The Korbel Russian River Valley Natural 2013 is 70% Pinot Noir and 30% Chardonnay with 75% of the grapes grown in Korbel estate vineyards in the Russian River AVA inside the Sonoma County AVA in Northern California. This is a vintage dated wine, most Bubbly in this price range (around $16) are non-vintage wines, using wine from different years keeps the Bubbly consistent with each release, but is special years, when the grapes really shine, they produce a single vintage Bubbly showcasing those grapes. Natural is the driest designation for Sparkling wine, meaning there is no or very little sugar added. Korbel was founded 135 years ago (1882) and have been around so long that they are legally entitled to use “Champagne“, even though that drives the French crazy. To the French, Champagne is a Sparkling wine grown and produced in the Champagne region of France, not grown and produced in Sonoma. With that said Korbel Nature is produced with the exact same method used to make French Champagne. So now that we brought up French Champagne here is a comparison with a leading entry-level (around $35) Champagne from France. It’s a big name that everyone knows and it is sourced from 100 different vineyards (none of them estate) around Champagne and they produce a million bottles of the non-vintage Champagne. The Korbel is a vintage Bubbly produced from mostly estate fruit from one of the premier Pinot and Chardonnay growing areas in California with a production run of 15% of the leading Champagne, yet folks believe the French Champagne is the premium wine and this is an inexpensive California Sparkling wine. Not only that the French Champagne was aged for about 1 1/2 years, while the Korbel with the 2013 vintage date seems to have been aged for several years. Now I am not saying the French Champagne is bad, it’s not, I like it. It is just that on paper the Korbel Natural beats the Champagne soundly and sells for half the price. The alcohol is 12.5%.
The color is a vibrant golden yellow with tons of happy bubbles tumbling towards the surface. The nose is lemon/lime, apple, a hint of baking bread, pear, light spice, and a light floral edge. This is a fruit forward Bubbly with lip smacking acidity (to me, that’s a good thing). It tastes of dried strawberry, pink grapefruit, pear, yeasty bread, and spice. The mid-pale shows a touch of cream, a faint sour cherry, and a little salty cashew. The acidity is well-balanced, I find that Bubbly with lip-smacking acidity somehow make you reach for another sip, almost against your will, not that I have much will when it comes to Bubbly. The finish is crisp, clean and long.
There is a lot to like about the Korbel Russian River Valley Natural 2013, it tastes great, it is sourced from first class grapes and it brings a great deal of value for the money. The fruit-forward, very sippable style should be a crowd pleaser, while it still maintains a classic Champagne style. I love Champagne, the best wine I ever drank was a Champagne. It is just that modern Sparkling wine made in the Champagne style for a fraction of the cost of real Champagne is giving the entry-level French Champagne a real run for their money.
Correction: Like the Champagne on the label has nothing to do with this Bubbly being from France, the Natural in the title has nothing to do with the sugar content. This Sparkling wine is actually on the sweet side though the Pinot Noir and the abundant acidity do an admirable job of balancing the wine.