Yes I know that I said that I would not be posting as often as Soile and now here I am posting almost right away after my introduction. Well, what can I say. When inspiration strikes I am just unable not to share my thoughts.
There is this ongoing debate on whether there are any sparkling wines from other regions that can compete with Champagne. There are purists, like well-known Champagne expert Richard Juhlin, who claims that even the worst Champagnes are better than what other regions can produce. I do not agree with that – there are some brilliant Champagnes but there is also a lot that is produced in Champagne that is not at all very good. Taking value for money into account there is also a lot from other regions that is more interesting than Champagne. I do however in general find that the method used in Champagne is key to making a good sparkling. I have had excellent examples of sparkling wine from other parts of France, Spain, Italy, the US, South Africa and New Zealand (and we have some interesting bottles from Germany and recommendations for Austria as well) and what unites all of them is the Method Champenoise.
With this little introduction I want to highlight one of the very good value non Champagne sparkling wines out there. It is a South African sparkling made with the traditional champagne method – in South Africa this is indicated by the Méthode Cap Classique on the label. This specific one is Pongracz Brut. I had the pleasure of having a glass or two of it when visiting the lovely Yelp Community Manager for Stockholm.
Pongracz is made with 60% Pinot Noir and 40 % Chardonnay and with 8g/l of residual sugar. It has been aged for 35 months. The name comes from the Hungarian Desiderius Pongrácz, a nobleman who fled the uprising in Hungary in 1956 and was one of the key people in shaping and developing the wine making in South Africa.
The color of it is pale yellow and a the nose of it is really pleasant. It has clear scent of bread and crisp green apples and white fruits. The first time I smelled it i was surprised and I did really think this was a more expensive wine and for a moment I was even wondering whether it could be a champagne. The flavor is full with a toastiness to it but also clear notes of apple, nuts and mineral. The bubbles are small and pleasant. The aftertaste is fairly long and has hints of berries.
It does present some really excellent value in most markets. For those in the monopoly markets it is available in the standard assortment in Finland for €14.90 (Alko) and the special order assortment in Sweden for 111 SEK (Systembolaget). I have also seen it in the UK for around £10-12. If you are also willing to venture on the ‘party boat’ going between Finland and Sweden it is also possible to buy them at Viking Line for a mere 82 SEK per bottle. In general I am not really a fan of the ferries as I spent way too much time traveling on them when younger and going to the summer house, but looking at the selection and prices at Viking Line there are some real bargains to be had and I will probably come back in future posts on the selection on board.
I would rate the quality as a 3.5 (on a five grade scale) but in a value for money perspective this deserves a strong 4. Compared to other wines in the same price range it is really excellent. For me it still lacks something in the flavor, the nose is excellent but flavor-wise I would have wanted more full flavor to give it a higher quality rating. Still it is a lot better than many wines that cost twice as much and clearly a wine I could imagine drinking more of.