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En Pointe: New Takes on Sparkling Wine

beautiful mistake 1

Beautiful mistakes, they’re everywhere. While many of us connect them to visual images, they occur in all facets of life. Like that time you grabbed the nutmeg instead of the chili powder while making your famous lasagna and now nutmeg is your secret ingredient. In everything.

Dom Perignon was initially brought into the wine world in France to get the bubbles out of wine. That’s right — fermentation caused CO2 which makes bubbles. This gas build up caused the bottles to explode. Eventually two things happened. Perignon came up with the idea of using corks instead of wooden stoppers to seal bottles and he started the movement of intentional CO2 in wine.

For decades, Champagne (made in the French region by the same name using only Chardonnay) has ruled the sparkling world with wine snobs everywhere biting the heads off those who choose to say “champagne” to mean anything with bubbles. In recent years Champagne’s sparkly Italian cousin, Prosecco, has gained in popularity. But even more recently, there has been an explosion in sparkling wines that are made in all regions of the world. How are they? Should you drink them? How do you pair them? Today we’ll look at a few options for sparkling wine to widen your palate and wine experience.

 

Sparkling White

When picturing sparkling wine it’s likely the wine you see is white – from very clear to a coppery or golden hue. In this color range there are several excellent bottles on the market and the best part is that they won’t break your budget.

 

1. Riesling

Our favorite right now is sparkling riesling. This crisp, sweet grape is often linked to German and Rhône sweet wines but as some producers have shown, especially those in the Finger Lakes region of New York, Riesling can be at either end of the spectrum. For the best experience in sparkling Riesling look for a dry or brut version. The flavors will be complex: tropical fruit mixes with minerality and even touches of vinyl or gasoline. The blend is incredible and works with the bubbles to keep the palate fresh while changing as it warms.

Word to the Wine Wise: For some reason, many dry rieslings are terrible on the nose. Even after waiting for blow off they have an initial hit of something we can only describe as teenage boys’ socks. Don’t let this turn you off – you’ll be hooked from sip one. Sniff one, on the other hand, is something for which you should be prepared!

Club W member? The 2015 WKND Sparkling Riesling from California cannot be beat and the club offers two OTHER varietals we’ve yet to try.

2. Cava

Cava_extremeño

If you want to try a European sparkler but are ready to move away from France and Italy, Spain’s Cava is a great sparkling option. Avoid those made from Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, they are meant to mimic, and look for those made with the traditional three cava grapes: macabeo, parellada, and xarel·lo in Catalonia. While closer in taste to champagne than prosecco, Cava is an excellent choice for unique sparkling whites. Like sparkling riesling, cava can come in everything from very dry to very sweet. When starting, go for a semi-dry to enjoy a great balance of crisp and sweet.

Cava Trivia: Cava used to be called “Spanish champagne” but because of EU law, this name is no longer allowed. Only champagne can be called champagne.

Need a sparkling wine for a party? Grocery store cava works perfectly and for under $10. Look for Freixenet Cava Carta Nevada Semi Dry – perfect with everything from manchego to pizza.

Sparkling Rosé

Sparkling rosé is on the rise in popularity and produced in many wine regions. While some may balk at the color, wine lovers in the know understand that some red grapes are too good to only be enjoyed red. Sure it looks like bubble bath, but take a few sips and you’ll be converted to the awesomeness of fizzy pink drinks.

 

1. Pinot Noir

You’re not surprised and neither are we. America’s favorite grape is used to make bubbly. The results run the spectrum from zesty to the more muted flavors of berry but no matter what, you’re certain to find one you like. While some sparkling rosé will express berry flavors, others will be more zesty with a distinct citrus zing – these will usually be more orange in color, an easy way to distinguish just by looking at the bottle.

Be a Wine-Know: Some rosé sparkling wines get their pink hue from a little red wine being added. Others are made with red grapes and just like still rosé, get their color from contact with the skins.

For a citrusy pinot noir try Canella Rosé Spumante NV which runs about $21/bottle. Canella is also known for excellent prosecco.

 

3. Muscat

This varietal goes by a few names — Muscat, Moscato, Moscatel, Moscatel — and are reflective of the grape’s musky taste. This is a popular varietal in sparkling wine like Asti Spumanti. It’s often sweet but there are drier versions available. The grape is a favorite in Italian sparklers and used in both spumante and frizzante styles.

Did You Know? Spumante is the Italian term for sparkling wine. Frizzante is the Italian term for fizzy wine – which has finer bubbles than sparkling wine.

We can’t believe we’re saying this but one of the best sparkling rosé options made with Muscat is Barefoot Bubbly Pink Moscato Champagne. There are so many things wrong with us saying this. And there are so many things wrong with that name. But there’s something very, very right in the mass produced pink wine. Trust us.

Sparkling Red

It exists! In fact, it’s existed for a long time and saw tremendous popularity in the 1980’s in the form of Lambrusco. Sparkling reds aren’t always easy to find although they do often appear on Italian restaurants’ wine lists by the bottle.

 

1. Lambrusco

lambrusco

This is a grape to get to know. Its flavor is dry but often when made into wine it’s made sweeter through the fermentation process or by adding additional sugars. Sweet red wines made from Lambrusco often have rich strawberry flavors. Of note is the fact that the best expression of Lambrusco is the frizzante style rather than a full on sparkling wine. Flavors run the gamut and you could spend a considerable amount of time enjoying these wines from the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy without ever getting bored.

Word To The Wine Wise: Lambrusco is meant to be drunk young – don’t age bottles of these wines.

When you want to try something new, go for Cantine Riunite. You’ll get a highly drinkable wine and to try a frizzante which is very different from the rest of the sparklers on this list.

It’s time – get out there and try this new trend in wine. From anywhere in the world to any grape, there are lots of great sparkling wines that are making waves right now. Remember, these wines should be served super cold and enjoyed out of flutes — skinny wine glasses that keep the bubbles from flattening!

Nancy Koziol

Nancy Koziol is a wine writer specializing in wine news, culture, politics, and emerging regions. She has traveled throughout various wine regions and constantly strives to deepen her understanding and appreciation of the holistic experience of wine, from seed to glass. Nancy writes for a variety of wine publications spanning everything from how to make amazing Sangria to understanding the ecological impact of winemaking. She lives in Vermont where she is developing an appreciation for hybrid grapes - something she never thought would happen - and obsessing over orange wines.

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