – thick in fruit although the finish is remarkably well pulled-off, hinting at oak but also making those typically yeasty sparkling wine notes very calm and collected.
Whilst the attack and body might seem sharp at first, it does make the wine very refreshing and suggests that it will keep for five years or so. The fruit consistency is very agreeable and, whilst it might not quite achieve elegance à la Ridgeview or Nyetimber, it does again prove that English sparkling wine is on the rise. This is a winery to watch out for - in my opinion this is going to be one of the big players once the production levels rise and it certainly deserves to be up there. I've heard good things about the 2011 vintage and am looking forward to trying something.
Van Volxem is undoubtedly one of Germany’s finest and most famous wineries. It is, of course, famed for its single-vineyard Riesling wines in the wonderful Saar valley but alongside these products and a handful of estate, varietal wines, the company also produces a fantastic sparkling wine: 1900 Riesling Brut.
There was a time when sparkling Saar Riesling was just as sought-after as Champagne in Germany: unfortunately, these days are long gone and only a few producers still make sparkling Riesling of the highest standard. The motto of Van Volxem is that only prime grapes (from the coldest parts) are used in the making of this wine: fully ripe grapes from high-quality vineyards on the steep slopes of the Saar Valley. The wine spends a long time in the bottle before being released for sale and some of the base wines are also aged in oak before the second fermentation begins: what happens is that a fantastic ripe and not overly-sour sparkling Riesling emerges: far more delicate than a great deal of other wines produced in a similar way and far more drinkable thanks to the balanced taste.
Straw gold with a compact mousse.
The wine gives off a citrus and stone fruit aroma but also the feel of freshly-baked fruit loaf: there’s also a unique smoky feel too.
The attack is surprisingly youthful: fresh citrus in the way of lime and lemon but also pink grapefruit and sprinkling of stone fruit: particularly peach. The body is rather creamy and the finish both floral and mineral-laden: slate, smoke and a touch of wood for elegance. The finish is long and the fruity notes stay on the palate for a while after swallowing.
A Riesling Sekt with class is Van Volxem’s 1900: easy to drink, delicate and elegant with all of the notes of classic, high-quality bubbly but a unique Saar-like feel: if you know the still wines of Van Volxem, the feel of the base wines is to be expected although the minerals are not as pronounced – the final effect is a wonderful sparkler that offers much better value for money than the majority of Champagne’s available in this price bracket (25-30€).
English wine is hard to find in Germany so imagine my surprise when I saw Hattingley Valley for sale at my local supermarket. I’ll admit, I hadn’t tried anything from the producer before so it wasn’t long before a bottle of Classic Cuvee made its way into my shopping basket.
Hattingley Valley’s winery is situated in Lower Wield, right in the middle of Hampshire in Southern England. The 2010 vintage was the winery’s first and the grapes are grown in the producer’s own vineyard of over 24 hectares. The head winemaker is Emma Rice who has recently been awarded with the United Kingdom Vineyards Association ‘Winemaker of the year’ title – you might recognise her name from her days at Nyetimber – probably England’s most famous sparkling wine producer.
This wine is made of the classic Champagne varietals: Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier and Pinot Noir and 25% of the total blend was aged in old Burgundy barrels. 2011 was a particularly good vintage for English wine thanks to the warm late summer period meaning that the grapes achieved a high level of ripeness.
A lovely peach-toned colour with a bright, off-gold appearance. Fine and composed bubble structure.
A very fragrant fruit note is the first thing to notice about this wine, alongside the typical citrus and orchard fruit exists a sense of something red – raspberries perhaps but this is so faint it disappears as soon as the brioche notes appear with a unique feel of oak at the end of the nose.
Very fresh on the attack with notes of apples and pears, it soon made way to a zesty lemon and floral body which eventually goes on to a brioche taste and a light smoky feel on an oak-tinted finish (an interesting touch rather than overdoing it as is so often the case)
A very good but also very individual wine – a lot of English wines are Champagne copycats but this one, despite opting for the same varietals, takes a unique approach with those fresh apples and pears and the oak on the finish. I like that in a wine, particularly in English wine – I believe this to be the future rather than creating a style of wine that already exists.
There’s been a lot of hype surrounding this product in the last few weeks, particularly in the German wine scene. We’ve seen a rather prominent journalist label it as one of the best Riesling sparklers ever to originate from Germany.
You see, whereas Germany is famed for its wonderful Riesling, sparkling wines made using this grape often feel clumsy and off-balance, German sparkling wine isn’t big and, up until recently, it didn’t seem like many people were doing anything about it. There are exceptions of course, the wines of Schloss Vaux, Kessler and, at a push, Geldermann are respected bottles and yet their international appeal has always been relatively low.
Recently a handful of wineries (renowned for their still wines) have been experimenting with sparkling wine: Van Voxlem (Saar, Mosel) for example with its fantastic ‘1900’, Markus Schneider (Ellerstadt, Pfalz) recently released his appealing ‘Bubbly’ and now Reichrat von Buhl with its simply named ‘Von Buhl Riesling Brut’.
What makes Von Buhl’s entry so interesting is that the persona of Mathieu Kauffmann is behind it: the man who made another sparkling wine house what it is today: Bollinger (Champagne).
I must admit, Von Buhl was one of the wineries that got me into wine – I used to drink cases of its simple Riesling back in the day and it was undoubtedly one of the wineries that opened my eyes to German wine and particularly Riesling. The Pfälzer winery is one of Germany’s best known and, despite having recently been overhauled, its labels are also the most recognisable.
Pale gold, faint sense of orange with a delicate and seemingly slow Mousse.
Very fresh to start, lots of apples, lemon peel, grapefruit and a handful of yellow fruit: yellow plums and perhaps a sprinkling of nectarine. The yeasty note together with the fruit reminded of baked confectionary rather than bread or brioche.
The Attack was very sharp and rather strong but also incredibly fresh: lemon-drizzle cake sprang to mind but perhaps the fruit could best be described with apple and yellow plums. A hint of gooseberry was to detect and the body took these notes, together with lots of acidity right to the end which seemed very dry and rewardingly toasty although not enough to compromise the freshness of the citrus-driven acidity.
A very unique effort and one that pays off – the acidity is harsh, long and yet provides the wines its uniqueness – the sour taste compromises nothing and, together with the fruit, actually is very pleasant and certainly refreshing – undoubtedly a wine well worth trying and one of the better sparkling wines I’ve ever tasted from Germany – there are Champagne influences: the acidity and dryness remind of well-made Champagne but, when you consider value for money (14€!), the 2013 Von Buhl Riesling Brut is an absolute bargain and makes its French cousins appear very expensive indeed!
Les Folies de la Marquetterie is a terroir Champagne from world-famous brand Taittinger. The grapes used (45% Chardonnay and 55% Pinot Noir) are sourced only from the Folies vineyard, a slope that overlooks the Château de la Marquetterie – the origin of the Taittinger Champagne brand.
Only the must from the first pressing is used to create the wine, which is produced in small batches and some of the base wines are aged in large oak casks before the second fermentation.
Taittinger is one of the largest and best-known Champagne brands from Reims, as one of only a handful of brands still privately owned, its wines are available worldwide and, alongside its standard Brut Reserve line and its renowned Comtes de Champagne vintage series, the house has a selection of limited-edition specialities: les Folies de la Marquetterie is one of these.
Deep golden yellow with a fine, consistent and delicate mousse.
A delicate undertone of fresh fruit defines the wine at all times: whilst there is a certain amount of citrus: particularly sweet lemon and pink grapefruit, the deciding characteristics are of stone fruits: mostly white peach and sweet, juicy apricots. A fresh sense of green apple was also to detect as well as a sense of toasty sweet pastry and a faint sense of Cognac.
After a fairly long, sweet-sour attack in which both the peach and lemon played a role came a big yellow-fruit body which brought with it brioche, fresh toast and a faint sense of wood. Whilst the body was pleasant and relatively large, it was composed and clean and a slight mineral touch consisting of iron and slate finishing off the wine cleanly without a long finish.
A very appealing sparkling wine – whilst it possessed all of the notes typically attributed to Champagne, it was all very compact and tidy. The body was large and yet delicate – not a note out of place and strong enough not to disappoint. It felt a little more exclusive than its price tag would suggest and I was pretty sure that the Chardonnay came through a lot better than the Pinot Noir despite it being of a smaller quantity.
Serve with white fish starters, Raclette or simply as an aperitif to a light meal.
When you think of Italy and sparkling wine, two words spring to mind: Prosecco and Asti. Whereas both can be rather good (although it is rare in the case of the latter), neither are on a par with the sparkling wines of France and even Spain.
Italy’s true sparkling wine production region is, without doubt, Franciacorta – situated in Northern Italy’s Lombardia region. Made using Chardonnay Pinot Noir/Nero and Pinot Blanc/Bianco in a similar way to Champagne (second fermentation in the bottle), it is some of Europe’s finest sparkling wine.
The higher annual temperatures make an impression on the final wines which are fruitier and less sour than their Northern-French counterparts. Unlike Champagne, Franciacorta must spend a minimum of 18 months in the bottle during the second fermentation (Champagne 15 months) although the classification requirements in relation to residual sugar are exactly the same.
Due to the majority of consumers being less aware of the wines, Franciacorta is rather well-priced. A decent wine costs seldom over 25€ and even the vintage stuff is priced at around 30€. The quality is however very similar and, although there is a fuller, neater feel to Franciacorta, there are certain parallels between it and the world’s most famous bubbly.
Contadi Castaldi is a producer of Franciacorta DOCG in beautiful Adro. This is their entry-level wine and it is priced around 20€/£. 80% Chardonnay, 10% Pinot Nero and 10% Pinot Bianco make up the final cuvée which is aged for a minimum of 18 months before release.
A pale satin colour with a very fine and discreet mousseux.
Fresh citrus was the first thing I picked out – lemon peel and ripe lemon juice. A hint of lime was in there too as well as a handful of stone fruits: particularly white peach. There were also unique nutty notes: almond and walnut but also a feel of fine fresh white bread.
The attack was mild and yet dominated by fresh lemon and grapefruit. Alongside melon, orange, clementine and peach in the body a uniquely fresh sense of freshly-baked white bread and lemongrass was present. The finish was smooth rather than yeasty and the whole affair felt rather light.
A fantastically well-composed bubbly – both light and full of flavour, it felt discreet and yet offered a great deal of character. I can imagine this as a brilliant aperitif or even a companion to simple pasta dishes or those based on freshwater whitefish. One of the best-value sparklers I’ve had in a long time.
A wine I tried a few years ago, I wanted to try the current vintage (2010) and was given the possibility to do so at a trade fair in Düsseldorf a few weeks ago. Since trying it for the first time, the English sparkling wine scene has gone from strength to strength: back then Balfour was a new player with only a handful of over people making their names on the newcomer scene.
Whereas the other English producers broke free with their white bubbly, Hush Heath first started making the wine scene news with their elegant Balfour: a rosé made using the traditional blend of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier (46%, 45% and 9% in that order for the 2010 Vintage). Click here for more from me on English Sparkling Rose.
A very pale and discreet pink - natural.
Very fresh on the nose, this wine promised sweet red fruit although an underlying citrus appeared to be in place. Darker forest fruit seemed closeby and the mineral notes were rounded – nice toasty feeling, but not too heavy – suggesting a lighter drink.
Very refreshing and juicy red berries but also a lovely summer-fruit compote in the attack: blueberries, strawberries and even raspberries eventually gave way to some lively acidity (interestingly, the structural backbone of the wine). The finish was deliciously yeasty and pastry-like: not too much yeast but just enough to finish off the sweet red fruit with a harmonious note. Long finish although squeaky-clean and remaining elegant long after swallowing.
The best English Rosé I’ve ever tried – I liked the 2007 Nyetimber but this feels more authentic: there’s no “I want to be Champagne” behind it but a true sense of uniqueness – perhaps this British style the wineries are looking for? Excellently and evidently lovingly-made, a true ambassador for the English wine industry.
With Pommery and this brand being almost certainly the most experimental when it comes to 'new' styles of Champagne, this Taittinger is the most unique French sparkler I've even enjoyed.
Made using 40% Chardonnay and 60% Pinot Meunier, it isn't Brut but the dryness classification level under that: Sec - not quite as bone dry as Brut Champagne but also not as sweet as Medium or Demi-Sec. The Cuvee is aged for four years before release and is a blend of over 30 different Crus and multiple vintages to ensure relatively similar wines over a number of years.
With a rich golden colour, the bubble structure is thick and concentrated.
The wine is rather fruity and the bready notes found in most Champagne is hidden or certainly more discreet. The fruit was driven by peach, apricot and other yellow fruit but some honey, a splash of lemon and some sweet floral notes were to detect too.
The fruit in the nose: fresh apricots, long smooth peach and also a faint sense of something more exotic comes through in the attack. These are joined by a hint of mineral aromas but this is impaired by the relatively high level of sugar - enough to take away the slight 'bitterness' that the standard Taittinger Brut Reserve has. The overall feeling is a smooth one, velvety and yet the finish is crisp, despite being sweet and long.
This is a great alternative to those who have trouble with the yeastier and drier side of Champagne - it isn't half-dry (half-dry spakling wine can feel rather clingy and badly made) but dry and therefore crisp, refreshing and honest. This is a taste direction very popular in Germany when it comes to bubbly but few Germanic wineries are able to combine this somewhat relaxed approach with high quality and often make wines that feel clumsy, dull and syrupy - this doesn't belong to that category - a great aperitif or companion to a simple finger food buffet.
-Sud de France
-Pinot Blanc (Weißburgunder)
-Pinot Gris (Grauburgunder)
-Pinot Meunier (Schwarzriesling)
0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
-Medium / off-dry
-Brut Zero/ Brut Nature
-Medium / off-dry