Erica Mandl of Korbel Champagne Cellars
For the last tasting of the semester at the SSU WineSense Club, we focused on a holiday theme of sparkling wine and dessert. The beautiful Erica Mandl, head winemaker at Korbel Champagne Cellars, led the tasting by introducing five different Korbel bubblies. These were matched to delectable desserts from the new bakery in Rohnert Park, Bianchi’s.
How Sweet is Your Sparkling Wine?
Erica cautioned that it was important to understand the level of residual sugar in a sparkling wine, in order to determine the type of dessert with which to pair it. The official listing of allowed sugar levels from the Comte Champagne website (http://www.champagne.fr/en/diversite_champagne.aspx) is as follows:
- Brut Natural = less than 3 grams sugar per litre
- Extra Brut (0-6 grams/litre)
- Brut (less than 12 grams/litre)
- Extra Dry (12 -17 grams/litre)
- Sec (17-32 grams/litre)
- Demi-Sec (32-50 grams/litre)
- Sweet (more than 50 grams/litre)
The level of sweetness in a sparkling wine is determined by the dosage, which is added after the wine finishes second fermentation in the bottle. All Korbel sparkling wines are fermented in the bottle, using the traditional method developed in the Champagne region of France. Korbel is still allowed to use the term “California Champagne” on its bottles, because it is one of the oldest sparkling wine houses in America, dating from 1882, and has grandfathered regulations to use this term in the US.
Matching Sparkling Wine to Dessert
The less sugar in your sparkling wine, such Korbel’s Natural (.75%, $13.99), indicates it will pair better with a dessert that is slightly less sweet. If the dessert is too sweet, it will make the wine seem more acidic. Therefore, Bianchi’s almond cookie was a good match for this Korbel bubbly with its apple and lemon notes. Fresh fruit and cheese also make a good pairing with a more dry Champagne.
For the Korbel Brut Rose (1.5% sugar, $10;99), which is sweeter than the Natural but still tastes dry with bright cherry and strawberry notes, Erica recommends dark chocolate. Bianchi’s dark chocolate brownie was a perfect foil for this wine.
The other three Korbel bubblies we tasted that evening were progressively sweeter in style. They are listed below with descriptions, sugar level, and suggested dessert pairings.
Sugar & Price
|Korbel Riesling California Champagne
||Semi-sweet with flavors of orange blossom, apricot, and pear. A hint of clover honey at the end.
||Bianchi’s lemon bars, or other creamy and tart desserts such as custard or flan. Also consider warm gingerbread
|Korbel Moscato Frizzante
||Moderately sweet wine with suggestions of tart green apples, kiwi fruit, and lemon citrus flavors.
||Light chocolate cake with rose petal sauce or caramel and ice-cream, champagne poached pears.
|Korbel Sweet Rose
|Korbel’s sweetess champagne with very bright fruit flavors and aromas, but a cleansing acidity on the finish.
||Can be used as dessert on its own, or served with white or milk chocolate desserts.
For more information on these special sparkling wines, see Korbel Champagne Cellers at http://store.korbel.com/premium-champagnes-c4.aspx. For more information on Bianchi’s Bakeshop, please see https://www.facebook.com/bianchisbakeshop