Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Va de Vi Sparkling Wine

In my line of work, we get to taste a lot of wines. I know-you feel bad for me, right? But its one of those things that comes with the territory, and one of the things I not only relish but also find to be necessary for the performance of my job. The portfolio I represent is vast to say the least, and while I can't be intimately familiar with every potential vintage of every wine I do sell, I do my best to have atleast an honest opinion of most everything I do sell. And while I sometimes am required to sell something that-as a person that appreciates good wine-isn't something I particularly care for, sometimes I also get the oppurtunity to sell something which I'm not only impressed with, but fervently enjoy and want to share with other people. Yesterday we kicked off a brand that I can honestly say that I feel that way about, as we kicked off Gloria Ferrer's (who's parent company is Spain's Freixenet, the largest sparkling wine producer in the world)new Va de Vi sparkling wine.

Now I must admit off the bat, I'm a sucker for good bubbly-it seems to be a bit of a family curse, as at family gatherings Champagne doesn't tend to last long. But this was one of those rare wines that I tasted and immediately thought, "Damn, thats a nice bottle of wine" and then took out to my customers and had every last one of them remark something similar and then order cases-not a case, but cases. So what is it?

Va de Vi is Gloria Ferrer's version of an "extra dry" similar to how White Star is Moet & Chandon's. But you see, in confusing Champagne and sparkling wine nomenclature, extra dry is actually sweeter than brut (the driest of the sparkling wines)-a fact that most people don't know. Brut has the smallest dosage (sweetness added to the wine during production) at 15g or less per a liter followed by Extra Dry(25g or less), Sec, Demi-Sec, and Doux in order. Want a little more wine nerdiness? In the US the regulations are lax to say the least for sparkling wines and products such as Andre Brut have over a 20g/L dosage and Cooks Brut and Extra-Dry have virtually the same dosage (25g and 26g/L respectively). The end result is American sparkling wines can label themselves as pretty much anything and while the French and Spanish have tight regulations on labeling, Americans in general don't understand them.

Fun, right?

Which brings us back to Va de Vi. As what would be characterized as an "extra dry" in Europe (it's made in Carneros, CA from Carneros grapes), it does have a bit of sweetness to it-but nothing like a spumante. It's not a sugary sweetness, but instead a very natural and fruit forward one-peaches would be the way I'd describe it. And unlike most Champagnes which are made with something like 33% Pinot Noir, 33% Pinot Meunier, and 33% Chardonnay Va de Vi is 89% Pinot Noir, 8% Chardonnay, and 3% Muscat (hence the peaches and tropical fruit). It's got the body of a great sparkling wine, as well as the structure....there's enough acid to complement the sweetness but not too much of either. In short, it's fantastic...and this is coming from someone that generally shuns sweeter wines. And what's more, it's got a retail bottle price of under $20.....which, with most Champagnes retailing at $40 or more, makes it quite the bargain-especially considering it's competitive quality-wise with most Champagnes.

It's a new product so far launched in only three US markets (Dallas, Seattle, Denver) and not found in grocery distribution, but if you happen upon it I can't recommend it enough. I'm doing a wine tasting for some friends in a couple weeks and this bottle of wine just made the list. If you're in Dallas, you can find it at Kindred Spirits, Mike's, Cork n' Bottle, Parkit Market, and Payless Discount among others. Give it a try, and please....let me know what you think. Cheers!

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