I like them Naturale

20 years ago if you would have told me I would be drinking sparkling Sauv Blanc, sparkling Grenache Blanc, even sparkling Chardonnay, I would have laughed at you. All of that was below me–not that it truly existed–filed under bad Charmat bubbles. I think the popularity of pet-nat is directly attributable to this new rise in sparkling white wines in California. Pet-nat was the gate-way drug… we got used to seeing it in shops and shelves–of course even Cab Franc versions–and the plethora of sparkling whites just rode in on its coat-tails. Those of a certain age will remember the rise of Sparkling Shiraz from Australia and how cheaply–and pleasurably to some–it filled the shelves. Ghastly stuff. Do they still make that down there? Haven’t seen it in years. But if you would have asked me, I would have scoffed at the idea of sparkling white wines. Might as well drink Cook’s or Andre, I would have retorted. I only drink methode, and it needs to be Pinot, Chard, or Meunier.

Now I open one on probably a monthly basis. And a lot of it IS methode. This one, for example. And this one has a catnip-word for me: NATURAL. Rich yeast on the nose, like a cap of ‘starter’ thick with bubbles and soon to overflow your measuring cup all over the counter when you turn your back. Fig and pear round out the nose. Light pale canary, and the bubbles? Not too effusive in the bubbles Department. Light foam on pouring, dissipating quickly to a few risers and micro-bubbles–like a haze–in suspension throughout.

Tasting it feels like Grenache Blanc. The lack of bubbles helps the fairly-decadent mouthfeel of Grenache Blanc shine through without the cut and scrape of sharp carbonation. THAT category it makes up for in acid: peppery and tongue-tingling, cream pie, lilikoi, kiwi and Golden Delicious protruding nuances where they can between the fizz. Finely-textured on the palate–again, I think it is the suspension of near-microscopic sparkles–and the finish is of a nicely-done white wine: with an injection of shrill effervescence.

It’s not Champagne, but these wines have landed a serious spot in the American marketplace. They’re good. They’re very good. This one is beautiful. Lots of thought and care has gone into it and it shows. Beautifully textured and balanced. And most of these things are available for about what you pay for a big-house California Sparkler. So change it up a bit. If I can, YOU can.

2019 CIRCLE B VINEYARDS Brut Naturale Sparkling Grenache Blanc Methode Champenoise Paso Robles 12.8


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