I feel it is my duty to scribble some notes about this wine. I went on at great length in my stories when they were opened–and my reaction–but something needs to be said outside of a micro-blog. I have been a fan of this bottling for SOOO many years and turned SOOO many people on to them–people who have otherwise always ignored anything KORBEL because of the supermarket sins they commit with the Brut, Extra Dry, Chardonnay, Cold Duck and so on. So many people have no idea they make a vintage, AVA’d, natural bottling, and have so unchanged since 1882. I have enlightened literally hundreds of people over the years by my enthusiasm over this bargain-basement–but high quality–offering from Korbel.
Loyal readers will know I keep a tall vertical of this wine in my cellar and enjoy it as it progresses over the years. Classically, it is ridiculously austere on release, and gradually develops all that golden, toasty-almond suppleness over about a 10-year span. MY sweet-spot seems to be about 4-5 years, but of course that depends on your particular liking of sparkling wine. There are of course always detractors who instantly apply an asterisk to anyone endorsing this brand. There are also a tiny group–people whose opinions I generally respect, industry insiders–the like–3 or 4 over the years, who insist the NATURAL is a flat-out LIE, and dosages are added. Korbel used to have a great spread-sheet on their website listing each cuvee they made and hardcore technical details on each. That page seems to have disappeared. But all along, they insisted Natural got zero dosage. And I had no reason to disbelieve them, as the wines seemed bone-dry to me. That all changed when I opened a 2016 the other day.
Ridiculously sweet both in nose and taste, it was a flabby, cloying, mess. And for the first time, I said (literally aloud), “I wish I still had my wine-making testing stuff for RS.” Bad Bottle? Weird bottle? I’m pretty sure Natural is the smallest of their production, but still, it HAS to be 5000 cases, and what are the chances of a bad bottle at that level? So I opened another bottle a couple days later.
It’s sweet. There’s no denying it. Where the first bottle I had pegged up in the 2.0-2.5 range, this one I’m gonna give the benefit of the doubt to and go with a good solid 1.0-1.5, still WAY sweeter than I want my au natural.
So: warning. I don’t want anyone reading my shit and seeing I love this wine and going out an buying the 2016 and going Sheesh, McConnell, how high are you??? Something has happened to this wine, and if they have finally decided–as SOOOO many other brands have in the past 2 decades–to plump it up for the Umerican palate, I am DONE. Can’t wait for the 2017.
2016 KORBEL Natural PN/CH 65/35 Russian River Valley 12.5