After our wildly successful experiment in which we carbonated hard liquor, we decided to go at it again. We found a variety of white wines and—with the help of Patrick Cappiello, sommelier and operating partner/wine director of Pearl & Ash Restaurant—made some SodaStream-brand champagne...sort of.
With me at the helm carbonating the wine (and getting it all over the table), and Patrick tasting each concoction, we made some killer...and not-so-killer, carbonated beverages.
We tasted each one and judged the flavors with nothing more than our clashing knowledge of wine à la Sideways and got a little tipsy at 10 in the morning.
Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc, 2014
Patrick: “Wow. Well, it’s not hiding any of the characteristics of a Sauvignon Blanc. There’s this kind of grassy gooseberry flavor, which you get a lot with Sauvignon Blanc. Grapefruit rind—all those flavors are still very dominant—and oftentimes there’s a cat pee kind of flavor in there, too. With the bubbles, the alcohol level seems more intrusive. This is only 13 percent alcohol, but it feels a little hotter."
Jeremy: "I can see what you mean with the grapefruit, but I don't think I've ever eaten gooseberries before. Do geese eat them?"
Comparable to champagne: "No. It has bubbles, but it’s not intensely bubbly.”
L'oiseau D'or Muscadet Sèvre et Maine, 2012
Patrick: “Muscadet is from the Loire Valley and come from mineral-heavy soil, so they tend to be brighter and dry and fresh. That really held on to the gas. Muscadet is something you’d typically have with oysters, so having something that’s assertive and mineral-driven makes sense. I don’t know if the minerality is helping it hold onto the bubbles, but it works.
Jeremy: “It’s very bubbly. Almost sour.”
Patrick: “That’s the nature of the wine: it’s already going to be super-high in acid. Muscadet grows in a cool climate, it’s further towards the coast. That’s an area where you’ll get wine that’s brighter and fresher, because of the climate. It’s a summertime wine.”
Comparable to champagne: "It's not terrible."
Edna Valley Chardonnay, 2012
Patrick: “This is a California Chardonnay so it was made in a much warmer climate. Chardonnays tend to be a little more rich, a little more opulent. Not quite good. I think there are alcohol level issues with this wine already, and it seems unbalanced. I think the bubbles are only enhancing the more jagged edge of this wine instead of softening it. Not so delicious. There’s a bitterness in the finish, which is also a result of carbonating it—you’re drawing out some of the rougher qualities of the wine."
Jeremy: “Yeah, I don’t like that at all...I don’t know. It tastes cheesy.”
Comparable to champagne: "No, but this would pair well with a Velveeta."
Chateau de Pourcieux Rosé, 2014
Patrick: “That held the bubbles actually really well. That’s pretty good! This comes from an area that’s known for its dry Rosé, so the fact that it’s already pretty dry and fresh works well with the carbonation and adds more freshness to the wine. I think it makes it more aromatic. It’s more floral—flavor-wise—and the way the wine is smelling.
Jeremy: "I actually don't like Rosé that much, but I was very surprised with the flavor that came about from the carbonation. It tastes like something I'd drink in a pool."
Comparable to champagne: "Yes, it really bursts from the glass, which I think can be attributed to the bubbles.”
La Chablisienne Petit Chablis, 2013
Patrick: "Chablis is from the Burgundy region of France, which is far north. So, you get wine that's brighter, lighter, more crisp. Usually, there’s little to no oak used as well, so I think it’s a Chardonnay for people who like lighter wines. Chablis itself is very close to champagne, it’s the next closest region to the area of Champagne, so it would make perfect sense that this wine should be the option for making a good sparkling wine. That one didn’t take the bubbles as well as the first one, because the weight of that wine is a little bit richer than the Sauvignon Blanc. I think it has a bit more of a roundness, this seems a little more palatable."
Jeremy: "I'm embarrassed to say it, but if I got handed this at a party and was told it was champagne, I'd happily drink it up. If anything, this makes me really self-conscious about my palate. Am I a philistine?"
Comparable to champagne: "I still wouldn’t say it’s as good as any champagne I’ve had.”
San Pietro Pinot Grigio, 2013
Patrick: “It’s definitely bubbly. Wow, that one’s rough. Yeah, I don’t think this is a wine that was good before it had bubbles in it and it’s not any better now that it does. I think it seems a little disjoined and the bubbles give it more personality issues. I’m not firmly convinced this is even wine."
Jeremy: "I don't know, I kind of like it."
Comparable to champagne: "Definitely not. Don’t put Pinot Grigio in your SodaStream.”
After today, I am the slightest bit more knowledgable about both white wine and champagne. What separates champagne from DIY sparkling white wine are the naturally-occurring bubbles, unlike ones pumped in by some punk-ass jerk via a canister of carbon dioxide.
What makes a champagne great is the size of the bubbles—the finer the bubbles, the more high-quality the champagne is. That's what Patrick taught me and it's something I'll keep in the back of my mind next time I go side-by-side with SodaStream cocktails and the real deal.