How to Review a Sparkling Wine Cheat Sheet
Last week, I discussed the various classes of Sparkling wines. Did I mention how much I love them? I realized however, that I did not explain what to look for when reviewing a sparkling (as in what they smell and taste like). Therefore, I decided this week, I would go over some of the finer points of how to review a sparkling wine.
I was visiting family in Toronto last week and decided to see what was available. I went to the LCBO store and found the gem above. I love Cava since it is exceptionally affordable and retails for a great price. This mini pack of 3 – 200 ml bottles sold for $15.90 Canadian which I think is almost a steal.
What Should I expect?
There are few things that all sparkling wines have that I want you to be aware of.
High Acid Levels
Quality Sparkling wines are acidic by nature. Most of the time, they are produced in colder climates where the grapes will not fully ripen (Like the Champagne region). Therefore, they will contain higher levels of acid. This is a good thing. The acid levels with sparkling are fantastic since:
- The high acid is a palate cleanser. I use sparkling wines to clean your palate of fatty foods (like pasta with heavy cream sauce for example) as the acid produces higher saliva production.
- The high acid is also refreshing to the palate as it helps to awaken your taste buds for the next food item.
What is Brut?
Brut in sparkling wines refers to bone dry sugar levels. Initially when I first started to drink sparkling wines, I needed some residual sugar in them. As my palate changed and consumed more of them, I realized that the wine being brut was great.
One of the biggest negative comments I get from people on why they do not drink sparkling is that the sugar levels are too high. What happened is they were served a cheaper Prosecco or Moscato that retained some sugar. However, when I give these same people Brut sugar levels in either type, they love them.
- Carbonation and Temperature
All sparkling wines have carbonation in them (of course) but to maintain the quality of the bubbles, you want to serve them cold. I mean really cold!! The recommended temperature range is between 40 – 50 F. However, I chill my sparkling wines down colder than this to about 36 F if possible.
Why you Ask? After living in the South for more than 20 years, I learned one thing. Wine is most of the time, served at the wrong temperature. For example, if I chill my Cava down for serving to you, from the info above I should serve it at 40 F. Awesome and I can do that. However, I’m pouring that 40 F wine into a glass in the South sitting outside on the patio in the sun when it’s 90 F plus. The wine will get hot instantly and you will never be able to taste the nuances at the correct serving temperature.
Therefore, I always chill the wine below that 40F temperature to pour into the warmer glass. I will pour small amounts (2-3 oz) at a time and keep the bottle in an ice bucket to keep it cold. It’s much more refreshing colder.
As for carbonation, the colder the wine, the more the carbonation will stay in suspension. Meaning the bubbles will last longer. Think about placing a soda with no ice outside in the sun. It loses its carbonation quickly and tastes awful.
Here comes the debate among people in the industry. What glass should you serve sparkling in? As you can see in the pictures, I used a stemless flute from Riedel (it shows up better in the pictures). Some say you should never use these as it warms up the wine (me included). Some swear by the traditional coupe style.
Here’s my opinion on this:
- Whatever makes you happy as long as you drink the wine is my concern. I know people that get a coffee mug .😊
My Overall Impression of the Cava
The Codorniu Brut Clasico Sparkling was a great surprise as it showed a great deal of aromas and flavors that were easy to recognize. It had a great creamy mouthfeel along with a beautiful clean finish. Lastly, it’s great value for the quality so this is one to look out for.
- The Cava shows great notes of Key lime, limes, some peach and green apple with traditional yeast and bread notes from the second fermentation.
- It also has aromas of honeysuckle and orange blossoms and faint tones of pineapple, limestone and wet gravel.
- I love how this Cava is bone dry with great acidity. I was not able to detect any tannin, but it had a great mouthfeel (similar to heavy cream and soft cheeses). Fully structured in body, this Cava is bold on the palate.
- Beautiful flavor profile of citrus (lemon, lime, Meyer lemon and orange), green apples and pears with a hint of mango round out the majority of the flavor profile.
- It does have subtle flavors of bread and yeast with wet gravel and surprisingly, toast.
Foods to Pair and Why
- My first thoughts were nothing. I drank a glass of this while making dinner and was exceptionally happy doing that alone.
- I would love to pair this with garlic butter sauteed scallops or shrimp as the acidity would rinse the palate clean, but the creamy mouthfeel of the Cava would match with the dish.
- A shortbread crust apple pie would be amazing to match the acidity and mouthfeel while cutting the sweetness.
I hope that this gives a bit of insight into how good and affordable sparkling wines are. They can be used for a number of reasons but the best one is just to enjoy.