Effervesce Sense | Fear not the armpit


Still flush from Valentine’s Day fizz, Karen Krizanovich gives a rundown on what’s been floating her boat this year so far – from Greek sparkling to Kiwi Marlboroughs.

Effervesce Sense | Fear not the armpit

“You can’t tell what a grape is until you know what it’s been through,” says Alfie (Samuel L Jackson) of his pinot noir grapes in the spy comedy Argylle (above). Terroir as metaphor for life and love:  you can’t tell what kind of love you’ve got until it’s been through a few things. With that awkward segue it’s time to celebrate that fragile thing which is, they say, stronger than death. Love can be celebrated with the roses and the chocolates, the lingerie and those boring bedframe manacles. It should always be celebrated with the opposite of ordinary.

This Brut Cuvée is such a far cry from the gut-wrencher I brought back from Athens in the 90s

Greek Sparkling. You heard me. Domaine Karanika Brut Cuvée Speciale Xinomavro 2021, a sparkling wine from Greece, has to fight a lot of stereotypes. Mention Greek wine to most people and instantly, “It’s not retsina, is it?” is flung back in your face. This Brut Cuvée is such a far cry from the gut-wrencher I brought back from Athens in the 90s. Recalibrate your palate for 90% Xinomavro 10% Assurtiko grapes from the region of Amyndeon. Made in the far north west – the coldest region of Greece – and founded by a Dutch couple, Karanika is both organic and biodynamic, using no chemical additions. Sporting 11.5% alcohol and made in the traditional method with only 2gr/l dosage, this is a lovely soft drop. The taste? Despite my lack of familiarity with its varieties, I detect unique lime, pear and strawberry, all light and cheery. Although it fought vigorously with the Comté cheese I initially served with it, this wine enhanced prawns, lobster and a nice chunk of Maison Bertaux cheesecake. Also it has an adorable drawing of a pony on the label. I’m a sucker for equine sketchery.

From ponies to frills, it’s the month of sparkling wine labels. Do not let the frilly label put you off Oastbrook Sparkling Rosé 2015. Deliciously local from East Sussex. this vintage charmer starts off smelling of bright strawberries, tricking you into thinking it’s going to be hugely sweet. But it isn’t. By the time you get your lips on it, the full-on juicy, fruity sparkling will wow you with tons of red fruit and orange peel. Made in the traditional method, this is an English sparkling wine that really delivers the goods. Purchase it with confidence.


From the many tastings this month, the London Annual Trade Tasting presented by New Zealand Wine had sparklers worthy of attention. From Marlborough, Huia is an organic, minimal intervention boutique producer presenting a 2019 rosé and a 2018 Blanc de Blancs. Labelled in collaboration with New Zealand fashion designer Kate Sylvester, the Huia X Kate Sylvester Brut Rosé 2019 features a chic label based on a 1925 textile print by New Zealand artist Frances Hodgkins. Huia X Kate Sylvester Blanc de Blancs 2018 features a darling doily print from Sylvester’s 2000 Brighton Rock collection. Both are delightfully crisp, clean and fresh to drink on their own but are “food wines”, very amenable bottles that won’t talk over your fine cooking.

Karanika terroir

Stepping away from our label theme is an extraordinary bottle from Gardo & Morris, a team based in New Zealand and Sweden. From a terroir of stoney ground, younger vines and made with 4 g/l, this is a wine I didn’t expect to like as I find most charmat method wines too soft and sweet. Gardo & Morris Brut Sauvignon Blanc 2023 smells incredible. It whiffs of burlap and armpit but then explodes into flavours of rich passion fruit and tropical tangs. It’s very popular in Stockholm and we all know those Nordic types love adventurous bubbles. One other NZ notable is the creamy-nosed Nautilus Cuvée Marlborough Brut NV, three years spent on lees with white peach and citrus mingling with nectarine. It’s extremely presentable and I wish I had a bottle right now, actually.

For Champagne this year I was delighted to taste six bottles from Champagne Gosset, Epernay as presented by Bertrand Verduzier at the Louis Latour Annual Tasting. Gosset, you know, is the oldest Wine House in Champagne: Aÿ 1584, going back five centuries to Jean Gosset (1484-1556). Sixteen gens continue to this day to carry on the tradition. With that in mind, tasting it in the august realms of Haberdasher’s Hall, Smithfield London seemed quite fitting. Although I wouldn’t say no to any Gosset, Gosset Grand Réserve is my favourite. Their signature bottle, four years minimum in the cellar, 8g/l dosage lends a sweeping yet structured depth and breadth to the wine. Another favourite was the Gosset Grand Millésime 2015. Great tension and fruit aromas lead to yellow peach and nectarine ending in an uplifting minerality with just the right amount of balancing bitterness. The vineyard says this is perfect for a “sundowner” with which I wholly agree. After writing that I want to taste them all again and maybe not spit so much.

As for me on Valentine’s Day, I’m easy to please. For the last two years running I’ve been in love with Ayala Rosé Majeur NV because, like the best romance, it’s spontaneous yet reliable. Mainly Chardonnay with some Pinot Noir, this is a glistening jewel of amber rose in the glass, crisp fruit on the nose and a deep satisfying balance of ripe red fruit and brightness. They say gooseberry and raspberry notes. I say I wish it came in a magnum. You want to look at it, smell it and drink it and think how lucky you are. Also, unlike most of us, it pairs with almost everything. C