**SOLD OUT**Goal Exceeded!** Post Your Sparkler TNs Here - Spend My Money - Week 6 Virtual Tasting for Charity

Update: Congratulations! We reached - then exceeded - our $3,000 goal!

If you would still like to make a donation, Greg Ossi and I would be grateful. See below for details.

Welcome to the Berserkerest virtual tasting for charity you’ve ever seen! It is so Berserk that you’ll think you’ve traveled through time to January 27th, 2022. In fact, Greg Ossi and I are treating this week as if it was Berserkerday, complete with icons, photos, and hype. We have three great charities, three great offers, and we hope to raise up to $3,000!

This week’s theme is… SPARKLERS!



I can’t speak for Greg, but I know very little about sparkling wine. I am depending on you to educate me throughout the week.

The Charities

First up is the Rome Humanitarian Aid Ministry. Berserkers often wish for more deals on “imports” and this one should do the trick. My friends Brian and Jenni have worked in Rome for several years, helping refugees who have gone through more than we can possibly imagine. My family visited Rome in December 2019 and I can tell you the need is great.

Next is the Sugar Creek Players, a theater troupe in my little town of Crawfordsville, Indiana. It can be hard being a “theater kid” in a small midwestern town, but the Sugar Creek Players have created a welcoming environment where young (and old) can trod the boards. My daughter has performed in several of their productions, and I’ve enjoyed seeing her confidence grow and her friendship circles develop.

Finally, we have Wilderness, Leadership and Learning (WILL). You can read all about them in the next post.

The Money

Greg and I are putting our money where our mouth is. (My mouth is currently full of Cheetos but that’s not important right now.) We are willing to donate up to $3,000 to support these worthy causes. And while there is no obligation, we would be grateful for anyone who chooses to join us in making a contribution.

The Offers

Offer 1: The Blah Blah Blah
Post a tasting note on any sparkling wine consumed between December 30th and January 6th.

Do this, and Greg and I will donate $15, split between the three charities.

Want to match our donation? Click below for details.

Teach us, O WiseBerserkers, and Greg and I will donate $30, split between the three charities.

Want to match our donation? Click below for details.

Anyhoo… BALLER ALERT. Everything in Offer 1 and 2, PLUS post a photo of you with a bottle of BALLER CHAMPAGNE. What’s a baller champagne? I frankly have no idea. How about any bottle that currently goes for $175 and up (at retail or auction). I’m open to suggestion on this one.

Do this, O WineBallers, and Greg and I will donate $75, split between the three charities.

Want to match our donation? Click below for details.

But wait - there’s more!

Bonus Offer: The Leo

The first five Berserkers who put on a tuxedo (or a black suit) and post a recreation of this photo… Greg and I will donate $200, split between the three charities. Lady Berserkers, you can recreate this photo with your best formalwear that would suit Mr. DiCaprio’s outfit.

Want to match our donation? Click below for details.

Did I mention free shipping to all 50 states?

Did I mention obligatory kid pic?

Spend my money! Spend Greg Ossi’s money! Spend some of your own money!



First - thanks to Patrick for sharing this virtual tasting for charity with me!

Second - Patrick is posting the details, but I will match his “offers” in the same amounts. I will be giving to Wilderness, Leadership and Learning (WILL) - A DC-based non-profit that is dedicated to providing a transformative, holistic, 12-month, experiential-learning, youth-leadership, and life-skill-development program for DC youth (9th – 11th graders from underserved/under-resource neighborhoods). You can learn more at https://will-lead.org/who-we-are/ or email/pm me. I serve on the Board of WILL and fully support its mission.

If you are interested in donating as well (any amount is fantastic - for example just $5 translates to a metro (DC subway) car ride for a participant) that would be greatly appreciated. Donations can be made here https://will-lead.org/donate/.

Thanks and I look forward to all the tasting notes!

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And we’re off and running!

I’ll be with FMIII on new years Eve. We’ll be posting stories and notes :smiley::clinking_glasses::clinking_glasses::clinking_glasses::clinking_glasses::clinking_glasses:

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Patrick, I will do some form of match, once you post the details.

As for Brig and our evening together, I’ll be posting a photo or two that is NSFW. [winner.gif]

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Absolutely awesome offers, Patrick and Greg. Wish I had a tux. Good for and good on you two guys.

Well, ok then. I’m on board to help. Thank you guys for taking this on. Champagne is my passion, I’ll have a bunch open tomorrow when Brig is over here.

I’ll increase the work being done here with an additional match. For every note that is posted here through EOD January 1st, I will donate $5 per note. I’ll then donate that match as a split between the Sugar Creek Players and the WILL. I’ll also mirror that amount and make a donation to my own charity called Laura’s House.

We can all do a little good to help here.


I love your spirit. I did Bubbly over New Year’s a few years ago. Lots of takers. Be prepared to spend. I will be spending tomorrow watching The Game. If Michigan does not lose (we do not use the W word), I will open a Baller Champagne while wearing a Tuxedo (if it fits) and post a photo. For the obligatory kid pics, How about this for a starter:
Christopher on Carousel.jpg

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2013 Louis Roederer Cristal

Bit of lovely white peach, lemon zest and brioche on the nose.

Zingy acidity and slate on the palate with some more lemon and kaffir lime. Great focus and as others have said, a bit more generosity than I expected.

Super long finish. Beautiful.

For me, right now I’d rate the recent Cristals 08 > 09 > 13 slightly > 12 atm, but they’re all very close.

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Baller go Boom! Post a photo if you can.

I didn’t take a picture because for whatever reason the label was a bit stained, weird because it was in the protective foil and the sender wrapped it in plastic wrap; I wonder if it was due to condensation from the bottles being cold, not sure.

2014 Uberti Sublimis (Franciacorta)

This is absolutely great. Rounded and structured from the get go. Beautiful brioche notes. A bit of flint on the nose. Very pleasurable. Paired really well with aged Pecorino from Umbria and Salame Nero from Tuscany.

Uberti is a top producer in Franciacorta but to my knowledge they do not export to the US. This is their no dosage bottling, but a number of their other labels are delicious as well. Drinks well above its €40 price.

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Our first lesson is in regards to what grape we’re actually drinking in a champagne blend or Blanc de Blancs or a Blanc de Noirs. The wine enthusiast has a very nice article covering the topic.

All the Grapes Used in Champagne, Explained

You likely know that the three main grapes for Champagne are Chardonnay, as well as Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, the only two red grapes in the region. The three varieties account for about 99% of the region’s plantings.

But did you know that there are actually seven permitted varieties that can be grown in Champagne?

The other four are Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Petit Meslier and Arbane, all white varieties that make up less than .3% of plantings.

With the amount of Blanc de Blancs Champagnes found in wine shops and on restaurant menus, you wouldn’t be wrong to think that Chardonnay is very widely planted. But of the main three, it’s the least planted grape variety in Champagne, comprising just over 25,000 acres. In fact, Chardonnay-based Champagnes make up less than 5% of the category.

Due to its mild flavor profile, Chardonnay can be influenced by winemaking decisions rather easily. Its inclusion can add acidity, structure and freshness.

Pinot Noir Grapes Champagne

Pinot Noir
Pinot Noir is a staple in Champagne blends, and the most widely planted variety in the region, encompassing more than 32,000 acres. That’s more than Pinot Noir’s ancestral home, Burgundy. It’s one of just two allowable red grapes in the region, along with Pinot Meunier. They’re responsible for Blanc de Noirs Champagnes, or white wine made from black-skinned grapes.

Pinot Noir, often described as delicate, brings body to the wine, that mouth-filling, structural texture. It also adds lovely aromatics to the blend.

Pinot Meunier
Though historically a blending grape, Pinot Meunier has become a star in its own right in recent years, with 100% Meunier Champagnes becoming increasingly more popular. Excellent examples include bottlings from José Michel, Moussé Fils and Salmon, which all bet most of their production on Meunier.

Pinot Meunier brings those coveted red berry flavors to the fore, but it also balances the overall blend. About 26,000 acres of Meunier are planted in the region.

Pinot Blanc
Pinot Blanc is a white grape variety, but it’s related to Pinot Noir. A color mutation makes certain genes that produce pigment inactive, which creates this white version of Pinot Noir. Its berry size and leaf shape have often been confused with Chardonnay, a distant cousin to Pinot Blanc.

Pinot Blanc has always been grown in Burgundy and Champagne, but Alsace holds the largest plantings in France, with nearly 8,300 acres. Pinot Blanc brings a strong floral profile to the bouquet of the wine and some racy acidity to the palate.

Pinot Gris
Also known by its historic name, Fromenteau, this pink-skinned grape is well known in still wine, but it’s also one of the seven permissible varieties in Champagne. It’s also a color mutation of Pinot Noir. When blended, Pinot Gris offers fruit and richness.

A Beginner’s Guide to Champagne
Petit Meslier
One of the most obscure varieties in Champagne, Petit Meslier has searing acidity that prevails in even the warmest of years. Like Pinot Blanc, it’s a relative of Chardonnay. One of its “parents” is Gouais Blanc, also a parent of Chardonnay that crossed with another little-known variety, Savagnin.

The flavors in Petit Meslier are often vegetal and can be reminiscent of Sauvignon Blanc. A major bonus is that it’s resistant to frost, the main enemy of Champagne vineyards.

Arbane might be the rarest Champagne grape of all, with just 2.5 acres planted across France in 2006. It’s a light yellow, very late-ripening grape with overbearing acidity that often requires a lot of attention for the low yields that it produces. The flavors are often herbal or green.

Where are the “Forgotten Four” Now?
In 1986, the L. Aubry Fils Champagne house prepared for its 1991 bicentennial by recreating wines that would have been made back in its early days. The idea was to use varieties like Arbane that had fallen out of favor.

But it takes time for grapes to grow and produce viable fruit. It wasn’t until 1994 that Aubry was able to harvest all seven permissible varieties. From those plantings came Le Nombre d’Or, or “The Golden Number.”

Champagne Grapes and Climate Change
Champagne’s ever-warming climate is indicative of a global issue writ large. Champagne houses like Bollinger have begun to plant more of the four lesser-used varieties because of their naturally high acidity. That helps balance ripe fruit, the other structural component needed to age Champagne.

Other producers balance sweeter fruit by reducing the dosage, or the sugar mixture added to Champagne after disgorgement. A Brut Champagne has less than 12 grams per liter of dosage, but as temperatures continue to climb, dosage levels are being reduced or even eliminated. These zero-dosage bottlings are now incredibly popular with the global Champagne cognoscenti.

Some producers, like AR Lenoble, block malolactic conversion to retain acidity. Malolactic conversion, affectionately known as “malo,” is a process where the sharp malic acid that exists in grapes is converted to a creamier-feeling lactic acid.

Many Champagnes employ this because of the abundance of acidity in the wine, but rising temperatures are lowering acid levels. These are just a few of the methods that producers experiment with to preserve Champagne’s history and flavor. But they certainly won’t be the only ones.


On tap for later on tonight - I’ll update/revise this post once I’ve had the chance to actually taste the wines, which might not be tomorrow if I start BS-ing at the party champagne.gif

Frank Murray has gotten me in the habit of checking out the back labels on Champagne with the pictures he takes on his IG feed, and I included a shot of the back label of the Lanson because it had some good information on the blend in a fairly understandable format.

And if I don’t get back to this until tomorrow, Happy New Year’s everyone!

Okay, as promised, some thoughts on last night’s bubblies - the Le Mesnil was my favorite, and to the best of my recall, the first time trying a wine from this cooperative. Crisp and refreshing, albeit somewhat straightforward. The Lanson Black label was, at least IMO, surprisingly dry - I guess I was expecting more body/heft when I saw the dosage at 8 g/l, but this was a bone dry wine that reminded me of some of the Marguet low/no dosage Champagnes. Because of this austerity, I preferred the more balanced Le Mesnil, but will admit that this grew on me as I acclimated my palate to the style.

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Open the checkbook boys!

Still fits after 20 years. Whew!


Yes! champagne.gif

Guys - awesome challenge and great charities. 2011 Larmandier - Bernier Terre De Vertus - From magnum. Lemon oil, Granny Smith apple and white pepper on the nose. Lovely pure crisp lemon curd and apple on the palate with sharp, almost piercing acidity (in a good way). Richly textured, chalky finish. Really nice way to start off NYE.

A little info on this wine. Much of champagne is a made from a blend of vineyard sites, a blend of vintages and a blend of grapes. This is a little unusual in that it is from a single vineyard site (Vertus), a single vintage and one grape, 100% Chardonnay. While much of champagne has a little sugar added (called dosage) to help balance out any underripe flavors, this wine has no sugar added, called zero dosage. Part of why it is so acid forward.
Final personal rule of champagne - it is always better in a magnum, in part because 750’s go so quickly, but I also just think champagne tastes better in this format - I have no scientific explanation for why.

Happy New Year!


In vino vertus…

Sounds like the first of a few bottles. Post photos of them if you can. Cheers!

2008 Delamotte Blanc de Blancs gorgeous lightly green tinged gold with super fine bubbles. Nose is lemon, wet rock, petrichor, and some pastry dough. Delicious lemon bar, brioche, mouthwatering and lingering finish that goes on for 30 seconds.

Fun fact, Delamotte is the sister house of Salon with the same winemaker, and fruit from the grand crus of Le Mesnil Sur Oger.



2002 Billecart-Salmon Cuvee Nicolas Francois
Super fine, though rapidly dissipating, mousse, apples, brioche. Bottle must have been only half-filled as it disappeared way to fast.

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Cédric Bouchard Côte de Val Vilaine 2015
Disgorged in April 2017
I love this one. It’s initially a little wound up showing more green apple, citrus and stones. And as it gets some air and warms up a little, it just gains more and more complexity: spices, a little roasted bread, tangerine. But even as the fruit expands on the palate, it keeps this incredible focus. Just lovely.

We had this with caviar (blinis and crème fraîche) and some foie gras terrine from Toqué.

Champagne Fun Fact: the biggest format can reach 30l
Mathusalem : 6 l
Salmanazar : 9 l
Balthazar : 12 l
Nabuchodonosor : 15 l
Salomon : 18 l
Souverain : 26,25 l
Primat : 27 l
Melchisédech : 30 l