I'm tired of hearing people in Austin tell me "It's too damn hot to drink wine, I'll drink beer." Sorry, but that is just a whole mess o' wrong. Champagne and sparkling wines are perfect for the brutal weather we are enduring. Chill down the bubbles and pop the cork and you will be rewarded with joy, comfort and something that pairs really well with hot weather foods like fish, salads, cold chicken, shrimp cocktails and the like. Sparkling wine is a great refresher and brightens up any long hot day.
So, I cranked up the a/c in the car and headed over to my favorite, truly Austin wine shops to see what goodies they had in the way of Sparklers. Here are my favorites from their choices:
East End Wines, 1209 Rosewood Avenue
The funky old Victorian mansion at the "Y" on East 11th Street, run by two of my favorite wine guys Matt Miller and Sam Hovland. Nothing but great wines on their shelves and here are some bubbly examples:
Lallier Grand Cru Champagne, $48.97. Sam Hovland, the wine buyer says, "We got such a steal on this wine, a major retailer had brought it in, but didn't take it, so we jumped on it at the great deal price so we could offer their best wine at such a good price for our customers... we love that."
Jean Pernet Grand Cru Champagne 2009, $57.57 According to Sam, "I love the versatility of this wine. It can even handle some of the Texas spices in the food, cumin, pepper and will still clean the palate nicely."
Bisol Brut Prosecco 2009. A particular favorite of Sam's with its really exceptional acidity and minerality for Prosecco and only $21.97.
The screaming deal on bubbles is Summaroca Brut Cava Vintage 2008 from Spain, Sam loves this one because "It's such a great deal for free run juice of such high quality, and heck it's even vintage dated, very vibrant, fresh and really pretty", for only $13.97.
The Austin Wine Merchant, 512 West Sixth Street, between San Antonio and Neches.
Nobody does it better than the Merchant. Shopping there in this heat is also an added bonus as they keep the place at 65 degrees, 24/7! John Roenigk is the wine buyer and someone whose palate I respect, and he is a great wine resource in town. John's thoughts about sparkling wines and the heat, "Well, it's the bubbles isn't it? Hyper refreshing, it's why we drink sodas. It is refreshing on so many levels, physical, emotional, psychological, pick one! Sparkling wines and Champagne are the only wine I can drink all night long in this heat. Fill the tub with ice water and drink Champagne while soaking in it." Some of the really cool and groovy bubbles on his shelf:
Henriot Blanc Souverain Brut. 100% Chardonnay, discreet yet complex, chalky minerality and subtle yeasty toasty notes, and a real value in Champagne for $45.
José Dhondrt Blanc de Blanc, NV. Another 100% Chardonnay. John's take on it, "Very vibrant, creamy and just a touch of toast make this one very elegant and satisfying. Good breadth and balance from bottle age," also only $45.
The are also some real steals here. Simmonet Febvre Cremant de Bourgogne Brut, a very stylish sparkler from Burgundy, made in the traditional Champagne method, with three years bottle aging giving the wine amazing complexity showing toasty notes, fresh apple and a touch of limestone minerality. The beauty part? $16.25 a bottle! Serious.
Domaine Dorfeuille Sparkling Vouvray is the interesting choice. Highly touted by John, being 100% Chenin Blanc. Wonderful nose of toasty fruit and an amazing palate of toasty rich fruit with a nice round touch and plenty of balanced acids. At $17.50 this one is the best bank for the buck when you want something "different" but still way cool.
Central Market North Lamar, 4001 N. Lamar.
Ok, the first choice here is a bit pricy, but trust me on this one. Pierre Peters 1er Cru from Le Mesnil, $63.00. This gem is as good as if not better than a lot of Champagnes at twice the price. The balanced elegance, complexity of clean flavors that stay light and lively on the palate and sheer just yumminess more than justify the price.
For comparison sake, another personal favorite from Le Mesnil in Champagne is Salon, one of the kings of Champagne. Its cost? $300. See Pierre Peters is a bargain!
Schramsberg Blanc de Noir, another favorite, yes it's from California, but Schramsberg is one of the oldest wineries in the US and does an amazing job. Their wines are competitive with true Champagne in quality. The Blanc de Noir is 100% Pinot Noir, which gives a nice round red fruit note to the wine, still good minerality and acidity and $37.95 is a fair price for this quality.
Navaran Cava Rose is also 100% Pinot Noir from Spain, and shows great complexity and roundness on the palate, also a great deal at $39.
The value choice is Col di Luna Rose Prosecco from the Veneto region of Italy. Round, soft, clean, crisp and just the thing to beat the heat at $21.99
Austin has a lot of great places to grab just a glass of bubbles or have a bottle with dinner, or try a Champagne cocktail. You will leave relaxed and refreshed.
Rob Moshein's wine reviews can also be found at The Austin Wine Guy blog.