The increasing sophistication of the wine drinker is evident across the marketplace, but the explosion of the consumer’s savvy suaveness is perhaps most pronounced when it comes to fizz. After all, are there any wine buffs and connoisseurs that don’t profess to be able to capably discern between French fizz and local sparkling white; or Italy’s rising star, prosecco? And surely it would be as obvious as the proverbial when a sparkling was served that wasn’t bottle-fermented in the methode champenoise style?
We’re not all doyens and aficionados when it comes to wine and sparkling, but most of us know what we do and don’t like in terms of style, character and level of sweetness. And to many palates, a frizzante white varietal like pinot grigio or a pink Moscato is preferred to an expensive bottle from a centuries-old champagne house. Dry, sweet or demi-sec, amongst the sparkling wines on offer, there’s bound to be something for every consumer’s palate.
And it was this wide range of offerings and palates that led me to try a little experiment with four sparkling wine lovers – a panel comprising of two oenophiles and two rookie champagne lovers. Their task was simple:
- simply sample five different glasses of bubbles and tell me which they found most and least enjoyable (and why); and
- then having been told what was on offer, try and correctly identify which of the sparkling wines was which.
No experiment of this type could exclude some French Champagne, so in five different flutes were a Champagne, a genuine Italian prosecco, an Australian prosecco from a Mornington Peninsula producer, a sparkling pinot grigio and an Australian sparkling from a well-known Yarra Valley producer. How hard could it be?
What my fizz-swilling “lab rats” weren’t told, however, was that the Australian prosecco and the sparkling pinot grigio were, in fact, just lightly spritzed wines out of a can! These RTDs are sold in packs of four, which work out at about $4.50 each for the prosecco and $6.00 for the pinot grigio and the response was mixed. One of the rookies found the Squealing Pig pinot grigio to be the least palate pleasing of all of those on offer, but ironically, one of the experts quite liked it and thought that it had “beautiful funk”! As for the T’Gallant spritzed prosecco, our “experts” thought it was light on fruit but the novices thought it was “easy to drink” and “not too bad”.
Asked which of the sparklings was the most and least appealing, unsurprisingly, the French Mumm champagne was voted most pleasing in our blind tasting, while somewhat unexpectedly, our group of testers found the Yarra Valley Chandon to be the one they’d be least likely to hurry out and buy! Fancy that – they’d rather drink the spritzed wines from a can than an Aussie sparkling white made using the same varietals and largely using the same technique as the French!
As for the task of naming which wine was which, this proved somewhat problematic with no-one getting all five correct in their first attempt – though all were able to tell which was the genuine French fizz. Even our experts only managed to correctly identify three of the five in their first go at the assignment.
I have to admit to being a tad surprised at the apparent palatability of wines from a can, but perhaps there’s an object lesson in it for me about my natural bias against any wine that doesn’t come out of a bottle! Apparently, it’s better than some of the bigger names that come in a fancy bottle!