NV Gruet, Methode Champenoise Blanc de Noirs
I'm not one for causes. Confusing what I do here with tertiary things like politics or economics. I might care about biodynamic, organic, sulfite-free wine. I might not. Maybe immigrant vineyard workers should be paid more. Has anyone looked into who is really making the new wines from India? I don't know. That's not what drives 750 mL. But today, we officially adopt a cause. A mission, if we may be so bold, to buy Laurent and Nathalie Gruet, children of the Bethon, France-born Gilbert Gruet, some plot of land near Ay, Champagne. Because we're not going to start another argument about whether America makes real "Champagne"... Yes, this wine is from America. New Mexico. Albuquerque, actually. Right off the interstate. There's a Whataburger down the street from here. ...It doesn't. OK, glad that's over. Now, we can get to what's important. Which is that there is tremendous spirit to this wine, easily the boldest, most educated of all American sparkling wines. Let's first get past the flaws. For those of you who don't care what "methode Champenoise" means. Who think "Ay" is a typo. God bless you. Because you're not tortured by the horribly expensive pursuit of the perfect wine (all roads lead to some--though no one knows which--Champagne). And for you, this Gruet blanc de noirs is--by far--America's best sparkling wine. With the slight, powdered sugary sweetness of Moet's White Star, it's at once terribly complex and terribly pedestrian. It's either a good domestic wine or a bad prosecco. But we can quickly look past that. Because I actually think there's a lot more going on here than an odd level of sugar. It's not really sugar. What's happening to this Gruet is that it's found and preserved some remarkably precious, ripe pinot noir. There is no traditional sparkling wine in the world that tastes more purely of the pinot noir grape than non-vintage Gruet, Blanc de Noirs. It's completely filled--bubbling over--with a direct, linear flavor of wild raspberry and Meyer lemon peel, screaming for the sweet savory of sashimi salmon. The kind of flavor in a Champagn... sparkling wine that flat-out catches you offguard. It makes you forget what you were thinking. That's what Gruet does. Yes, there are better pinot-based sparklers in the world. More than a dozen, at least, as a matter of fact. But the way these complex flavors finish, from the fruit to a dense, eggy vanilla custard and frothy zabaglione, and hit you over the head--I just have to see what these folks can do outside this dessert climate, actually not unlike the high-elevation plots of southern France famous for its sparkling Mauzac. Let's do something that really matters. Let's get them there.