If you’re anything like us, you’re eagerly awaiting the new year. 2020 has been a bumpy ride for us all, and while we’ve still got a ways to go until things feel back to normal, the symbolic gesture of beginning a new year fills us with hope, happiness, and a bit of cheer.
Like most of the wine we carry at RGF, our picks for toasting 2021 are idiosyncratic and a bit off the beaten path: no showy big-money Champagne, but plenty of celebration-worthy bubbles nonetheless, and, as ever, a lot of pink. So here’s to you and yours; we’ll be raising a glass at midnight and wishing you all the best in 2021.
Biodynamic producer Bernard Vallette has been making wine his whole life, and in fact the vineyards he works have been in his family for over 150 years. ‘Nee Bullese’ translates to ‘Born Bubbling’ but in a bit of French word play suggests the homphone nébuleuse, which suggests both terrestrial rain clouds and the interstellar clouds that give birth to stars. Far out indeed. 100% Sparkling Gamay, it is bright, tart, and clean, redolent of strawberries and with a nice mineral backbone.
With a cheeky name (say ‘sham-pa-keen-know’), this kitchen-sink field blend from Emilia-Romagna is the kind of old-school frizzante once only found in the taverns and trattorias in the Hills of Piancenza. Fifth-generation winemaker Leonard Bulli continues the family’s tradition of never using any SO2, and the resulting metodo ancestral is fresh and floral, with lemony citrus notes and a kiss of salt. A new house favorite.
Casa Belfi’s ‘Frizzante Rosso’ is a delicious ruby-red sparkling natural wine from Northeastern Italy, and made from 100% Raboso, a grape indigenous to the area. The fruit is estate-grown and farmed biodynamically, and the wine is fermented spontaneously with native yeasts and bottled unfined, unfiltered, and with no added sulfites. Surprisingly well-structured while remaining super light and refreshing, this lively pet-nat shows off flavors of juicy red cherry and raspberry, with a well-integrated mineral profile and a low ABV (all of our favorite things). It pairs well with anything you can throw at it, and is delicious as an aperitif.
An equal parts blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, JL Denois Tradition Extra Brutis a charming and bright bubbly, and a great alternative to more ‘serious’ grower-champagnes. The nose is floral and fruity, with a hint of smoke and spice, while the palate is harmoniously well-structured and tastes of lemon and exotic fruits with a faintly saline note. Extended lees contact impart this dry sparkling wine a bit of that nutty, toasty, yeasty profile that goes so perfectly with the winter holidays, and make it the perfect thing for toasting at midnight.
This bright, fizzy, skin-contact 100% Ortrugo from the Piacenza Hills has become one of our absolute favorites. Lubigo (or “landslide” in local dialect) is the name of the estate parcel for this wine, and the soils are sandy and limestone-based, rich in fossilized shells from its past life as an ocean bottom. Farming is completely organic, and everything is done by hand, including weeding and harvest. The fruit is destemmed and left to ferment spontaneously in vat, with around a week of maceration with the skins before pressing. After resting in vats through the winter, undergoing partial malolactic fermentation, it’s bottled in March with about 15 grams of sugar per liter remaining and with a tiny dose of sulfur. Re-fermentation begins as the spring air warms the cellar where the wine is held in bottle for a minimum of 10 months, finishing almost completely dry. It is not disgorged or filtered, and shows layers of complex flavors: lemon oil, green apple, and toasty bread, with a refreshingly dry and mineral-y finish.
The bright green, fractal cones of romanesco broccoli look like something from Dr. Seuss. Inspired by Sicilian cauliflower salad called rinforzata (literally reinforced, invoking the addition of pantry staples to stretch the humble Brassica), this version combines crunch, salt, sweet, and sour.