Les Capriades is a sparkling chenin blanc from the Loire Valley in France. Chenin, sparkling or not, coming from the Loire is not particularly surprising but this wine is an opportunity to talk a little about "pet nats" (aka petillant naturels).
This wine has a very yeasty smell (the "nose) but this isn't as apparent in the taste. There is a
tart, almost lemony taste to Les Capriades. It also had pretty intense, tiny bubbles and a slightly bitter finish. This "bitterness" doesn't linger; it is there and then it is gone.
This wine is notable for some things it didn’t have too--there was none of the cidery taste some pet nats have. This isn't as funky as some petillant naturels either. It is clear where many are cloudy and while it does not drink like a Champagne (or another Traditional Method sparkler) it has more in common with something from Rheims than some of the more "out there" pet nats.
Now the name pet nat comes from, as noted petillant naturel, and the Loire Valley has a good number of these but they have also become pretty hip here in the USA. When you see "traditional method" on a bottle of sparkling wine it means that wine was made using the same method used for Champagne. Basically they ferment a wine to dryness then bottle it with added yeast and sugar, then it ferments INSIDE the bottle again. They then "disgorge" the bottle taking out the sediment (dead yeast etc) and cork it.
In a petillant naturel (you may also see other terms like methode ancestrale/ancestral method) the wine is NOT fermented to dryness before it is put into the bottle. It resumes fermentation and the sediment is usually left in the bottle (I cannot swear it is in all cases!). Fermentation givesb off alcohol of course as yeast breaks down sugar BUT it also gives off carbon dioxide which give sparklers their fizziness.
Les Capriades is a nice introduction to the world of the pet nat. Be careful when opening it; it has a sort of weird cork. Take it slow or you may wind up with a glass worth of wine on the floor!
Find out more at the Selection Massale website.