This year the first local winery dedicated to producing only sparkling wine is releasing its first wines. Yesterday Gilles Martin, winemaker for Sparkling Pointe was in the restaurant showing the 2004 Brut and the 2004 Topaz Imperial.
The wines are good. And given the rocketing prices of Champagne, alternative sparklers are getting a closer look. We’re taking a chance this summer and replacing Nicolas Feuillatte by the glass (it’s been a staple at the restaurant) with the much more affordable and, I believe, much more delicious Guinot Cremant de Limoux, a blend of mauzac, special to Limoux; chenin blanc and chardonnay.
Back to Gilles. The Topaz is 48 percent pinot noir and 52 percent chardonnay and is really fresh and clean. Very little yeast on nose or palate, Gilles, in his French accent, says it has “a red berry situation.” For me, I identify sparkling wines with high percentages of pinot noir with a lime peel taste. There’s probably a better way to describe it, but in blind tastings this has served me well. It should retail for about $33.
The Brut, 42 percent pinot noir and 58 percent chardonnay, is in a more recognizable style for sparkling, with the apple from the chardonnay, a little yeastiness and broader flavors. On the shelf for about $29.
Although he readily gives out the percentages, Gilles, who has a degree in oenology from Montpellier, has a Frenchman’s disdain for identifying the varietals in a wine. To make the best wine, he says, you use the best grapes from the vintage in the proportions needed, adding many French winemakers don’t even know what the percentages are in their wines.
I was a Premium Wine Group, where Sparkling Pointe is made, on Wednesday to write a story about it for Edible East End. Gilles was there trying out a new $70,000 piece of equipment, a labeler with electronic eyes that is designed to line up the label and the vintage sticker and put four pleats in the foil so that the name printed on it lines up with the other two. He had some success.
For further study, Jancis on mauzac:
or more properly Mauzac Blanc, is a declining but still surprisingly important white grape in South West France, especially in Gaillac and Limoux, where it is the traditional and still principal vine variety. It produces relatively aromatic wines which are usually blended, with Len de l’El around Gaillac and with Chenin and Chardonnay in Limoux. France grew a total of 3,200 ha/8,000 acres of Mauzac in 2000.
Thanks to energetic winemakers such as Robert Plageoles, since the late 1980s there has been a revival of interest in Gaillac’s Mauzac, which comes in several different hues, sweetness levels, and degrees of fizziness. During the 1970s and 1980s in Limoux, total plantings of Mauzac rose but had fallen again to 1,600 ha by the end of the century as the appellation, for both still and fizzy wines, was invaded by Chardonnay.
The vine, whose yields can vary enormously according to site, buds and ripens late and grapes were traditionally picked well into autumn so that musts fermented slowly and gently in the cool Limoux winters, ready to referment in bottle in the spring. Today Mauzac tends to be picked much earlier, preserving its naturally high acidity but sacrificing much of its particular flavour reminiscent of the skin of shrivelled apples, before being subjected to the usual sparkling wine-making techniques. Some gently sparkling Gaillacs are still made by the traditional méthode gaillacoise, however, just as a small portion of Limoux’s Blanquette is made by the méthode ancestrale.