Thursday, December 3, 2009

COMING TO AMERICA: Sparking Wine from (the country of) Georgia, Pt. 2

In a previous post, I wrote about a new sparkling wine from the world’s oldest wine-growing region that is being introduced in the United States. Now, I’ve had the opportunity to taste it … and it’s delightful!

The sparkling wines being produced under the label Bagrationi 1882 come from the republic of Georgia, a region that claims to be “The very place where wine making was born.” Whether that’s accurate is immaterial; based on the two wines I tried, they know very well what they’re doing today.

The winery uses only indigenous Georgia grapes to make Bagrationi 1882 – but with 500 such varieties to choose from, that provides quite a selection. In my previous post on the topic Irakli Tsereteli, marketing manager for the brand, said the wines that result differ from other sparking wines available in the U.S.: fruitier, though not sweeter.

Bagrationi 1882 provided me with two bottles of sparking wine so that I could taste it for myself: the Reserve Brut ($25 at retail) and the Classic Extra Dry ($13 SRP). I shared both bottles at our family Thanksgiving dinner and they made for a most interesting addition.

The consensus of the six of us who sampled both was that the Reserve Brut, which uses the classic bottle fermentation method (methode champenoise), was the best. It had a bit of yeast on the nose, very fine bubbles, a hint of fruitiness at the back of the tongue, and a dry finish.

Which is not to take anything away from the Classic Extra Dry. Extra Dry sparking wines, despite their name, are sweeter than Bruts. The Bagrationi 1882 Classic Extra Dry, true to form, was a bit sweeter with less yeast on the nose, but also offered the hint of fruitiness at the back of the tongue. Because it is barrel-fermented, the bubbles were larger, but it was nonetheless a very pleasant sparkling wine.

Reach for the Reserve Brut if you’d normally choose a Mumm or Chandon; even though the $25 price may be a dollar or two higher than the others, I think you’ll agree it’s worth the little bit extra. Consider the Classics (either Extra Dry or Brut) if you’d otherwise choose a Korbel, Domaine Ste. Michele, or similar. At the $13 price, it’s a wine you should definitely consider…then quaff!

Who says new things are only for the young?

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