Wine Talk

Snooth User: beachbound

Need help identifying a bottle

Posted by beachbound, Jun 1, 2013.

I am a very casual wine drinker and just "won" a bottle of sparkling wine in a family gift exchange from my cooky, eccentric aunt that I can't identify anywhere.  I'm not sure if it is good or bad, past it's prime or just an okay bottle I can feel comfortable drinking for no particular occasion.

I have attached a picture, but the label reads as follows:

1995 Brut

Domaine Carneros



Carneros Sparkling Wine Methode Champenoise


Back label says Domaine Carneros by Taittinger, distributed by Kobrand Corporation


Any help or information would be greatly appreciated!  Thanks!


Reply by EMark, Jun 2, 2013.

I'm not dure I understand what your asking, BB.  From your title it seems that you cannot find information on the bottle that identifies it.  However, the label is readable and contains about all the information you might need.  So, I'm guessing that you are asking about the various nomenclatures that you see on the label.  I am not really an expert on sparkling wines, but let's see if I can help you out.

Your first citation is "1995 Brut."

"1995" refers to the vintage year, i.e., the year that the grapes that were used to make this wine were harvested.  The grapes used to make your wine were harvested in 1995.  It is not uncommon to see sparkling wines that are not vintage dated.  In that case the wine is made from blends from different harves years.

"Brut" is an indication of sweetness or sugar in the wine.  This indication has evolved over the years.  If you check this Wikipedia article, you can see that Brut implies 0-12 grams of sugar per liter of wine.  Looking at the chart you will also see that the "Dry" and the "Extra Dry" designations are both sweeter than Brut.

Domaine Carneros by Taittinger

Domaine Carneros is the California winery that produced the wine.  It is owned by Taittinger which is a very famous French produce of Champagne.  They are not the only Champagne house that owns California proberties--Mumm and Roederer also immediately come to mind.

Carneros Sparkling Wine Methode Champenoise

"Carneros" refers to the region where the grapes were grown.  It is an area the straddles the southern portions of both Napa and Sonoma Counties and is immediately north of the San Pablo Bay.  Carneros has a pretty good reputation for growing Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes--both of which are commonly used in the production of Sparkling Wines in the U.S. and Champagnes in France.

"Sparkling Wine" is the generic name that is given to domestic wines that Carbon Dioxide captured in them and, so, fizz when the cork is removed.

"Methode Champenoise" is the production method that is used to create a wine with Carbon Dioxide that will fizz.  There are other methods, but this is the method that is used comes from the Champagne region.  You can read a bit about the various production methods here.  I'm not sure, but one interesting thing about your wine is that it does use this nomenclature.  The Champagne makers in France are very possessive and try to protect many of what they consider proprietary assets.  So, like U.S. producers generally use the nomenclature "Sparkling Wine," you similarly usually see "Traditional Method" instead of "Methode Champenoise."  It's the same thing.

distributed by Kobrand Corporation

Because of the ridiculous laws of the United States, distributors are required to transfer product between wineries and retailers.  It's a racket.  The distributor name on the back label is the least interesting bit of information on the bottle.

I am also a little surprised that you felt you could not find any information on this bottle.  I did a Google search on "Domaine Carneros 1995 Brut" and was rewarded with several hits.  Check this one, for example.

Asa you can see, Wine Spectator gave this wine a rating of 87.  An 87 is a good evaluation.  Now that 87 rating was probably assigned at about the time the wine was released for sale.  That was, probably, 1997, or so.  The question, now, is under what conditions was this wine stored.  If it was stored in a cave where the temperature ranges between 54 and 55 degrees on the Fahrenheit scale, there is a very good chance that this will be an enjoyable wine.  If it has been stored in a cabinet over the range in your kooky aunt's kitchen, I would be less optimistic.

Here is what I would do.  Bring it to the next family gathering where kooky aunt is in attendance.  Thanksgiveing would be perfect.  Open it up and try it.  If it's good, you'll be recognized and hailed.  If it isn't very good, nobody will complain.




Reply by Richard Foxall, Jun 2, 2013.

Also worth noting is that this is a vintage bottling.  Unlike still wines, sparkling wines are often mixtures of vintages. Those are labeled (if labeled at all) "NV," for non-vintage.  Perhaps it would be more accurate to label it MV for multi-vintage, but that's not the tradition.  This was a declared vintage, so the winery presumably thought that the grapes from that year were good enough to stand on their own. 

Another point:  Either because wine making and viticulture have improved, or for commercial concerns, wine ratings in general have gone up.  There are many more "90 point" wines now than there used to be. So and 87 back in the day might have been as good as a 90 point wine now, depending on which theory of point increase you buy into.  I personally think it's some of each.  IF this wine was stored well (sub-70 degrees at most, better for sparkling if it was more like 50 to 55 F), it has nuances that only age can bestow.  So it could be a good deal better than it was at release.  Or, through storage in less than ideal circumstances (and most of us store wine in less than ideal circumstances, including yours truly), or just being a wine that wasn't built to age, it could be a whole lot worse.  While degradation would be a shame, it happens, and the pleasure of the rare bottle that improves vastly with age is memorable.  But it's time to find out: Only drinking this will tell.  Store it in the coolest place you have, and follow my friend Emark's advice.  Thanksgiving is a perfect time (in the US anyway) to drink bubbly, unload a potentially bad wine, or become the toast of the family. 

Let us know how it goes!

Reply by beachbound, Jun 4, 2013.

Thank you both for the help!  Sorry I didn't explain my questions better.  When I was doing searches I was having a difficult time finding that particular vintage with any information, which seemed to be primarily because it was out of stock on all the sites.  The link Emark provided is one of the only ones I saw with any information on that particular year, even with it being out of stock and it only provided the rating of 87.  Thanks to you both I have a better understanding of that rating now, which definitely helps.  With my searches I had hoped to find some reviews of the sparkling wine and possibly even a price.  I love sparkling wine and the fact that it is out of stock everywhere I looked online got me a little excited that it could potentially be a very good bottle.  Or curious that it was so bad no one bothered to keep it in stock.  With foxall explaining the "vintage" and "NV", I am assuming that wasn't the case.

Now that I realize the importance of the conditions it's been stored in for the last 18 years, especially considering the huge variable of where my kooky aunt may have had it, I may save it for a fairly special ocassion, though plan on having a back up bottle, just in case.  The kooky aunt (a very generous description) is a vintage best enjoyed only once a year, so we may have to give it a go without her and just have a toast to her!


Reply by dimsum4sum1, Jun 4, 2013.

Emark and Foxall pretty much hit most of the points. France and California winemakers would only make a vintage bottle if the Chardonnay grape (Brut) or Pinot Noir grape (Rose) had a fantastic year and in the case of 1995, California Chardonnay was fantastic. In the not so good years, the grape juice is saved to make NV Non-Vintage or MV Multi-Vintage.

Champagne can only be called Champagne if the grapes are grown in France in a region called, yes, Champagne. In other old world countries like Spain it's called Cava and Italy - Prosecco. California and  other new world countries called it Sparkling wine.

CA Sparkling wine aren't meant to be stored over 12 years because they're not full-bodied wine. More so with NV sparklers.  You can find some older vintages of Champagne. Don't expect any bubbles though.

Reply by outthere, Jun 4, 2013.

"CA Sparkling wine aren't meant to be stored over 12 years because they're not full-bodied wine. More so with NV sparklers.  You can find some older vintages of Champagne. Don't expect any bubbles though."

I'll beg to differ. I opened a 20 year old Schramsberg Blanc de Blancs on my 50th birthday and it was still bubbling away on day 2!


1991 Schramsberg Vineyards Blanc de Blancs - USA, California (3/19/2011)
Drank from a 3L bottle. Still showing well after 20 years in hiding. What a treat on my 50th birthday. Deep golden color, nutty and still with nice acidity and tingly bubbles. A real surprise and a welcomed one. (91 pts.)
Reply by napagirl68, Jun 5, 2013.
Outthere:   1991 Schramsberg Vineyards Blanc de Blancs - USA, California (3/19/2011)
Drank from a 3L bottle. Still showing well after 20 years in hiding. What a treat on my 50th birthday. Deep golden color, nutty and still with nice acidity and tingly bubbles. A real surprise and a welcomed one. (91 pts.)
Snooth REALLY, REALLY needs a LIKE button!  Awesome sparkler, and I hope you had a great 50th! 
Reply by dimsum4sum1, Jun 5, 2013.

Well, I guess there's more full-bodied CA sparklers than I thought.

Reply by napagirl68, Jun 5, 2013.

Well, I guess there's more full-bodied CA sparklers than I thought


Yes, there are a few.  I also like the Roederer Estate  L'Ermitage..  especially in the magnum format.


Reply by EMark, Jun 5, 2013.

Dimsum, in your comment, you seem to be implying that the word Brut implies that they wine was made from Chardonnay grapes.  That is not true.  Brut indicates sugar level.

Also, I'm not sure that sparkling wine made from Pinot Noir grapes is necessarily a rose.  It might be, however, it is common to see the nomenclature Blanc de Noir to indicate that red grapes were used to create sparkling wines.  Blanc de Noir can have a light pink color, but it may also appear white.  Traditionally, in Champagne the red grapes that would be used are Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier.  In California, I do not believe the Pinot Meunier is used very much for sparkling wines.  I may be incorrect in that.  If somebody out there has better information on that, I hope they post it because I am a bit curious.

The nomenclature Blanc de Blanc is often seen on labels to indicate a white wine (usually, but not necessarily, sparkling) made from white grapes.  Traditionally, in Champagne and California these white grapes would be Chardonnay.

Reply by edwilley3, Jun 5, 2013.

All sparkling wines will age more gracefully in a larger format. Likewise, aging in a cellar at a steady, relatively low temperature will prolong the life of the wine. The problem I've had is that most (although not all) older sparklers I've found out in the market (or in some non-enthusiasts' kitchens) have not been well stored. It's a real shame to see someone with a bottle of expensive bubbly on top of the fridge. 

Reply by dimsum4sum1, Jun 7, 2013.

You're right. I did meant to say "Blanc de Noir", not Rose, but both can apply since they're both made from Pinot Noir grapes with a blend of Chardonnay and if any Pinot Meunier.  Winemakers either peel the red skins from the Pinot Noir grape or just use a short maceration process depending on the size of the vineyard.  I don't know if you've ever seen "white" Pinot Noir, but that's how it's done, by peeling.  Winemakers either add some Pinot Noir to the wine to give it its "pink" color, but others leave the Pinot Noir skins where the color "bleeds" onto the wine during a short maceration process.

As for Pinot Meunier, you're correct.  I believe in Champagne, 25% of the vines grown are Pinot Meunier.  Not a lot are found in California, there are some, but not a lot. I remember seeing one bottle that's made of 100% Pinot Meunier. I think it was from California too. Can't remember who it was.

Reply by outthere, Jun 7, 2013.

Peel grapes? While being fanned by Virgins?

The color of Pinot Noir comes from the skins as the juice is clear. There are only a handful of varieties that have red juice. Skin contact and/or blending with Tienturier varieties give you nice deep colors in most red wines.

Reply by EMark, Jun 7, 2013.

Dimsum, I had a varietal bottling of a California Pinot Meunier a few months ago.  It was a still wine.

I'm telling you, folks, OT's life style is to be envied.

Reply by dimsum4sum1, Jun 7, 2013.

Outthere: I like your thinking.

Emark: Curious to know how was the Pinot Meunier and what vineyard made it.

Reply by penguinoid, Jun 8, 2013.

Peeling grapes by hand for a blanc de noirs would define a new level of tedium. I can't imagine any winery really doing that ... And there would be no point - as Outthere says, the juice of pinot noir is clear (unless you're evil and have planted pinot teinturier).

Generally, blanc de noir = pinot noir +/- pinot meunier, blanc de blanc = white grapes only, generally chardonnay (though there are other varieties which are still permitted in Champagne if you have existing vines, but are not permitted to be replanted -- e.g., pinot blanc). Generally, though a mix of pinot noir, pinot meunier and chardonnay (plus very rarely the others just referenced!) are used in a blend. I don't know of  a specific designation for this.

With rosé of course one of the red grapes, generally pinot noir, will have to be at least part of the blend. Rosés can either be made by using a rosé as the sparkling base wine, or by adding a small bit of red wine back into a white sparkling wine. The latter is quite common in Champagne.

This is the only still pinot meunier I know of in Australia -- -- have yet to try it.

Reply by EMark, Jun 8, 2013.

Dimsum--River Road Russian River Valley 2006.  I had it last summer, and I bought it at the local Total Wines store.  I don't know if you have any Total Wines in your neighborhood, but I have never seen that label in any other retail store.


Reply by dimsum4sum1, Jun 9, 2013.

Pen: I have no idea how much a press cost and I'm in no position to question how a winemaker goes about his business. Maybe they don't like tannins so they remove the skins and stems. Maybe the vineyard's small enough to not need a press and is willing to do things the hard way.  If they want to have 7 pretty maidens stomping on his grapes or bikini wrestle in their vats instead of a press, that's up to them. Whatever tickles their fancy.  You know after thinking about it, there's also the possibility the winemaker was pulling my leg too.  I wouldn't know.

Emark: I see some Total Wines in NJ, but none in NY.

Reply by penguinoid, Jun 10, 2013.

Dimsum4sum1 -- when winemakers say that the wine was 'taken off skins' they normally mean the wine was pressed, rather than the grapes individually had their skins removed. Presses are very expensive, but it'd be almost impossible to run a winery without one regardless of how hard you're prepared to work.

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