Monday, October 19, 2020

Nyetimber -- Bubbles from Great Britain

Hello, friends.

These are quiet times around the vineyard, but as we round the horn into the beauty of fall around here, I’m starting to feel like there’s some light around the corner.

To celebrate, or at least take a breath before, what I’m hoping may be the beginnings of the piercings of this veil of negativity we’ve been under for what feels like forever. I want to share with you Nyetimber 2013 Blanc de Blancs, a sparkling wine from…England?

Yes, England. You read that correctly. While the English are better known for their fondness for pounding bottle after bottle of Claret (red Bordeaux to the rest of us) there’s not been a real emphasis on wine production among our friends across the pond. However, as our global climate warms, some areas which would have been too cold to produce vinifera grapes consistently are now finding themselves fertile ground for grape growing. The total area under vine in England has almost quadrupled over the last decade, largely in the south of England along the English Channel.

Enter Nyetimber. With vineyards spread across Sussex, Hampshire, and Kent – the three counties in the southeast corner of the U.K. – Nyetimber was the first English winery to grow the three primary varietals which comprise Champagne: Pinot Noir, Petit Meunier, and, of course Chardonnay.

The Nyetimber estate takes its name from Nitimbreha – the name of the valley in which the first vines were planted nearly 900 years ago, according to a reference in the Domesday Book. The main sparkling varietals were planted much more recently – only over the last 30 years or so, and those wines were largely consumed locally or elsewhere in the EU. With England’s departure from that European body, I imagine these wines will begin appearing in US stores much more frequently.

Thanks to a well-timed visit from the wine fairy (thanks, Pia!), the Sweet Partner in Crime and I had the opportunity to build part of an evening around our first experience with English bubbly -- which I must say was very pleasant. This 100% Chardonnay spends about five years on its lees, so I readied myself for a Champagne-like experience. What I got was quite different.

The nose of this Blanc de Blancs is somewhat yeasty with a nice backing of lemon and apple blossom. My first sip was refreshingly bracing. Crisply layered green apple flavors and flint ride a wave of tight bubbles like a breeze off the Solent. The texture was fascinating – I’ve never felt the bubbles of a sparkler on my teeth as tightly as with this wine. The slow-to-build finish exits with some toasty vanilla and a bit of a return of the yeast from the nose.

 I found the Nyetimber to be less rich and creamy as a lot of Champagnes, but that is certainly not to its detriment if your taste for sparkling runs more to the invigorating. I thought it was incredibly lively and would make a fabulous aperitif when we get back to having dinner parties again. Since this wine has such a lovely palate-cleansing effervescence, I expected it would make a good food wine. No disappointments there.

Lobster Rolls and Bubbly


In landlocked central Pennsylvania, one might not expect to find good seafood, particularly shellfish. However, in Lemont, just outside of State College, sits the beacon that is Maine Bay and Berry, an absolutely essential stop for us these days. MB&B makes weekly runs to various New England stops to bring wonderfully fresh fish back to us in Centre County. One of their signatures, not surprisingly is lobster, and we adore their lobster rolls – which are light on mayo and heavy on flavor.

Since the basic rule of food and bubbly is “get a little fat in your mouth,” we had the Nyetimber alongside our lobster rolls with a side of potato chips. Once we dug in, I don’t think there was a coherent word that passed between us – just some guttural yummy noises. If you have a chance to try the Nyetimber with shellfish – and I imagine it would be astoundingly good with oysters – do so.

The Nyetimber is a special occasion wine – this bottle is available for around $40-55, depending on seller and quantity, but I imagine that price will descend. There are also some less-expensive cuvees from the estate available. There's also a fun feature where you can enter a code from the label to see the precise date when your bottle was...well...bottled, riddled, and disgorged.

 

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Raleigh Wine Shop -- well-deserved kudos

My friend James Voltz owns the Raleigh Wine Shop -- a wonderful store in NC which any of my friends in the Triangle area should get to know. James a certified sommelier -- and trust me, if you're looking for a transcendent wine experience, let his conscience (and his incredible palate) be your guide.

The RWS was just named one of the Top 50 Wine Education programs in the country by Wine Enthusiast. James has maintained a strong business in these recent days, partly through his commitment to an educational mission for oenophiles. What makes the RWS special, though -- James is an epidemiologist by training. He's set up his house rules, deliveries, staffing, tasting, and guidance with COVID prevention protocols strictly in place. And guess what? Turns out people want to be safe while  they're getting their wine!

Check out the Raleigh Wine Shop at https://www.theraleighwineshop.com -- and if you stop in, tell 'em The Naked Vine sent you!

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Proof of Life -- And a Big Box of Rosé

Hello, friends. It’s been awhile.

Honestly, I’m not sure how to restart here, so I’m just going to ramble for a bit.

I intended to have a lot to say this year – was going to revamp things a bit and try to reboot the ol’ blog – but I started a new job at Penn State in October, which drew a lot of my energy, as did the day to day grind of surviving the reign of Der Gropenfűhrer.

2020 rolled around. The Sweet Partner in Crime and I decided to try to reset our respective livers. We more or less successfully completed a Dry January. Admittedly, we cheated a couple of times for special occasions (hey, Holly!) – but we managed to keep to the spirit of things.

Honestly, Dry January wasn’t as tough as I feared…at least for the first two weeks. We whipped up a supply of mocktails that kept us going, but I’ll tell you – the last week or so, until we staggered soberly across the finish line, were a real slog, because there were just some times that a glass of wine would have been perfect. We made it.

I lost some weight. I gained it back. I lost more. I weigh the same now as I did when I was half my current age. I started meditating regularly, which has been revelatory. Charlie and Rosie are still wonderful pups. The Sweet Partner in Crime was named a Fellow by the leading national organization in her field.

Then came COVID.

We went into our homes and, by all indications, started drinking our collective faces off.

Well, except here in Pennsylvania. Because of the crazy liquor laws – beer stores stayed open, but wine & liquor stores were all shuttered. Wine started getting in short supply around these parts. The grocery stores ran out quickly.

Thank goodness for our friends who drive the delivery trucks. Scott, our UPS guy, has been a godsend. Pennsylvania is a much easier place to ship to than our former address.

Which brings us to the actual wine content you’ve come here for, right?

As we were getting hard up for any kind of juice, particularly rosé -- I decided to venture onto Groupon and pull the trigger on a deal I saw for an inexpensive 15 bottle case. I’m happy to report that my experience with Splash Wines was highly positive. My order came with three bottles each of a selection of five rosé:

  • Midnight Black Rose (Italy -- Trentino)
  • “Rosé All Day” Beaujolais Rosé (France – Beaujolais)
  • Maison Williams Chase Rosé (France – Provence)
  • Domaine Jacourette Rosé (France – Provence)
  • Mazzei Belguardo Rosé (Italy – Tuscany)

Ah...good to have you back at the homestead...

Seeing a raft of Italian and French pinkness looking back at me from the box filled me with hope. My major worry when I ordered this grab bag was that these inexpensive wines wouldn’t really be “rosé-ish” – meaning that they’d be overly fruity, slightly sweet, and somewhat heavier in body.

Not the case here at all. I’m not going to do detailed tasting notes on these selections. All of them are fine. Do any of them have flavors that leap from the glass to choirs of angels and transcendent goodness? Of course not. But are they, as a whole, light and crisp with enough flavor to be interesting, perfect for sipping while contemplating (or trying to avoid contemplating) both the excitement of a real social change in this country and the terror of the inevitable pain that will follow as the dying mule of racism kicks back hard? You betcha.

We’ve tried all five of these by now in various contexts. They’re perfectly food-friendly, pull and pop wines that aren’t just plonk. After shipping, the price was about $5/per bottle. At that price point, who’s to complain?

My friends, we’re a long way from the end of our various national turmoils. The levels of dumbassery we keep seeing are only going to increase as people demand that lockdown be lifted so other people can be forced to wait on them. Political ideology is no match for epidemiology, so no matter where you are – be safe, listen to and embrace the experiences of people who don’t look like you, and wear your damned masks.

And, of course, vote against anyone running for office, incumbent or challenger, who won’t do those things. Because not to put too fine a point on it -- they don’t care if you die.