Jim Beauregard's Tasting Notes: Wine that sparkles ... with a German accent

BY JIM BEAUREGARD March 12. 2013 4:51PM

In France they call it Champagne. In the German-speaking lands they call it Sekt (pronounced zekt - say it with gusto). Both of these come under the broad wine heading of sparkling wine that includes Italy's Moscato, Spanish Cava, and all the sparkling wines made in the rest of the world.

One way we can look at the world of wine is to divide it into two categories: still (no bubbles) and sparkling (oodles of bubbles). The Oxford Companion to Wine defines sparkling wine as "wine which bubbles when poured into a glass." Straightforward enough. Ever wonder how it happens? Carbon dioxide can dissolve in wine and is held this way under pressure. When the cork is popped, it's set free and you can then see it bubbling out.

Sparkling wine comes in many varieties, and not just by country. It can vary in color, from red to white and all shades in between - consider Australian sparkling Shiraz - and can also vary across a sweetness spectrum from bone dry to super sweet, depending on how much sugar is left when the process is done. Most top out at about 12% alcohol by volume, though many are lower.

Gas under pressure is the key to it, and they all have this in common, from the Old World to the New. The still wine you start with undergoes a second fermentation, and that's where the carbon dioxide is produced. The sugar can be fermented out, but at the very end some can be added in to reach the exact level desired.

Now, we can't fit the whole world of sparkling wine into one column, so today I'm going to focus on Sekt, the name for sparkling wine in Europe's German-speaking states. Today's sparkling wine is from Austria, a country whose Sekt producers were, in many cases, founded during the time of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and draw their grapes from the Weinviertel (Wine Quarter) of southeastern Austria that borders the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary. The Kamptal Valley, whose main city is Langenlois, is where the Steininger Vineyard is located. The Kamptal has over 9,000 acres of wine country through which the river Kamp flows. The region is well known for its Gruner Veltliner and Riesling wines.

The Steininger family has been in the wine world for a while with about 75 acres of vineyard, in today's case from the Sauvignon grape. Vintage 2010, today's sparkling wine, comes in at 13.5% abv, and 6 grams per liter of residual sugar, placing it in the dry, or Brut category.

Steininger Sekt from Sauvignon Blanc, Langenlois, Kamptal, Austria, 13.5% abv, $24.99. Clear, sparkling, lemon-to-lemon gold color. Clean nose of white fruit and medium intensity. Dry palate, medium-plus acidity, medium alcohol, medium body, pronounced flavor intensity of fruit - gooseberry, pear, lime, hints of green apple, grassiness, very light oak hints, effervescent. The flavors are sharp and intense. Good balance, concentration, length. 92 points. On the web, check out weingut-steininger.at (click "English" for that version).


Wine Event: In honor of Francophone Week, LaBelle Winery on Route 101 in Amherst is hosting a Degustation de vin / Wine Tasting Seminar on Thursday, March 21.?Enjoy a guided tour of the new state-or-the-art facility followed by a talk by a LaBelle representative who will introduce you to four of their wines. The wines have been paired with three specially prepared French appetizers and a surprise French style desert. The tour starts at 5:30 p.m.; lecture and wine tasting at 6, with a second tour at 7. The cost is $40 per person, or $35 for members of the Franco American Centre and Richelieu Club. To make reservations (the deadline is Thursday, March 14), call the Franco American Centre at 641-7114.

Next Week: Here we go: the gluten-free world of beer.

Contact local beer and wine writer Jim Beauregard at tastingnotesnh@aol.com.


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