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All current events aside, this is usually the time of year to celebrate. As we get closer to the holidays, it becomes instinctive to seek out special bottles for loved ones or ourselves; whether it's for holiday gifts, host gifts, end-of-year bonuses, or just a light at the end of a dark week, bubbles are truly a treat. Although one often thinks of Champagne, Cava, Crémant, and Prosecco for these occasions, today we would love to feature some of our favorite sparkling wines from Austria and Germany.
In its most basic definition, Sekt is sparkling wine made in Germany/Austria that can range in both sweetness and grape variety. Some larger Sekt houses may favor the more cost-effective Charmat (tank) Method and purchasing grapes, but we are focusing on wine makers that not only grow their own grapes, but use Méthode Champenoise or even Ancestrale - Grower Sekt! When tracing a latitude line eastward from Champagne, many German winemaking regions are even more northerly still. The cool climate-induced high acidity necessary to make enthralling Champagne is (luckily for us) also present in Germany. Although Riesling isn't the only grape we see made into Sekt, the grape's natural propensity for high acidity and rich fruit flavors makes for beautiful sparkling wines.
From the upper Mosel, the Elbling Sekt from Hild is a fun and fruity way to start your evening, dry but with lots of tropical flavors that round out the palate. From the middle Mosel and Saar we have the Weiser-Künstler Riesling Sekt, and Falkenstein Riesling Sekt respectively, both very dry and stony, but each very different on the palate. Finally we have the Sekt Riesling Zero, from Andi Knauss in Württemburg, west of the Black Forest. This Sekt has no dosage, no sulfur added, and pulls no punches. Absolutely the most crisp, tart, and stony one of the bunch, a real eye-opener (not to mention palate jump-starter). Sekt is not the only sparkling option made in Germany; they also have Perlwein. Wines with this nomenclature are often less sparkling than Sekt (think Frizzante rather than Spumante). Stefan Vetter in Franken is making a deliciously dry and savory Apfelperlwein, or sparkling apple cider, with no added sulfur or dosage, from indigenous apple varieties.
From Austria, we are pleased to offer Volumes 1 and 2 of the Fuchs und Hase 2015 Pét Nats: a collaboration between Alwin & Stefanie Jurtschitsch and Martin & Anna Arndorfer, friends and wine makers in the Kamptal. Each year they produce multiple Volumes, using organic grapes from cooler sites, with no added yeast and no additions of sulfur. Weingut Jurtschitsch also produces a Brut Rosé: a blend of Zweigelt, Pinot Noir, and Sankt Laurent that spends 2 1/2 years on the lees. In the Steiermark part of the Styria region of southeast Austria, Franz Strohmeier is making thought-provoking wines using biodynamic methods and no or low sulfur additions. His Frizzante rosé of Styrian grape Blauer Wildbacher is a perennial favorite at the shop. We hope this list inspires you to expand your bubbly horizons, and find new favorites for the holidays and beyond! Cari Bernard
Weingut Jurtschitsch is the oldest winery (est. 16th century) in the Kamptal region of Austria and has been in the family since 1868. Vineyards were converted to organic farming in 2006 and all 60 hectares have been certified organic since 2009. The Brut Sekt Rosé is mostly Zweigelt with the balance made up of Pinot Noir and Sankt Laurent, from cooler vineyard sites with calcareous soils. The wine spends 2 1/2 years on the lees and receives 7 g/L dosage. Light, electric pink in the glass, the nose is fragrant with roses, tart cherries, and raspberries. On the palate juicy red berries mingle with stony and salty minerality: refreshing and bone dry. Cari Bernard
Made with grapes from a section of the Herrenberg, with more than 12 months spent on the lees in bottle, this Sekt is just asking to be popped for any occasion (A birthday! A Tuesday! Apéro!). Crisp and flinty, but also leesy on the nose, the palate is fresh and lively, with stone fruit, young ginger, fennel bulb, and a brisk minerality. Pair with a fried oyster po'boy or crab cakes! Cari Bernard
The Elbling grape has been grown in Europe for centuries; at one time widely-planted in the Upper Mosel, in more recent decades it has been devalued due to a lack of quality seen in its usage for bulk wines from co-ops. The Hild family has chosen to grow Elbling with care and focus, and are working towards organic certification. Soils in the Upper Mosel are more limestone than slate, due to the swath of the Paris Basin that extends into the region. The chalkiness comes through in this Méthode Champenoise sparkling Elbling, aged in stainless steel, spending nine months on the lees. Bright acidity and ripe, juicy pineapple make for a charming and refreshing bubbly for under $20. Cari Bernard
Andi Knauss is making beautiful wines in Württemberg-Remstal, near the Black Forest in southwest Germany. His dedication to quality and focus in the vineyards and cellar is clearly reflected in his wines. His Sekt Brut Zero is sourced from vines grown on limestone, made in the Méthode Champenoise with no dosage and no added sulfur. Chalky and bright acidity, with an aggressive mousse and notes of tart apricot with yellow and green apple skin, this wine is a stunner. Cari Bernard
Riesling from the Zeppwingert vineyard, old vines on steep slopes of weathered blue and gray slate. Made in the Méthode Champenoise with very low dosage. This Sekt is balanced and bright with notes of brioche and lime blossom, apricot, peaches, with a crisp acidity and lingering finish of lemon oil and yellow flowers. Cari Bernard
Fuchs und Hase is a collaboration between Alwin & Stefanie Jurtschitsch and Martin & Anna Arndorfer in the Kamptal. Each vintage they make a series of "Volumes", always Pét Nats, with no filtering or fining. The grapes are picked together and co-ferment as well. Each Volume is a different blend: 2015's Volume 1 is mostly Müller-Thurgau, with some Grüner Veltliner and Muskateller. The nose is delicate with notes of apple blossom and anise. Savory tones of oxidized apple core balance out the tropical tang of starfruit and green strawberry, making for a wine that is a touch more fruit forward than Volume 2. Tasted again in January, this wine is in a great place, showing more freshness with a vibrancy of mixed citrus zests and less tones of oxidation. Cari Bernard
Fuchs und Hase is a collaboration between Alwin & Stefanie Jurtschitsch and Martin & Anna Arndorfer in the Kamptal. Each vintage they make a series of "Volumes", always Pét Nats, with no filtering or fining. Each Volume is a different blend: 2015's Volume 2 is 80% Grüner Veltliner with 20% Muskateller and spent one week on the skins in stainless steel. A touch more expressive on the nose; guava and strawberries mingle with roses and tea. The palate is textured, savory and herbal, with green tones of lime blossom and greengage plum, rounded out by orange oil. Cari Bernard
Blauer Wildbacher is an indigenous grape of the Steiermark region of Austria. Naturally high in acid, the grape lends itself well to sparkling wines. Franz has 3.5 hectares of Blauer Wildbacher, farmed organically (with biodynamic treatments). The grapes are hand-harvested and ferment in stainless steel, followed by a second fermentation in the bottle. Antique rose gold with just a blush of dusty peach in the glass. Ruby red grapefruit and a touch of volatile acidity on the nose, the wine has less overt berry fruit this vintage, skewing more towards red plum, nectarine, apricot, grapefruit, cranberry and a tartness that reminds one of kombucha. Cari Bernard