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And Virginia Does Sparkling Wine Too – Virginia Sparkling Wine Blind Tasting Results

When I first began my wine blogging exploits in early 2008, my primary goal was to have a single, organized repository of all things wine – my wine notes, musings, and wine-related photos.

More than bringing organization to my wine world, DrinkWhatYouLike.com has served a vehicle to connect with wine enthusiasts throughout the world and forge many long lasting friendships.

Yesterday, I had the chance to get together with a group of my Virginia wine friends – all met via this blog – for a Virginia sparkling wine tasting (with a couple extras from France and California thrown in).

The purpose of this tasting was not to determine the ‘best‘ Virginia sparkling wine – that would be impossible to do even if we wanted to.  Instead, the real purpose was to taste Virginia sparkling wines in a blind comparative setting that we may not have otherwise tasted, and more importantly to hang out with good friends and talk wine.

Our group gathered at Keswick Vineyards for the tasting, including wine writer Richard LeahyJohn & Jean Hagarty of Hagarty On Wine, VWD & GEG of Swirl Sip SnarkPaulWarren from Virginia Wine TimeJoel Timmons of The Examiner, Keswick Vineyards winemaker Stephen Barnard and his wife KatJohn Witherspoon (owner of the Wine Cellar wine shop), Rick CollierNancy Bauer (developer of Virginia wine iPhone app), and me.

The Virginia wine crew.

The tasting line up included ten Virginia sparkling whites (excluding sparkling Viogniers).  Given the differences in vintage, processing, and blends, this may not have been the most technically correct comparative tasting lineup, but the real purpose of was really to get together and talk about wine with friends.

Thibaut-Janisson Blanc de Chardonnay, $30
Thibaut-Janisson FIZZ, $21
Kluge SP Blanc de Blanc, $24
King Family Brut, $30
Veritas Scintilla  ,$30
Afton Mountain Vineyards Tete’ de Cuvee, $30
Prince Michel Sparkling Wine, $30
Barboursville Brut, $18.99
Potomac Point Sparkling Wine,$0 (received as tasting sample)
Ingleside Vineyards Virginia Brut,$20
Barefoot Brut Cuvee, $9.99
Chateau Gaillard Cuvee Charlette Voyant Touraine, $19

The tasting lineup.

To keep the tasting moving, and the scoring/ranking simple, we opted for a ranking system wherein each taster ranked the wines from 1 to 12 – 1 being their favorite, down to their least favorite, #12.  This ‘rack and stack’ system allows everyone to score based on their own personal scoring system preference, while keeping the overall ranking simple.

Finishing in the #1 spot on my scoring sheet was the Thibaut-Janisson FIZZ, followed by the Kluge 2007 SP Blanc de Blanc in second, and the Veritas Scintilla in third.

From my tasting sheet:
Thibaut-Janisson Fizz – wow, lively, bright, perlage for days. tart apple and peach throughout.
Kluge 2007 SP Blanc de Blanc – bright gold, lots of green apple, pear and hints of nuts. Great texture.
Veritas Scintilla – great mousse, bright straw color, small bubbles, lemon/lime fizzy lifting drink.

In the overall group ranking, the Thibaut-Janisson Fizz was ranked as the favorite by far – six of 12 tasters ranked the Fizz as their favorite, and three others ranked it their second favorite.  The FIZZ is 100% Chardonnay, 1.5% residual sugar, and is made in the Brut Methode Traditionnelle

The Prince Michel sparkling wine (finished #8 in my scoring) finished as the second favorite in the group ranking.  The Prince Michel sparkling wine is made from Pinot Noir grapes in the Method Champenois style.  Rounding out the top three was the Afton Mountain Vineyards Tete’ de Cuvee (finished #4 on my scoring sheet) – is a blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay made in the traditional Methode Champenoise style.

Richard Leahy, Paul, Warren, Nancy, John Witherspoon chatting after the sparkling flight.

After the sparkling flight, our group moved on to taste five Viogniers – two from Paso Robles and three from Virginia.  Stephen Barnard was gracious enough to open a special wine for our group – the 2009 Keswick Signature Series.  This Signature Series wine was made from a block of Viognier planted personally by Keswick Vineyards owner, Al Schornberg.

Given the heavy use of oak, this Viognier reminded me more of a California Chardonnay than a Virginia Viognier.   Most notable of the Keswick wines Stephen graciously opened for the group was the 2009 Keswick Vineyards Merlot  – wow!  Virginia wine fans, keep your eyes open for this release.

Lesson Learned: If you want a technically correct blind tasting experience, ensure consistency of grapes used, processing technique, and vintage.  If you want to have fun, gather your favorite wine friends and just enjoy the wine and conversations!

Thank you to everyone who participated, and a special thanks to Stephen and Kat at Keswick Vineyards for hosting our group! An even bigger thank you to Kat for helping secure the 50+ champagne flutes needed for this tasting, and thanks to Inn on Poplar Hill for providing us the flutes.  We appreciate all of your help with this event!!!


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