At a recent family holiday gathering, we had a blind tasting of 5 sparkling wines. Our family members do not live in PA and do not really know or care what the PLCB is. To our surprise, the PLCB Chairman's Selection entrant was the clear favorite, against some highly rated and classic competition!
The wines included:
Blanc de Noirs New Mexico NV
Available in PA
PLCB Code: 29281
Description: Gruet Blanc de Noirs Sparkling Wine New Mexico NV
Size: 750 ML
Wine Spectator 90 pts, #43 Top 100 2011
2. 2005 Sparkling Pointe Brut
(USA, New York, Long Island, North Fork)
CellarTracker: user tmarman says: " 89 points. Citrus, minerality, ultra-crisp and clean on the palate. Very French in style (which I guess makes sense with a French winemaker). Very good. Stands up to better and more expensive Champagnes."
3. Champagne Bérèche et Fils Brut Réserve
France, Champagne, Montagne de Reims, Champagne
Moore Bros: Greg Moore says: "On the palate, the wine is bottled lightning: explosive and full-bodied, with deeply satisfying flavors that echo the nose, a persistent crackling mousse, and an elegant, mineral-laced finish. Yes, in time the bubbles will fade. But this brilliant Champagne will continue to evolve in the glass for hours, which is a hallmark of very fine wine. Even the empty glass smells great."
4. Gloria Ferrer Royal Cuvee Vintage Reserve Brut 2002
Description from PLCB web site "Rich and layered, with baked apple and fresh anise aromas and appealing yeasty lemon and toasty vanilla flavors that linger. Drink now through 2013. Tasted twice, with consistent notes. 8,600 cases made. 88 points Wine Spectator."
PLCB Code: 13474
Compare to prices on wine-searcher.com: (Avg $26, Min $20, Max $31)
Region: USA > California > Napa Valley > Carneros
Grape Varieties: Pinot Noir 67%
Alcohol Content: 12.9%
Availability in Pennsylvania:
In Wine & Spirits stores
PAWineTalk user acorelli says "This is a serious attempt to compete with yer actual Champagne. Yeasty, long finish, some bitterness which is (for me) not off-putting. A bargain at this price. 4 out of 5."
5. André Cold Duck
E. & J. Gallo Winery
"Introduced in 1966, André was E. & J. Gallo Winery’s first foray into sparkling wine. The goal was to introduce the average American to quality sparkling wine at an affordable price, and André succeeded. Over forty years later, André has come to be synonymous with celebration as the #1-selling sparkling wine in America."
- PLCB Code: 4961
- Description: ANDRE COLD DUCK
- Size: 750 ML
- Price: $6.49
Andre Champagne Commercial (Vintage Circa 1970s)
The wines were put in five bags and tasted one by one by eight people. Discussion and note taking ensued. The wines were tasted again. The clear consensus for favorite was #4, Gloria Ferrer, followed by #3 Bérèche et Fils, #1 Gruet, #2 Sparkling Pointe, and finally #5 André Cold Duck.
Comments for Gloria Ferrer: "what good champagne should taste like," "good head," "nice nose," "yeasty," "full mouth, dry finish, perfect."
Bérèche et Fils: "grapefruit, pear, citrus. sour, heavy," "sour finish, lemon," "nice bubbles, pale, good mouthfeel, wish it was more yeasty less citrus," too citrusy."
Both Gruet, a highly rated sparkler from New Mexico, and Sparkling Pointe from Long Island were somewhat summarily dismissed as bland and light in flavor.
André Cold Duck, a classic inexepensive sparkling wine popular in the 1970s, was said to "smell like grape jelly," and called "sparkling grape juice," and "definitely cheap."
The whole blind tasting was great fun, and special thanks to our family members for participating with their comments and rankings. We were certainly surprised that PLCB Chaiman's Selection Gloria Ferrer turned out to be such a crowd pleaser. It is still widely available in the Philadelphia and PA and a bargain at 17.99 compared to prices in the rest of the country. Check the PAWineTalk map for availability.