Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Urban Grape: Sparkling Wine Grand Tasting

Can you get me a knife? No, that knife was not needed to slice some bread or cheese. Instead, it was to be used for sabrage, to open a bottle of Champagne. In the video above, you can watch my friend and fellow wine blogger Dale teach Aimee how to perform sabrage. It is actually an easy practice, and Aimee did it perfectly.

So where did this fun event occur? In the parking lot outside the new Urban Grape, which I have previously reviewed. They recently held a Grand Tasting of Sparkling Wines and Champagnes, showcasing 15 wines, and I stopped by for the tasting as well as to check out any changes that had occurred in the store. I also got to hang out with Dale and Amanda, which is always enjoyable.

The fifteen wines, priced from $13-$94, included sparkling wines from Spain, Italy, California, and South Africa, as well as French Champagne. The least expensive Champagne was $35, and I feel that inexpensive Champagne, generally costing less than $25, is not a good value. At that price point, there are so many better alternatives, from Cava to Prosecco. And that is where I would like to concentrate in this post, emphasizing three excellent value sparkling wines that I tasted.

The Parés Baltà Cava ($16) is organic and biodynamic, and I visited the winery when I was last in Spain. This is a delicious sparkling wine: dry, crisp and clean with nice flavors of apple and melon. It is also smooth, full of flavor and very satisfying. I am very partial to Spanish cava, believing it is often a very good value. The Riondo "Spago Nero" Prosecco ($14) is another excellent value, an Italian sparkler which is also crisp and clean, with a hint of sweetness. You get some green apple flavors but with a bit of orange peel as well. The 2005 Graham Beck Brut Blanc de Blanc ($22) was one of the surprise finds of the tasting. Made from 100% Chardonnay, if you blind tasted this wine, you would probably think it was a fine Champagne. Dry and crisp with a complex taste of green apple, pear and hints of cream. For the price, this wine certainly delivers plenty and it gets a strong recommendation.

Any one of those three wines would be an excellent alternative to buying a Champagne under $25. They should be real crowd-pleaser wines, which most people will enjoy.

The Urban Grape has added plenty to their inventory, more wine, more beer, and even more Saké. They now carry 15 Sakés, with another 15 to come in the near future. There are plenty more craft beers, hard ciders, and lots of spirits. An excellent selection of items, well using their limited space.

They even carry two Shochus now, the Kurokame Imo Shochu ($30) and the Towari Soba Shochu ($34). Check my previous article for an introductory lesson on shochu. I am still new to shochu, mainly because it is still difficult to find in the Boston area. T.J. was kind enough to open the shochus though for a tasting. The Towari is made from buckwheat and the Kurokame is made from sweet potato. Both, on the nose and palate, reminded me a bit of tequila. I found the Towari a bit harsh with the Kurokame being smoother and more pleasing, though potent.

They both probably would be better used in a cocktail. And I did a little experimentation in that regard, mixing in some sparkling wine and a rose. The shochu has a strong flavor so you need to be careful how much you add to a cocktail. I also think a fruit-flavored mixed might help to mellow the flavor.

The Urban Grape continues to impress and I strongly recommend you check it out.

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