The Spanish wine industry just can't get any respect. Spain has at least as many acres in vineyards as Italy and France but still comes in third in sales behind the other two. My theory? France and Italy are just way more familiar to us historically and culturally and that includes American fandom for the food and wine culture specific to each. Spain remains a distant third in all of these things, hence their wine sales suffer. If all things were equal and pricing stayed the same, I bet Spain wins the race.
That last line about pricing is actually key to appreciating what Spain brings to the table, so to speak. Specifically, since we're talking about Spanish sparkling wine here, may I say the twelve dollar Cavas that are so widely distributed in America are, in the main, comparable to similar twenty dollar California wines and certainly heads and shoulders better than sparklers from anywhere else. They are boldly flavored and dry, which sets them apart from those everso popular easy drinking Proseccos, but breeding shows when compared to new world sparklers. The Spanish are much classier.
Cristolino Brut Rose is our subject here today and it is without question the best value in sparkling wine...period. If it were twice its $8.50 retail it would still be a bargain. How on earth anyone can make a methode champenoise Pinot Noir-based sparkler so inexpensively, is beyond my comprehension. The charm of this wine lies in its aromas, flavor profile, balance, mouthfeel, finish, and color and bead in the glass. Basically everything is right about this one.
The Cristolino Rose is a blend of 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Trepat, an ancient indigenous grape variety. The wine spends eighteen months on the lees before bottling and fermention using Champagne yeasts. The resultant wine is a dark orange-tinged pink in color with aromas of spiced red currant and cranberry, strawberry/raspberry, anise, fresh dough, and steely minerality. On the palate the wine displays even more lively fresh red fruits (pomegranate?) with herbs and spices, finishing moderately long with silky flowery notes. This wine is complex.
Is this the perfect wine of its kind? Well, yes and no. If you are a Francophile when it comes to sparklers, Cristolino is bolder with stronger flavors and it is less dry but the bead is consistent and classy with bubbles that don't attack the nose. Because of its breadth, one reviewer recommended serving this wine in white wine glasses instead of flutes. Food pairings would include fresh fruit and salads, appetizers, picnic fare, and light desserts.
Now for the fun part. In the 1990s Cristolino, which was established in 1943, was sued by Roederer Cristal for copyright infringement. The case went on for years before Cristolino won...I guess. The judge ruled that Cristolino had to place a sizeable disclaimer on their label saying they were "not affiliated in any way with Louis Roederer Cristal Champagne". The irony is inescapable. In an effort to keep a similar name off an inexpensive Spanish Cava, the great French Champagne company now has a court-enforced name placement right on the front label...and who the heck thought it was affiliated in the first place?
Please join us at our next Friday 5-8pm wine tasting here at the store when Tommy Basham of Georgia Crown Distributing entertains us with a presentation of fine California Wines and become a follower of this blog, for Pete's sake, unless of course, you want to be sued for blog enfringement.