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January 3, 2014 Wine Pick of the Week

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 Jaume Serra Cristalino bottle 2 Picmonkey

Cristalino Brut (N/V)


Producer: Jaume Serra

Appellation: Penedés (Spain)

Alcohol: 11.5%

Suggested Retail: $7.99


“This wine has been a favorite for a long time. Cristalino Brut comes from Catalonia in northeast Spain, where the sparkling wine category is known as cava. Though made from different grape varieties than those grown in Champagne (Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and, sometimes, Pinot Meunier), cava, like good quality sparkling wine from California, is made in the traditional method of Champagne. Most bubbly wine priced under $10 is swill. Not so, this Cristalino. It actually tastes like Champagne, still the standard of the world for this category, and I am happy drinking it as my 'everyday' sparkler.

“Made from grapes unknown in the U.S. (50% Macabeo, 35% Parellada, 15% Xarel-lo), Cristalino nevertheless delivers relatively traditional aromas and flavors of lemon or lemon curd and green apples. There's also just a touch of the yeasty or baked bread quality, too. It shows a long-lasting effervescence from pin-point bubbles, generally thought to be a hallmark of sparkling wines made in the methode traditionelle.

“This wine had a better looking package in years past, but French winemaker Louis Roederer sued, alleging that the 'Cristalino' identity was too close to that of 'Cristal,' their most prestigious product. Cristal is favored by rappers and rockstars, as well as people who actually appreciate the taste of high quality Champagne. It's a long story, but Roederer prevailed and the Spanish sparkler was required to change its label to read 'Jaume Serra Cristalino' and include a prominent disclaimer that the two wines are not related. Roederer's Cristal is wonderful. It ought to be. A bottle of the 2005 vintage costs about $175 at retail—roughly 22 times the price of the non-vintagee Jaume Serra Cristalino.”

Food Affinity: “Forget chocolates and red meats, but pour with any of the foods traditionally associated with dry Champagnes—caviar, smoked salmon, salted nuts, lighter fish and fowl dishes, etc. (On New Year's Eve we enjoyed it with a Crab Louis)."

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