The Nobel-prize winning economist, Milton Friedman, once famously attributed to President Nixon the phrase, “We are all Keynesians now.” Did he mean that we are now dependent on government stimulus to re-balance the economy? I am guessing so, but he should have been referring to Keynes’ famous quote, “My only regret in life is that I did not drink enough Champagne.” If so, we are all Keynesians now. Therefore I resolve to drink much more sparkling wine this spring.
And I will most certainly start with the delicious Sophora NV Cuvee Sparkling Wine, a marvelous surprise from New Zealand. In fact, New Zealand is full of surprises these days, as we will see with all the wines we taste this week. After savoring the fine bubbles of the Sophora, we move on to the Kim Crawford rose. People have varying impressions of rose. Some people think of them as a sweet wine like the insulting White Zinfandels we have been subjected to in the past. Some think of them as very acidic, thin wines that have neither the charm of white wines nor the body of red. The new roses prove all these preconceptions false. This rose is a well-rounded, tasty wine that can be drunk on its own on a hot summer day or paired beautifully with a range of foods.
The two Pinot Noirs this week are also from New Zealand. Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand has so dominated the market in recent years – 95% of the market in fact – that it is surprising to find they make really world-class, poet-inspiring Pinot Noir. The Bird Big Barrel Pinot Noir is such a lovely wine – the color, the nose, the palette, the finish – all come together beautifully and convincingly enough to make some die-hard fans of New Zealand Pinot Noir. To cement that impression, we will follow up the Bird with the Wither Hills Taylor River Pinot Noir. This wine is darker, richer, a bit more brooding and yet another very good expression of Pinot Noir. Fruity, spicy and definitely worth buying.
Sophora NV Cuvee Sparkling Wine: Don’t confuse NV – non-vintage – with lower quality. Non-vintage just means that the wine in the bottle has been blended with a “reserve wine” during the second fermentation to create a house style. This wine is scrumptious. When the distributor came by with it for a tasting, I was blown away and asked to take it home that evening to share with my true love. And even my beloved, who for the past 23 years has professed indifference to sparkling wines, loved it. It is rich and full-bodied, being a combination of 52% Chardonnay and 48% Pinot Noir, with the best of both grapes. Crisp acidity, fruit forward off-dry taste and a round, soft mouthfeel aided by the very fine bubbles. Had I not known better, I might have guessed it was a champagne and twice the price. This wine will pair perfectly with an endive and crab salad.
Kim Crawford Rose: Rose’ wines come in a range of colors and can be made from a variety of red grapes. This particular one is a beautiful deep salmon color that immediately draws the eye. Part of the reason it has such a rich, sunset shade is that it is made from a combination of Merlot and Malbec grapes, which is a bit unusual. But the marriage of the two is quite successful. The nose will immediately tell you it is from New Zealand – it has a grapefruit, almost grassy smell that reminds you of Sauvignon Blanc. But once you taste it, all thoughts of a disguised white wine fall away. It is crisp and dry but so fruity that you might think it has some sweetness to it. You can savor the strawberry and melon flavors of summer while lingering over the mineral and green apple finish. Serve very chilled!
Bird Big Barrel Pinot Noir: There is not much one can say about this wine without gushing. It is delicious. From the remarkable color to the nose full of delicately scented cherries and roses and baking spice and the taste of a very carefully and lovingly vinified Pinot Noir, it is to be savored. If handled improperly, Pinot Noir grapes will still yield a juicy wine, but it will lose all the uplifting aromatics. Therefore, this wine is made in the eponymous big barrels to keep the oak from overpowering the essence of the grape. The winemaker also uses an unusual “Vernou roll” technique that allows the wine to come into contact with the skins very gently and with limited exposure to oxygen, thereby preserving much of the flavor and intensity without extracting harsh tannin’s. For more, please see the weekly blog.
Wither Hills Taylor River Pinot Noir: In contrast to the light, almost elusive qualities of the Big Barrel Pinot Noir, this wine is more one for contemplation, for sitting in front of a warm fire while a storm rages outside. For coming to important conclusions then looking into the glass and seeing what is good in life. Its initial impression on the nose is of dark, wild berries with some earthy, spicy notes. On the palate, it comes on with soft, round flavors of toasty baking spices, a basket full of red, juicy fruits and a lovely balance of acids, ripe tannin’s and satisfying finish.