This summer, we had the pleasure of tasting through the bounty of Wine Country Ontario and we zeroed in on Niagara-on-the-Lake. From exceptional fruit, to farm fresh vegetables and, of course, incredible wine, there is plenty to taste… and write about!
However, on a warm Friday afternoon with our feet firmly planted at Stratus Vineyards, we turned our minds and palates to more global flavours. With Melissa Pulvermacher and Cru Wine Merchants, we were able to travel to Valdobiaddene, the Rheingau, Barcelona’s hilly outskirts, and the Champagne. Travel with our glasses, that is, as we tasted through their diverse and exceptional portfolio of high quality sparkling wine.
Cru Wine Merchants
The Cru Wine Merchants‘ portfolio of sparkling wines are guided by the age-old adage that great wine is grown, not made. With that in mind, the team at Cru selects their sparkling wines based on people; to Cru, the people who grow great wines are integral to the story of the wines themselves.
Building relationships, hearing the story behind the wine and finally sharing it with consumers and wine lovers is part of the team’s approach.
In the same way that Stratus expresses Niagara-on-the-Lake’s sense of place, Cru’s sparkling portfolio expresses the sense of place and tells unique stories of winemakers from Valdobbiadene, the Rheingau, Barcelona’s hilly outskirts, and the Champagne. And while we can’t safely travel to these beautiful places just yet, we can certainly taste their sense of place through the glass, with Cru.
A Sparkling Tasting… Of the World’s Finest
Our structured tasting was led by Senior Portfolio Manager Melissa Pulvermacher, who is responsible for managing a dynamic portfolio of 60+ international wine producers. She is WSET Dip. certified and works as a Sessional Instructor at the University of Guelph, teaching Wine and Oenology and Beverage Management in addition to the WSET wine and spirit courses. In short, she is an all around superstar.
Let us, in our own words, retell the stories of Cru’s sparkling portfolio, many of which is available for purchase online.
Those of us well versed in Italian will know that Sorelle Bronca translates to “Bronca Sisters.”
In contrast to large, industrial-scale producers who buy base wines and only perform the secondary fermentation (as is the case of those we most often see at the LCBO), the sisters grow their own fruit in steep hillside vineyards just outside of Valdobbiadene, controlling the entire process themselves. Utilizing organic practices, harvesting at low yields and hand selecting hillside-grown fruit, utilizing indigenous yeasts, the sisters ensure that their wines have good concentration, vibrant acidity and are harmonious, elegant and pleasant.
The NV Sorelle Bronca “MODI” Prosecco is a wonderful introduction, offering a dry profile that is complemented by classic hallmarks of the region: citrus, honey and peach. A fresh and easy drinking wine, it is the perfect aperitif and the perfect way to start the tasting.
The Difetto Perfetto is a unique offering, differing from the MODI in a number of ways. This Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG sur lie sparkling wine is rich and creamy on the palate, from the presence of natural yeast at the bottom of the bottle. Unique to most Prosecco, this wine goes through a secondary fermentation in the bottle, without disgorgement (and would be otherwise considered Col Fondo).
Barth Wein und Sektgut
We are lovers of Sekt, Germany’s sparkling wine, and we’ve had the pleasure of visiting the country to taste some of its finest.
Barth Wein und Sektgut, or Barth for short, is a quality producer focussed on a small portfolio of wines. Their vineyards are cultivated with the next generations in mind and they place emphasis on sustainable approaches. Based in the beautiful Rheingau, this small family producer relies on individual parcels with unique soils and microclimates to produce distinctive Sekt. Barth are also the first Verband Deutscher Prädikatsweingüter (VDP) estate to produce sparkling wine from a VDP Grosses Gewächs® (German Grand Cru).
The Riesling Brut demonstrates Barth’s motto: “Wine is our discipline, sparkling wine is our showpiece.” Barth carefully harvests and hand-selects their Riesling grapes and utilizes whole cluster pressing. Made in the traditional method, this sparkling wine is aged sur lie for 24 months, is hand riddled and disgorged in batches. From our perspective, this wine demonstrates the exceptional character of quality German Sekt: with racy acidity, and a profile of aromatic fruit (peach, pear and pineapple), with a touch of jollyrancher. That’s right! This wine’s residual sugar is difficult to perceive, but lands at just under 8 grams per litre. It’s downright delicious, or köstlich as they say in Deutsch.
Raventós i Blanc
We have had the pleasure of tasting a variety of wines from Raventós i Blanc, in addition to meeting proprietor Pepe at ProWein in 2019. Having heard their stories, we can see why Cru has brought them on board!
Raventós i Blanc’s philosophy in the vineyard is one of care, balance and an obsession to understand their various plots and achieve the finest expression from each. Aside from their exceptional sparkling wine, Raventós i Blanc is known for their decision to leave Cava DO in 2012. This was prompted by an interest in terroir and quality, and resulted in a new DO called Conca del Riu Anoia. The winery utilizes biodynamic agriculture and the result has been some of the finest sparkling wines of the world. Several wineries have followed their lead and joined the new DO.
We tasted three wines: the 2017 Raventós i Blanc Blanc de Blancs, the 2017 Raventós i Blanc De Nit and the 2014 Textures de Pedra. All of the wines are made from Catalunya’s indigenous grapes, principally Xarel-Lo, Parellada and Macabeu (Viura).
The 2017 Raventós i Blanc Blanc de Blancs is the perfect sparkling wine to begin our tasting. It expresses the best of Vinya del Llac, a vineyard over 40 years’ old. After a secondary fermentation, the wine rests sur lie for 15 months. The wine is fresh, nearly bone dry and comprised of a profile that is citrus and apple dominant, but with a pronounced minerality and a touch of toast.
The 2017 Raventós i Blanc De Nit is a lively rosé sparkling wine, achieving its colour from the addition of Monastrell (Mourvèdre). It is aged sur lie for 18 months. The addition of Monastrell adds red fruit (strawberry and red currant), a touch of cassis, to the blend and the wine’s profile is rounded out by a unique florality and … hits of pavlova (egg white and fruit dessert).
Last, and certainly not least, the 2014 Textures de Pedra. This wine exceptional, and differs from its cousins in the blend (30% Xarel.lo, 25% Xarel.lo Vermell, 25% Sumoll, 15% Bastard Negre & 5% Parellada), origin (Vinya Més Alta, an unusual stony soiled vineyard located at the highest point of the estate) and aging (42 months sur lie). It’s profile is powerful: fruit forward (field berries, ripe citrus and candied orange peel), zippy with hints of ginger, and plenty of minerality and toasty, breaded notes. It has a lingering finish with a touch of smoke, grapefruit pith and white flower.
The Monmarthe family has a long history in the Champagne, having lived in the area of Ludes since 1737. As farmers and masters of the vine, you could say they have amassed plenty of family stories and secrets. After six generations, you can be sure that there must be a family secret or two!
Perhaps that is what inspired the name of the NV Monmarthe Secret de Famille Champagne, the first Champagne in our tasting.The wine is made from a blend of the classic champagne trio (Pinot Noir 40%, Pinot Meunier 40% and Chardonnay 20%), and is aged sur lie for 2 years. Its nose and palate offer plenty of classic hallmarks for the region: bruised apple, flaky butter pastry, citrus, a touch of burnt sugar and a lively, zippy acidity that is rounded out by the faintest hint of honey.
From the classic blend to the classic profile, you could say the profile is classic in and of itself! What’s not classic about the Secret de Famille Champagne is that it comes in at a price point that is about half of what you can expect from some of the grande marques.
Speaking of secrets… it is no secret that we are big fans of Pinot Meunier, the unsung hero of the Champagne blend. With its special, aromatic profile and wines that are rich in floral, red fruit and occasional green notes, it’s a grape we’ve come to love and seek out. So, it was a delight to taste a powerful Pinot Meunier dominant wine by Champagne Jeaunaux-Robin.
An independent grower Champagne house that has roots dating back to 1971, Champagne Jeaunaux-Robin values the integrity of their vines (which are on average 35 years old). These older vines promote concentration of the fruit, and they are tended to with utmost care by the family. Biodiversity and soil care is built into the Jeaunaux-Robin philosophy, and they are organic and biodynamic and owing to their location in La Vallee du Petit Morin in the southernmost Cotes de Blancs, Pinot Meunier focussed.
The Le Dessous De La Cabane Brut Rosé is an exceptional champagne. Achieving its beautiful amber colour from the saignée method, the wine has a nose of strawberry tart, dried apricot, fresh cut white flowers. These are carried over to the palate, which is further complemented by tangy, chewy fruit notes. It is medium bodied with a bright acidity and a long and rather complex finish.
To Sum Things Up…
A complex finish is a perfect place to end our global tasting: from Valdobiaddene, the Rheingau, Barcelona’s hilly outskirts, and the Champagne, we tasted our way around the old world with Cru Wine Merchants.
If you too would like to travel with your glasses, make sure to check them out at @CruWineMerchants or cruwinemerchants.com, where these wines (along with many others), are available for purchase in special packs or by the case.