Wednesday, December 28, 2011
In bubbly's worst week, try Franciacorta
This is the week when casual drinkers walk into the grocery store, or the warehouse, looking for an obligatory bottle.
It's not what they want; it's what they feel they must. So they go cheap; wouldn't you? Why pay $20 for something that isn't what you feel like drinking anyway?
They buy cheap bubbly. If they're lucky it's inoffensive like Sprite. But it's not going to inspire them to want to drink bubbly again until they have to.
It's like the impact Beaujolais Nouveau had on Cru Beaujolais. Yet that's a better situation because the grapes are the same, and so are the producers. Not so sparkling wine: people making quality ones are working in different regions with different grapes than people making the ones most people will drink on Dec. 31.
Which brings me to Franciacorta. The region has the strictest regulations for any sparkling wine in the world -- longer bottle aging on the lees; smaller yields in the vineyard. It's the subject of my Palate Press column this month. I started this rant just wanting to write an intro and link to that, because it was published the day after Christmas and I think not many people saw it. But I just had to get the rest off my chest.
It sucks to be a bubbly lover this week. You answer all sorts of soul-sucking questions ("which is better?" between two $4.99 specials) and give unheeded advice and see people either rewarding the mass producers with their economies of scale, or splurging on marketing rather than craftsmanship.
The Contadi Castaldi “soul” Franciacorta Satèn 2005 tastes much older, in a good way, perhaps the result of lower pressure over time. It's quite complex, with a clean-old-kitchen feel: dried apples, toasted hazelnut, clay, cedar character, and that delicate, low-pressure mouthfeel.
UPDATED: My reader Glenn found the Contadi Castaldi Satèn for sale at this Texas wine shop, which ships throughout the US. It's $39 a bottle, which I think is very reasonable, considering that you should compare the price to vintage Champagne. It's not too late to try it for New Year's, if you want to spring for overnight shipping. But bubbly shouldn't be restricted to a single night; consider ordering some by ground shipping to enliven the dark days of January.
Read the Palate Press column.