Champagne and sparkling wine are the stuff of myth, legend and opulence. The very presence of this beverage at virtually every celebratory occasion puts it in a special category. For many, the sound of a champagne cork exiting a bottle of bubbly is a prelude for festivity and celebration. It is no wonder that in my wine cellar I have a large glass jug filled with only champagne and sparkling wine corks. Many of them still bear words and dates commemorating the occasion on which the bottle was consumed. Yes, I am a big fan to say the least.
So, you can imagine how privileged I felt to attend the very first salon wine tasting hosted by Raffaldini Vineyards & Winery located in Ronda, NC. www.Raffaldini.com. Under the watchful eye of owner, Jay Raffaldini, his winemaker Chris Nelson, and sister Barbara Raffaldini participants were treated to an educational and informative tasting in an unobtrusive and casual environment. The spirited dialogue and audience participation were a testimony to the high level of engagement facilitated by the hosts.
Our tasting was blind (the identities of the sparkling wines revealed later) and as we approached the table we could see each of our selections covered by a watch glass, a circular concave piece of glass designed to reduce evaporation and harness the precious bubbles that make this wine so distinct. Most of us have not seen a watch glass since that last chemistry class in college or maybe even high school.
Carefully and methodically, we were guided through the tasting of each of each of the sparkling wines presented. True to his Italian heritage Jay choose to accompany his flagship Auguri (made primarily from pinot grigio) with three prosecco (Italian sparkling) style wines. I was particularly impressed with the quality of the other wines each bearing the designation “Prosecco Superiore”. From aroma to color to bubble structure we tasted each wine making careful notes along the way.
I can also tell you that for many there were three great takeaways from the tasting session. First how to hold the wine glass by the stem (to avoid transferring heat to the wine) and secondly, to avoiding the tendency to swirl the contents of the glass (which accelerates the release of the precious bubbles). Finally, we learned that most Prosecco is made from a grape varietal called “Glera” seldom seen outside it’s native Veneto region of Italy and prized for it’s ability to make world class prosecco.
Remember the aforementioned watch glasses? Well after carefully using them to contain the contents of each glass we were encouraged to again revisit the taste of each sparkling wine after allowing it to breathe. For many, this changed their perception and enjoyment of the wine adding another level of flavor not present initially.
Finally, the moment of truth and the identities of the vintages revealed. The wines were:
NV Nino Franco Rustico Prosecco Superiore
NV Adami Bosco di Gica Prosecco Superiore
2018 Raffaldini Vineyards Auguri
NV Bisol Jeio Prosecco Superiore
Which one won? Which one was judged best? The answer is a resounding “whichever one was YOUR favorite!” Sparkling wine, like most wines, is a matter of personal preference. But whether you enjoy minerality, acidity or effervescence this beverage put the “special” in special occasion. It is said that the legendary actress Marilyn Monroe was so infatuated with this beverage that she once bathed in it. Personally, I think that is a waste of good bubbly but the idea of just owning 350 bottles of this elixir is intriguing.