The winter holidays are a great time for wine lovers — food, fun, friends, and family. Just add wine and stir! What could be better? But, as I wrote last year, it is possible to over-think holiday wine and, if not ruin the fun, at least not get the most from the season’s opportunities.
Sometimes it is best to start down a promising path and let fortune be your guide. That’s what Sue and I did over the recent Thanksgiving holiday and I thought I would share our story with you here.
All in the Family: Champagne Mangin
The question of what wine to have with our Thanksgiving feast was solved when our friend Philippe Jeanty introduced us to Champagne Mangin et Fils, wines made by his nephew Cedric Mangin and now imported by Jack Edwards Collection. Jeanty is a famous chef and we knew that if his nephew’s wines were as distinctive and delicious as the cuisine at Bistro Jeanty in Yountville, our little celebration would be in good hands.
Well, the wines are distinctive. The first thing that got our attention was the fact that all four Mangin wines (Brut, Brut nature, Rosé, and Millésime) are made from 100% Pinot Meunier, something I can’t remember seeing very often before. Pinot Meunier is like the bass player in a jazz trio — holding everything together in the background while the other musicians (Chardonnay and Pinot Noir) take the spotlight. But under the right circumstances (think Charles Mingus), Pinot Meunier can really swing.
You will occasionally find Pinot Meunier still wines and they are worth seeking out — our cellar holds examples from Graziano in Mendocino County and The Eyrie in the Williamette Valley. Jason Lett, who made The Eyrie wine, says that Pinot Meunier is like a crazy uncle — you never know for sure what he is going to do! I also remember sampling a still Pinot Meunier from barrel with Joel Burt at Domain Chandon in Yountville (which some of you will recognize as another Jeanty connection).
So the Champagne Mangin wines are distinctive, but which one should we choose? Well, we didn’t over-think the question this time. The Brut Rosé is such a beautiful color, we just had to pop the cork! And we were not disappointed. From first sip to last, with food and without, it was amazing, both on the nose and in the mouth. What a great way to begin the long Thanksgiving holiday weekend. It would be impossible to top the Brut Rosé, but perhaps we could try something equally unexpected?
North and South
And so, on the second night of Thanksgiving we tried a variation on the pink bubble theme and opened a bottle of Valdo Floral label Rosé Brut. Valdo Spumante, based in Valdobbiadene and imported by Taub Family Selections, is a well-known Prosecco producer, but this isn’t a Prosecco wine. Prosecco is made from the Glera grape and Prosecco Rosé adds Pinot Noir for color.
The Valdo Floral label wine, however, is a blend of 25% Glera with 75% Nerello Mascalese, a red grape usually associated with Sicily. Blending wine from north and south to make a pink spumante — what a totally crazy idea? How in the world would someone ever think of doing that?
But, well, it really works. The wine was pretty and delicious. Not floral, we thought (that’s the label, not the wine) but sparkling and flavorful. More than up to the job. A real surprise (or, to me honest — another surprise coming right after the Champagne Mangin).
Things were going rather well, so we decided to continue down the path of sparkling, pink wines with an unexpected twist. This led us to “Il Rosa” Spumante Brut from Sommariva, a Prosecco producer in Conegliano (imported by Kermit Lynch).
The wine was delicious and showed clearly that light color doesn’t mean light aroma and flavor. What’s the twist? Well, this is a Rosé from the land of Prosecco, but it isn’t a Prosecco Rosé because it is made from a blend of Pinot Noir and Raboso grape wine. Raboso?
Raboso Veronese and Raboso Piave are red wine grape varieties that, according to Wine Grapes, make tough, tannic still wines, but are also useful in sparkling wines. Tough on its own, but potentially delicate in the right blend (and in the right hands, I suspect).
I was introduced to Raboso over dinner in Conegliano a few years ago. It was before Prosecco Rosé DOC was approved. The wine was a blend of Glera and Raboso and it was delicious — a great introduction to the grape. I fully expected the pink DOC blend, when it was approved, would include Raboso, but Pinot Noir was the choice.
So this blend of Pinot Noir and Raboso was doubly unexpected, and it was another great experience, bringing our Thanksgiving celebration to a successful conclusion.
I asked Sue to compare the wines and she said she liked them all — each was surprising in its own way and delivered in terms of aroma and flavor. But the Champagne Mangin was her favorite. Maybe it was the color or perhaps the exotic aromas. Something very special.
Where will this road lead us next? Well, we have many paths to explore, including other wines by these producers (especially hard to resist the temptation to pop the corks of the other Champagne Magnin wines). The holiday wine experience has been great so far this year. We resolve not to over-think our next step as we move closer to the new year!
Special thanks to Philippe Jeanty for introducing us to his nephew’s wonderful wines. Cheers!