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April 12, 2011

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By rights, the Finger Lakes should be an important sparkling wine region. The fact is, not very many wine drinkers, let alone Americans in general, drink sparkling wine with any regularity.

The best sellers around here are not MC wines -- they're either transfer method or Charmat. I can tell you categorically that Methode Champenoise production costs are far too high to make the venture worth it, unless you're happy selling small amounts through the tasting room (that's what we do, and I assume that's LL's model too) or are prepared to let other products effectively subsidize that wine.

Alas, I missed this wine when I visited Lamoreaux in December. If I recall, their Merlot and 76 West red blend were the highlights of my visit there.

I hadn't previously thought much about the method of finger lakes sparkling. Are there any producers that make sparkling via multiple methods? (I can't imagine it would make much practical sense to do it, other than a fun experiment for the winemaker) It would be very interesting to compare the results.

Peter: Do you see that situation evolving at all over time? Is the "average" Finger Lakes tasting room visitor changing? (I hate using "average" but you know what I mean)

Kevin: Off the top of my head, I'm not familiar with any wineries doing multiple methods of bubbly, but I'm sure someone reading this post might be.

Lenn:

Not really! The fact is, there are some very compelling fizzy wines made in the "other" styles, that seduce not only wine judges but the wine drinking public. That's not likely to change. So why not make wines in those styles, given that they are so much easier and less expensive?

This comes from someone who almost has an o****m when he tastes really great MC wine; so I am not exactly editorializing here, just being realistic. All of us have to look at financial bottom lines, last time I checked.

This is a good dialogue to have, though. It wasn't so long ago that we were here trying to decide if Riesling was really worth pushing...

We produce three types of sparkling wine, using two different methods here at PBW. Our "Nautique" brand of sparkling Blanc de Blancs and Blanc de Noirs are produced using a modern variant of Charmat (Prosecco-style) and we produce a traditional method sparkler that is en tirage presently and will remain there for a couple more years. It will carry the PBW name.

As Peter pointed out quite correctly, it is a very, very expensive proposition to produce sparkling wine in a traditional method. But the Charmat offers a much less expensive way of creating the bubbles. We're very happy with the results so far.

And since Prosecco now outsells Champagne in a lot of the world it's clear that more and more people want sparkling wine, but for less. Production of Prosecco is nearly equal with Champagne, incredibly: 300MM bottles and just 10 years ago it was only 5MM bottles.

Jim: And here I thought the Nautique bubbly was a one-off never to e done again. I'm guessing it's an example of your customers having serious say.

The romantic in me has a soft spot for traditionally made bubbly, but I'm not going to pretend I haven't enjoyed charmat wines plenty of times.

It took me a second to figure out what o****m was.

IIRC, Glenora makes both bulk method and fermented in the bottle styles of sparkling wine.

Drank some very nice method champenoise sparklers in the Bairrada region of Portugal, including red ones made from a fiercely tannic red grape called Baga. The ones with 2 years en tirage can sell for $10 and the premium ones (5 years en tirage) might be double that. Hand riddled, etc. Wonder how they do it?

I tasted it at the winery and liked it enough to buy a few bottles. Then I ended up ordering a half case, along with other wines. I wonder what it will taste like next year, and the year after.

I've had Finger Lakes sparklers from Atwater and Wiemer, and the Clinton Vineyard Seyval mc from the Hudson Valley. I've got a bottle of Brut from Millwood in my fridge. NY is already making some terrific sparkling wines.

I look forward to trying more.

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