Sunday, 20 October 2013

GOOD TIMES FOR BUBBLY: Moments After Chandon Launch, Fratelli Formally Announces Rollout of Gran Cuvée Brut

By Sourish Bhattacharyya
The entry of the Fratelli Gran Cuvee Brut
Sparkling will make the bubbly market
that much more exciting

JUST AS I’d finished updating my post on the Chandon launch — my effusiveness, by the way, got me a mild rap from an active member of the Indian Wine Academy, a Facebook forum I greatly respect — I got a press release in my inbox announcing the launch of Fratelli’s bubbly, a methode traditionelle sparkling wine with 100 per cent Chenin Blanc.
The ambitiously named Gran Cuvée Brut has been developed by Fratelli Wines at Akluj, the old cotton trade centre of Maharashtra’s Sholapur district, which is now famous for the Indo-Italian joint wine venture. And the winemaker is the celebrated Piero Masi, about whom I had written about some time back in my report on Fratelli Sangiovese Blanc, which I found to be a creditable addition to the company’s wine portfolio. It’s a drinkable aperitif wine — just the kind you’d serve on a Saturday night at a small party.
I hope to taste very soon the Gran Cuvée Brut (Mumbai, Rs 995; Delhi, Rs 1,050), but when I was talking about it with Moet Hennessy’s Regional Managing Director (Asia Pacific), Mark Bedingham, he said the entry of more quality bubbly into the presently limited market would also make the category grow. I agree. With Sula, Grover Zampa, Moet Hennessy India and Fratelli, all quality players, ready to give each other a run for the money, the net gainer will be the consumer. I only wish, though, the Gran Cuvée Brut proudly announced itself as a ‘Product of India’ or ‘Product of Akluj’ in the same way as Chandon does.
What interests me about Gran Cuvée Brut is that it is a single-varietal sparkling wine. Champagne houses normally use three varietals (Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier), unless they are making blanc de blancs exclusively from Chardonnay, to balance out the shortcomings of a particular grape in a particular year. As the popular saying goes (which I got know thanks to Bedingham), “In diversity there’s consistency.”
I will now quote extensively from the Fratelli media release to give you an idea of the production process — it’s the same that is employed to make champagne in France.
“After the primary fermentation,” says the media release, “the blend is bottled with yeast and a small quantity of sugar for a second fermentation at the Fratelli winery in Akluj. During the secondary fermentation, the bottles are stored horizontally, maintained at 10 degrees C constantly so that once the second fermentation is over, lees will mature and add complexity to the wine, both on the nose and the palate with bready notes.
“The bottles are then taken through a process known as ‘riddling’ where they are shelved in special racks, called pupitres, which hold the bottles at a 45-degree angle, with the crown pointing downwards. Using Italian machinery, once a day, the bottles are given a slight shake and turned, once to the right, then left, and then dropped back into the pupitres, with the angle gradually increased. The drop back into the rack gives a slight push, so that the sediments settle towards the neck of the bottle. In seven days, the position of the bottle is straight down, with the lees settled in the neck. This process of removing the lees is called disgorging.
“As the sugar added previously is consumed in the second fermentation process, the next stage is adding another small quantity of sugar to the blend. Piero Masi says, ‘We add a mixture of the base wine and sucrose called liqueur d’expédition to the blend. This is not to make the wine sweet, but to balance the high acidity of the blend. As the name suggests, the wine we have created at Fratelli is called Brut, meaning dry and having very less quantity of sugar’.”
And here are the tasting notes and food pairing suggestions from Fratelli Wines.
Tasting Notes: The Fratelli Gran Cuvee Brut, like good champagne, has typical bready yeast notes on the nose. The wine has a delicate and creamy texture with persistent bubbles and a touch of citrus on the palate, coupled with the typical Fratelli Chenin Blanc minerality. It also has a nice persistence in the mouth, as well as the glass.
Grape: The Chenin Blanc expresses typical mineral notes and acidity, perfectly balanced, making this Indian sparkling wine a surprisingly elegant experience.
Food Pairing: Excellent with sushi, prawns, oysters, duck spring rolls, smoked salmon, liver pate and creamy chicken dishes.
Serving Temperature:  3 to 7 degrees C