Sunday, December 4, 2011

Sparkling Wines Go Head-to-Head

I wish more of my meals looked like this.

Maybe it’s because the Judgment of Paris was such a success. Or maybe it’s because we are all children of the Pepsi Challenge and the long and bloody Cola Wars it sparked in the mid-eighties. Whatever the reason, the wine industry loves the blind taste test. Pitting wines against one another without their labels conveying so much about the wine except for how it tastes can alter one’s perception of what they are drinking and often, once the wines are unveiled, what people really like compared to what they thought they were drinking do not always match up.

Such was the case recently when Schramsberg Vineyards hosted blind sparkling wine tasting at Marcel’s – one of DC’s finest restaurants and pourer of a LOT of sparkling wine. The tasting was blind and put Schramsberg up against Champagne’s heavy-hitters like Perrier-Jouët, Taittinger, Veuve Clicquot, Dom Pérignon and Cristal. The results were, according to Schramsberg’s president, similar to the results of other blind tastings held around the country. Schramsberg sparkling wines beat out all of their more expensive and prestigious French counterparts.

True to Form, All the Wines Tasted Were Brown-Bagged Until the End

The Schramsberg sparklers did taste better. They were itoasty and oaky with plenty of lemon zest and pear on them, yet with a body that the others didn’t have. I did notice much more effervescence in the Schramsberg wines than the others, as well as a bit more flavor.

I don’t want to call into question the integrity of blind tastings for marketing purposes, but judging from both the temperature and bubble count in the wines it’s possible that some of the more prestigious French wines were opened the previous night and not chilled as thoroughly as the Schramsbergs. I’m not saying that’s the case, just that it’s possible and even probable. I’ll admit that the flatness and warmness of some of the $100+ bottles raised my skepticism somewhat.

Schramsberg's Sparkling Rose is a Great, Full-Bodied and Dry Wine for the holidays
In any event, Schramsberg came out on top and it wasn’t even close. I have had the prestigious sparkling wine from the noble Champagne houses before and have enjoyed them to varying degrees. I have also had domestic sparkling wine, cava, prosecco and non-Champagne French sparkling wine before and have enjoyed those just as much – without spending the exorbitant prices. 

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