“In Success you deserve it and in defeat, you need it."………… Winston Churchill on Champaign

"I drink Champagne when I win, to celebrate… And I drink Champagne when I lose, to console myself."
Napoleon Bonaparte

Americans are drinking more sparkling wine.  The Wine Institute’s records show total sales of Sparkling Wine and Champaign have increased each year since 2000. Wine Spectator (December 2011) reported that “total consumption of sparkling wine in the United States will approach 15 million cases by the end of the year.”  Neither gives a reason for this, but I suspect it is because we are finally getting comfortable with the fact that sparkling wine is wine.  So although 40 percent of all sparkling wine is still sold during the holiday season, the majority of sparkling wine being enjoyed is with meals and other ordinary occasions during non holiday times.

Recently I sampled Ferrari Brut and a 2006 Vintage Ferrari “Perle.”  These are Italian sparkling wines made in the classic French method. When buying a product labeled as a sparkling wine, it’s worth noting that even one made in France outside of the district of Champaign is technically a sparkling wine because only those made within the district of Champaign can be labeled as such. It’s also worth remembering that all sparkling wines are not made via the same process.  Simply put, wines made metodo classico (or what the French would label as methode champenoise) undergo a second fermentation in the bottle. The wines are aged and rest on their lees. This is the more expensive and labor intensive process (as opposed to the charmat method in which fermentation occurs in large tanks) that results in the wine developing more complexity, longer lasting and smaller bubbles (mousse) and contributes to the wine’s grace notes.     

Ferrari was founded by Giulio Ferari in 1902 after he studied this classic method of wine making in France, earned a winemaking degree and worked in wineries. He returned to Italy and planted Chardonnay grapes for his metodo classico sparkling wine.  While some take it for granted today that Chardonnay is the grape for sparkling wine and Champaign, Ferari was the first to do this in Italy. His wines carry the D.O.C. appellation (AOC in France or akin to the AVA in the United States) applied to wines specifically from the Trento area within the Trentino-Alto Adige in far northern Italy (see map). Grapes used by Ferrari are grown on hillsides at 985 – 2300 feet in this alpine region that shares its latitude with Burgundy. Surprisingly, temperatures can get very high this far north, so the higher elevations assure longer hang time. Grapes mature more slowly and ripen evenly. “All the better to drink you my dear.”

I should mention that Ferrari sold the winery in 1952 to Bruno Lunelli, a friend and local merchant, and today Ferrari is still (3rd generation) a family run winery. Not having changed the winery’s name, Lunelli was and is more concerned with the wine than the fame.  It seems he made the right decision. Ferrari’s Brut is the top selling metodo classic brut in Italy. That has to count for something, so let’s talk about the wine.

In the glass, Ferrari’s Brut is straw-yellow. Bubbles are small and percolate to the surface constantly making for nice texture from the froth. The nose offers floral hints and hints of apple, almond and bread yeast.  Although the wine is crisp, it feels rich and creamy in the mouth.  Small sips suffice. In fact, this was one of the most enjoyable aspects of this wine. I enjoyed it outdoors on a warm and beautiful afternoon and found the wine refreshing. Its acidity was in perfect balance, leaving the palette cleansed yet appreciative.  The nose carried forward to the taste with added hints of pear and tart apple and biscuit.  

What a beautiful summer wine and what a beautiful price point. A
Ferrari Brut and Ferrari 2006 Perle
t a SRP of $25 (U.S.) this blanc de blanc (100%Chardionnay and aged a minimum of two years though I’m guessing three for what I tasted) is indeed “a terrific value” (Wine Advocate).  Sparkling wines pair well with (may come as a surprise) French fries (first made in Belgium) and potato chips. But I enjoyed the Ferrari brut on the second day with fresh Indian Creek Oysters. Its classic lean structure would pair well also with cheeses such as Brie, Edam and Camembert.  Most important, however, is to appreciate how excellent this wine is by itself. On a patio or deck, on a beautifully blue skied afternoon, chill this sparkling wine to 42-45 degrees F and slowly sip a better day.

Save the chocolate for the port!

Perle” is a vintage Ferrari wine. It is also 100% Chardonnay, my sample bottle a 2006. I enjoyed this wine with another reviewer, The Chicago Wino, and we were both immediately intrigued. I enjoyed a nose that reminds of brioche. There is nuttiness to Perle (almond) that is stronger than in the Brut. The wine has more floral notes, the nose even more elegant. Tastes hint at honeysuckle and wild flowers.  The Chicago Wino detected cocoa powder. I missed it, but got hazelnut.  The wine is dryly fruity, restrained and delicate. The finish is super long with a butter-rum hint. Yet there is more. Along with another taster, we all found it mysteriously intriguing.  Wine Enthusiast awarded it 91 points. The Chicago Wino and I awarded it one of the most intriguing sparkling wines we have tasted at its price point because it plays the senses so well it defies more accurate description. Aged 5 years, this wine is a super value at only $10 more than the brut and certainly worth the experience of trying to correctly identify all its nuances.

Ferrari also makes a classic Rose (60% Pinot Noir/40% Chardonnay) as well as bottlings of different Pinot Noir/Chardonnay percentages, a pure Pinot Noir and a longer aged blanc de blanc.

Cin Cin!
…………………….. Jim

* Full Disclosure: Wines were sent me for review.

** Visit for mini-tips on wine & food

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