Sparkling wine, in all its forms, is amazingly popular. In our annual blind tasting, we look at fizzes from all over the world, and discover some gems, occasionally from surprising locations. By Alice Liang.
The year-round popularity of sparkling wine has never subsided. The editorial team of drinks business Asia gathered with a panel of judges, comprising wine professionals from different sectors in Hong Kong, to give a verdict on flights of the versatile wine in various expressions, including Champagne, Prosecco and Cava.
When seeking out a good sparkling wine, acidity is always the key to upholding the freshness and structure. A flabby sparkling wine tastes like an alcoholic fizzy drink, or even worse, a soda water, as Tersina Shieh, wine marketer and independent wine judge, said during the judging process.
Champagne, a synonym for celebration, has been facing a tough time during the Covid-19 pandemic. However, for the reigning king of sparkling, the quality of the wine held its own in the competition. Champagne Castelnau was founded 1916 and underwent a rebranding in 2017.
Champagne Castelnau Brut Réserve – the flagship wine of the house – took home a Master, thanks to panel being impressed by its “mesmerising” character. Shieh said: “It is so fresh and lean, with attractive brioche notes. It benefitted from lees contact, as the tension is well delivered.”
And Champagne Castelnau Millésime 2006, the vintage expression of the house, won a Gold medal. As Anty Fung, wine specialist and manager of Hip Cellar, noted: “It is another vinous example with lots of autolytic character, grip and acidity that lingers.” Both wines are priced between HK$400-HK$800, meaning they offer exceptional value.
English fizz has been attracting attention from professionals. The emerging category has even been spoken of as ‘the new Champagne’. Catching up with the Champagne, it was Gusbourne from Kent that shone from this sector.
Made from a blend of estate-grown Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier, Gusbourne Estate Rosé 2015 was another Gold winner, with a price tag in the HK$300-HK$500 band. Fung said: “I can taste the fresh red fruit quality wrapped in a Comte cheese rind. The sparkling wine has good length and balance, and is a great example of what a rosé sparkling wine should be.”
Meanwhile, the layered and balanced profile of Gusbourne Estate Blanc de Blancs 2014, predominantly made with Chardonnay from a Burgundian clone, caught the eye of Eva Ma, senior marketing executive of EMW Fine Wines, who said: “The wine illustrates a New World-style méthode traditionnelle; it is slightly oaky but well integrated.” The wine was awarded a Silver medal.
Looking at the Bronze winners, we saw the presence of organic sparkling production, which is also growing strong around the world. Emiliana, the Chilean winery from the Central Valley, is one of the dedicated vineyards practising organic and biodynamic agriculture in the country; its Etnico Sparkling Wine NV “exudes a lovely white floral and lychee scent with lean structure” commented Ma.
Moving back to the Old World, Vilarnau Rosé Delicat Brut Reserva NV is an organic Cava that showed a high price- to-quality ratio. Shieh described the fizz as: “Bubbly and zesty, the wine is brilliant for the price.” It is worth mentioning that both wines bear a favourable price point between HK$100 and HK$200.
The panel tasted a variety of sparklers from around the world, including Joseph Vallet Splendid Blanc de Blancs Brut from Bourgogne, Dynasty 5° Sparkling Wine from China and Andreola Mas de Fer Rive di Soligo, Prosecco di Valdobbiadene Superiore DOCG 2018 from Italy. The tasting proved that no matter where in the world you look, there is something sparkling being made that will appeal to the most discerning of consumers.
White Sparkling Brut
|Dynasty Wines||Dynasty 5° Sparkling Wine||Tianjin||China||NV||Bronze|
|Viñedos Emiliana||Etnico Sparkling Wine||Casablanca Valley||Chile||NV||Bronze|
|Domaine Pierre Labet||Joseph Vallet Cuvée Splendid Blanc de Blancs Brut||Bourgogne||France||NV||Bronze|
|Azienda Agricola Andreola||Mas De Fer Rive Di Soligo Valdobbiadene DOCG Extra Dry||Veneto||Italy||2018||Bronze|
|Champagne Castelnau||Brut Réserve||Champagne||France||NV||Master|
|Champagne Castelnau||Champagne Castelnau Millésime 2006||Champagne||France||2006||Gold|
|Champagne Castelnau||Blanc de Blancs 2006||Champagne||France||2006||Silver|
|Gusbourne Estate||Blanc de Blancs||Kent||UK||2014||Silver|
|Gusbourne Estate||Brut Reserve||Kent||UK||2015||Bronze|
Rosé Sparkling Brut
|Vilarnau||Rosé Delicat Brut Reserva||Cava||Spain||NV||Bronze|