New York sparkling wine might sound oximoronic. But some of the best places for bubbly
are cold and miserable. Take the region of Champagne, for example. It sits around latitude 49. The average temperature is 50. The Finger Lakes are slightly closer to the equator at latitude 43 but slightly colder on average at 48 degrees. Grapes from places like these can be bitterly green thanks to the limits of ripeness this far north. But that acidity and sprightly fizz, in tandem with the atolytic notes of bottle and malolactic fermentations can reach perfect pitches.
Since 1962, Dr. Konstantin Frank pioneered planting vitis vinifera grapes in New York. He convinced the world that the cold East could compete with Europe by stepping away from the native grapes (vitis lambrusca) of concord, niagara and catawba and growing vitis vinifera, such as riesling, chardonnay and pinot noir.
In the 1980s “Chateau Frank”, with all its French pretensions, became the side project of Willy Frank, who forged a solely sparkling path in the shadow of his father’s still wines.
The Franks (now under Freddy) only make bubbly from estate grown vineyards on Keuka Lake. Their 2006 Blanc de Blancs consists of Chardonnay and (oddly for New York) Pinot Blanc.
As the foil, the top, and both labels will tell you, this is “Method Champenoise”, which is similar to the champagne “méthod” just without the accented é. The feigned french refers to the fact the wine is bottle fermented. Once they have an alcoholic still wine, they chuck in yeast and sugar (liquer de tirage) and cap the bottle until the yeasts integrate their by-product: CO2. This gives a fizz that is finer and longer lived than tank fermented wines (e.g. prosecco).
Enough talk. I’m thirsty and ready to celebrate. But, while pealing back the foil, any fun or pseudo-francophilic romance is drawn to a halt.
Hoping I have won something, I search the bottle until I find the litigious explanation:
With the safety of “people” (and Frank’s lawyers) now firmly in mind, I uncork New York.
Pretensions and prohibitions aside, this is enjoyable bubbly. Nothing seems out of place. The balance between citrus and cream is there. Imagine key lime pie: tart but soft. The wine also remains unforgettably New York with a slight saline, mineral finish of limestone.