Friday, May 11, 2012

CA vs. France - A sparkler showdown

Champagne is rightly the king (queen?) or sparkling wine on the world stage.  So much so that like Kleenex, or Tylenol it now is often the term used by the masses to describe any product resembling itself.  (Sorry Champagne for the comparison to pills and tissue...)  However, many Champagne brands realized early that the Chardonnay in particular being grown in California was pretty damn good, and decided to set up shop on this side of the Atlantic to create some California sparkling wines.  Now these domestic sparklers are at an all-time high in terms of quality and it begs for their to be a quick little showdown.

Champagne Tattinger in Reims is just one of those big old Champagne houses who got in on the California action.  They started Domaine Carneros in, well Carneros, and have been producing sparkling wines and still Pinot Noir from the property since the early 1990's.  I sat down to a NV Champagne Tattinger La Francaise Brut and a 2005 Le Reve Domaine Carneros.  Many would argue that this is an unfair comparison, I would argue back - this was just for fun, the winner here really receives no glory or elevation.

The Champagne Tattinger La Francaise was yeasty and filled with citrus fruits.  It was bright with acid but rather on the full side.  Like most entry level Champagne it was not super complex but was tasty, refreshing, and fun.  I liked it a lot for a $30 Champagne, it is widely available, and have no problem recommending it.

The Le Reve was a whole different animal.  Certainly on the rich side, it was brimming with fruit and brioche, a touch of smoke, and layers of flavor.  The mouthfeel was creamy but lifted, and the nose was beguiling.  This is a spectacular bottle of sparkling wine - one that makes the $95 price tag seem justified. 

So in this non-binding death match California came out on top, and Champagne proves again that they may a great decision in investing in California production.  Have you ever put a Champagne toe to toe with a California sparkling wine?  What were your results?


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