The tasting line up for the evening would feature two Italian sparkling wines: Ubaldo Rosi Riserva 2008, a local Marche wine from Massmiliano's winery, Colonnara, in Cupramontana and Guilio Ferrari Riserva del Fontadore 2002 from the Ferrari cellars in Trentino. The third selection was a French Champagne, Cristal 2004, a name that is synonymous with champagne excellence.
First, the Ubaldo Rosi was poured into the glasses followed by the Guilio Ferrari and finally the Cristal. Each wine had that beautiful golden straw color, although the Ferrari, which is aged in the bottle for 10 years, had an almost imperceptibly darker hue. The Ubaldo Rosi maintained a fresher nose with hints of fruitiness along with bread crust and almond. The Guilio Ferrari, on the other hand had a more aggressive nose with toasted hazelnuts, honey and a hint of liquor. Finally, the Cristal, which I was so excited to try since I had never tasted it, had the most aggressive nose with what my friend Silvia described as a scent of proscuitto. For me, the nose was overpowered by the scent of wood, as this wine is enjoys some aging in oak. Since I am not a fan of wines aged in oak, preferring the true taste of the fruit, this placed the Cristal in third place for me immediately.
The Guilio Ferrari was somewhat of an enigma to me. The wine, a consistent 3 bicchieri winner, is aged 10 years in the bottle and the final touch is the addition of "liqueur di expedition" which adds a dose of sweetness and the scent of liqueur to the nose. The contents of this addition are a closely guarded secret. This wine had balance and body with flavors of vanilla and honey and a hint of liqueur at the finish which made the flavor distinctive.
Finally, the Cristal, a wine that is aged for 6 years. What I personally liked best about the Cristal is the story of the Russian Tsar, Alexander II, for whom the wine was initially made. Fearing assassination attempts, the Tsar wanted the wine in a clear bottle where no bomb could be hidden, thus a clear crystal bottle with no dimple in the bottom was made. This is where the name Cristal originated. The taste, mineral and citrus but definitely aged in wood.
Of the three wines, I preferred the Ubaldo Rosi. Whether it is because it maintained the qualities of verdicchio which because I live in the Castelli di Jesi DOC is my everyday wine or because it maintained a more vivid bouquet and taste, I do not know. The Cristal, on the other hand, was my least favorite because I could not get past the wood aging influence on the nose and the taste. But that is okay with me as it once again confirmed my love of Italian sparkling wines.