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Stevenson picks out next great grape for sparkling

Renowned Champagne commentator Tom Stevenson believes he may have found a red grape as good as Pinot Noir for making sparkling wine.

Speaking yesterday in London during a masterclass on emerging sparkling wine regions at Fizz – The Sparkling Wine Show, Stevenson said that he was always being asked what are the most impressive non-Champagne grapes for making sparkling wine, and may have found the answer in northwest Italy.

Having shown attendees a pink sparkling wine called Cuvage Rosé, he revealed that the drink was from Piedmont and made entirely with the Nebbiolo grape, the source of Italy’s great reds: Barolo and Barbaresco.

“This example sows the potential of Nebbiolo for sparkling, which I suppose is understandable as the grape can make wines that are Pinot Noir-ish,” he said.

“On the other hand, this might be a one-off,” he said of the Cuvage Rosé, which is classified as coming from the regional Langhe DOC – a designation used for wines that fall outside the traditional examples from Piedmont.

Nevertheless, he praised the wine for being “elegant and fresh”, and said that next year’s release of Cuvage Rosé will be vintage-dated.

When asked what other red grapes beyond Champagne varieties Pinot Noir and Meunier might be good for producing suitable base wines for sparkling, he identified two further possibilities: Xinomavro from Greece and País from South America (the latter is used by Torres Chile to produce its Santa Digna Estelado Rosé, which Stevenson said was now available in magnums, as well as bottles).

Commenting further on the sparkling possibilities in the Piedmont, Stevenson said that the Italian region’s Alta Langa DOC was “emerging”, saying, “I went to Asti recently to taste Asti Spumante and I was presented firstly with a tasting of Alta Langa, and I was blown away.”

Alta Langa was established officially in 1991 as a DOC for traditional method sparkling wines made using Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes from the Piedmont.

The Cuvage Rosé from Piedmont received the Chairman’s Trophy in 2015’s Champagne and Sparkling Wine World Championships, awarded this year for the most exciting classic brut-style sparkling wine produced from an indigenous variety.

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