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Students of sparkle: What we learned at Bibendum's Fizzics event

Imbibe

Imbibe

31 December 2019

In October, Bibendum invited drinks professionals from various corners of the on-trade to gather at The Conduit in London for a singular purpose: to geek out over sparkling wine.

The event, aptly named Fizzics, was the fifth in Bibendum’s Tasting Editions series. With the holiday season fast approaching, it was certainly well timed. Somms were on the hunt for new options to offer their customers beyond the standard glass of celebratory sparkling.

Of course, given Bibendum’s reputation for turning the typical tasting format on its head, the session was much more than a bit of swirling and spitting. The distributor brought in four of its sparkling wine producers to present masterclasses on the topics that make them tick. Through lively discussions, attendees dove deep into an array of styles and expressions, from champagne, to prosecco, to English sparkling, to cava (er, Corpinnat) – and sampled some New World sparklers, too.

Couldn’t make it on the day? Here’s a taste of the Fizzics lessons the producers shared with their eager students.

Forging ahead

Spanish winery Llopart has been making sparkling wines in the Penedès region since 1887, but the last few years have been particularly exciting for the
producer. It is one of the nine winemakers that formally broke with the Cava DO earlier this year to form a new body, Corpinnat – the term that now appears
on Llopart’s labels.

Jesi Llopart herself was on hand to explain the distinguishing characteristics of corpinnat, highlighting that the wines of the new body are ultimately marked by quality. Manual harvest is required, farming has to be certified organic, and wines must be made on the estate and aged no less than 18 months. In addition, 90% of the grapes must be indigenous varieties, and all grapes must come from DO Penedès, giving the wines distinct terroir. At the tasting, Jesi showed off the Brut Rosé 2016, the Imperial Panoramic Brut Gran Reserva 2013 and the newly released Brut Nature Gran Reserva 2011 – all excellent examples of Llopart’s very versatile style.

Sparkling sustainability

Further bubbly insights came from Ridgeview, the Sussex-based producer that has helped carve a name for English fizz in the sparkling wine market. Ridgeview has been producing its signature crisp, fresh wines for 20 years.

Tom Surgey, sales and business development director for Ridgeview, chatted about the winery’s commitment to sustainability and minimal intervention in the winemaking process. He revealed how the producer’s new state-of-the-art winery has been constructed with these values in mind, and Ridgeview’s Bloomsbury, Blanc de Noirs 2014 and Blanc de Blancs 2014 were poured to showcase how sustainable methods can result in incredible quality.

Size matters

Champagne Palmer & Co was up next. Export area manager Arthur Camut discussed how champagnes differ when aged in standard bottles versus in magnum, sharing the producer’s passion for the large format – they’re so keen on it, they often refer to 75cl bottles as ‘half magnums’. Unsurprisingly, the Palmer cellars are a fizz geek’s dream, lined with everything from 1996 magnums of blanc de blancs to 30yo methuselahs and nebuchadnezzars.

Palmer’s largest bottles are aged for 10 years or more, but prolonged time on lees is a characteristic of all of the producer’s formats. Non-vintage cuvées age for at least three years; vintages age for six to eight. And lucky Fizzics students got to taste the fruits of Palmer’s patience through the non-vintage Blanc de Blancs and Rosé Reserve, as well as the stunning 2009 vintage.

Going experimental

What’s a Fizzics class without a little experimentation? Prosecco producer Bisol has been trialling prosecco made in the traditional method – using Glera grapes, but undergoing a second fermentation in bottle like champagne, rather than in tanks as in the Charmat method. And Bisol didn’t choose Glera from just any vineyard for its experiment. It used grapes from the hillside of Cartizze, known for making some of Italy’s best sparkling wines.

Gianluca Bisol explained that only 3,000 bottles of the traditional-method prosecco were produced due to the labour-intensive winemaking process: four separate fermentations in different vessels were used to create complexity, with different techniques for each.

The result? A unique liquid with a complex creamy, nutty, smoky character on the nose and the characteristic freshness of prosecco on the palate – truly a sparkling wine unlike any other. Gianluca also brought along Bisol’s non-vintage Jeio and 2017 Crede to demonstrate the classic prosecco profile alongside its maverick Cartizze expression.

New sparklers to celebrate

Get your geek on: Bibendum’s well-formed portfolio of sparkling wines from around the world can help you guide your guests towards something new in the festive season and beyond. Contact your Bibendum rep to learn more about the producers featured in the Fizzics session, or head to bibendum-wine.co.uk to get to grips with the distributor’s other offerings.

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