The great bubbles let-down

For the last 25 years, I’ve been telling anyone who would listen (and, some who wouldn’t) that ‘Montana’ Lindauer Brut is the best value wine in the country, bar none. A gentle, friendly, hugely approachable, moderately complex brut Champagne style for under $10? Buy it all, I’d say!

Sadly, this is no longer the case – the makers of Lindauer, (Pernot Ricard, sold their vineyards, winery assets and brands in 2010 with the vineyards and winery assets now owned by Indevin who operate all of the vineyard and winery assets and Lion Nathan owning and distributing the brands) have denigrated the marque so much that, if you can fight your way past the multitude of weird and not so wonderful variants (de-alcoholized AND sparkling grape juice? Light?) to find the Brut example, you will find it is now a thin, sharp, pale and decidedly dull little wine. A huge disappointment.

By the same token, Frexinet from Spain used to be a fine example of a Cava, lovely mouth feel, brioche and marmite notes, sort of an everyman’s Champagne alternative. I’m not sure what they’ve done to it recently, but the last two bottles I have tried have been so unpleasant they haven’t even made the cut as cooking wine – there won’t be a third.

Another that used to be treated as a special occasion was Daniel Le Brun from Marlborough. I realise that there have been a few changes of ownership and personnel, the Le Brun family sold the original Daniel Le Brun brand many years ago and later established the highly regarded No 1 Family Estate in later years.

The original brand is apparently now in the ownership of the afore-mentioned major brewery, but that is no excuse for what used to be their excellent, mid-priced Champagne-styled cuvee, to slip so badly that it is now only fractionally better than Lindauer. It’s pleasant enough in its own way, but it’s not a patch on what it used to be.

Happily (although given the way other labels have gone – approach with caution, things may change), the Lindauer Special Reserve (in particular the Brut and Cuvee Riche) remain very good solid NZ bubbly at an extremely good price point, and make for enjoyable every day bubbles with a hint of something special.

While Deutz Marlborough Brut may not quite be the wine it was, it is still a very nice example of an NZ bubbly, and their Blanc de Blanc Vintage (which was being offered absurdly cheaply in the lead up to Christmas) is a wonderful wine, dollar for dollar probably my favourite NZ sparkling. A rich, concentrated, mealy flavour-bomb that puts many of its French cousins to shame. If you can find it under $20, buy it, buy it all! Both the 2016 and 2017 vintages are still available and both are excellent.