When my colleague approached me one day and said he had some sensational South American bubbly he wanted to try me on, I read his face searching for slightest sign of sarcasm or wile. After a second, I knew he was serious. Well, of course, I would be delighted to try them immediately. I didn’t doubt South America’s potential, but to date, I had not tried anything that made a place for itself in my memory.
A few days later, he presented a white and a rosé from Bodega Cruzat. Both fell out of the traditional French winemaking method—Méthode Champenoise. Therefore, they were first made into fairly complex still wines, each seeing time on their lees and developing layers of personality for almost two years if not more before moving into their next phase: bubble production. This comes as a result of adding a sugar yeast mixture—also known as the ‘liqueur de tirage’—to the bottle. The bottles are then resealed and placed on racks, where there are carefully shaken and turned (known as ‘riddling’) every couple days over the course of many weeks, even months. They eventually go from a horizontal position to one that is vertical. Once this is complete, the sediment and dead yeast cells that have gathered into the neck are ‘disgorged’ by way of freezing the bottles. Afterwards, a ‘dosage’ of reserve wine is added to top it off, determining its sweetness level (Nature, Brut, Extra Dry, Sec, Demi-Sec). Finally, the bottle is sealed for good and aged a while longer if the fruit can withstand the wait.
Cruzat’s fruit can. In fact, Cruzat typically sees anywhere from four to six years from harvest to market. I say Cruzat like this is one person’s venture, but it is really the conglomeration of several partners’ dreams realized. The man responsible for the product? Well, that’s Argentina’s genius sparkling winemaker Don Pedro Rossell. He is a veteran in Mendoza, and he insists upon telling the world of its terroir through the finest of sparkling wine. In fact, that is the sole focus of Bodega Cruzat, a respected rarity in this region.
The 2004 Cruzat Brut was surprisingly rich and mouthfilling. It sang of light citrusy lemon notes and toasty almond crunch. It wore acid with vigor and confidence. And it demanded a meal. Particularly, it longed for food with substance. Perhaps white fish draped in beurre blanc, buttery lobster, or clams with white cream sauce. I think it could possibly even handle something as weighty as chicken in a lighter lemon pepper marinade.
The 2004 Cruzat Rosé, though, was my favorite. Perhaps I am just a sucker for that pretty pink hue. Especially this one. It almost seemed tangled in a silver string, shimmering from every angle. And it was so…quiet. It nearly seemed to hold its breath in anticipation for what I can only wonder. The fruit was pronounced but polite, distinct but delicate. It consists of 80% Pinot Noir and 20% Chardonnay–a classic Champagne marriage. It was not only competitive with other rosé bubbles in its class but arguably better at a mere $20.
And so, that’s Argentina’s answer to sparkling. In my humble opinion, I think they are onto something…