Our special complimentary Valentine tasting will take place at Ivy Provisions from 5 to 7 pm on Wednesday, February 10th. The details of the five sparklers and food pairings follow this informative column on sparkling wine.
“Come quickly, I am tasting the stars,” was Dom Perignon’s famous quote after his first taste of Champagne. Through the years the best Champagne from France represents the benchmark of the sparkling wine category. There are many other types of bubblies that offer great taste at exceptional price points. Sparkling wine is a wonderful way to toast and celebrate special occasions, milestones and accomplishments. It is also an all-year-round wine that pairs well with food.
The Champagne region is known for the underlying layer of pure chalk, which contributes to the finesse and perfume of the wines. The wine can be made from three grapes: chardonnay (white grape), pinot noir and pinot meunier (red grapes). Champagne receives two fermentations. The first is done in a vat and provides the base wine. The second is done in the bottle and is aided by adding a blend of yeast and sugar. This process can take years. Eventually the bottle is turned and elevated and the yeast deposits shift into the neck. The neck of the bottle is immersed in freezing brine until a plug is formed. The cap is removed and the plug is expelled by the pressure in a process called disgorgement. A dosage (addition of sugar) is added depending on the desired dryness level.
When the Méthode Champenoise process, as described above, is not used to produce the bubbles, it is likely that the Charmat method was used. Here the second fermentation takes place in large tanks instead of the bottle, which is a less costly option. Carbonization is the cheapest and simplest method and pumps CO2 into the finished wine in the same manner that it is in soda. This produces much larger bubbles and is the preferred method for bulk production sparklers.
Wines with bubbles outside of Champagne are referred to as sparkling wine with more specific names for regional specialties. For instance, Spain’s sparkler is called Cava. Always a great value, Cava is a crisp sparkling wine that gets its name from the Cava appellation in the Catalonia region of Spain where it is produced. It is made from indigenous Spanish grape varieties in the same traditional method as Champagne. You will find a variety of grapes used to make sparkling wine throughout the wine producing world.
There are different levels of dryness in sparkling wines. From driest to sweetest the terms are: brut nature, extra brut, brut, extra dry, dry, demi-sec and doux. Brut is a popular style and contains less that 12 grams per liter of residual sugar. Demi-sec and doux wines are sweet and best paired with fruit or dessert.
Champagne and sparkling wines are categorized as vintage or non-vintage. A vintage sparkler comes from a single harvest year. Non-vintage wine makes up the majority of the market.
Food & Sparkling Wine Pairings
Carra Pulcinellapros Prosecco Frizzante, Italy, Brut, non-vintage, $14.99
Glera is the grape in this light-bodied and fruity bubbly from Italy. Frizzante wines have small bubbles and are considered to be slightly less effervescent than Champagne.
Served with Chocolate and Cinnamon Flatbread with Orange Marmalade
Santa Julia Organic Rosé, Argentina, Brut, non-vintage, $12.99
Made from 100% pinot noir from one of the highest vineyard sites in Argentina, Tupungato, this sparkling wine offers up generous fruit flavors of cherries and strawberries which are supported by crisp acidity and a creamy palate.
Served with Buttermilk and Blueberry Panna Cotta
Dibon Brut Reserva Cava Penedes, Spain, Brut, non-vintage, $10.99
A “Best Buy” with 88 points from the Wine Enthusiast. The nose offers notes of brioche, while the palate has baked apple and citrus flavors. This is a traditional blend of indigenous grapes Xarel-lo, Parellada and Macabeo. A solid sparkler that over delivers for the price.
Served with Twice-smoked Lardon and Corn Beignets
Simonet Vin Mousseux, Alsace, France, Brut, non-vintage, $9.99
A French wine produced in the Alsace region by Caves de Wissembourg, a well-respected winemaker who has been recognized for his prize-winning sparklers that are distributed throughout Europe. This is a Blanc de Blancs made only from chardonnay grapes.
Served with White Chocolate, Toasted Rice and Fennel Feuilletine
Ridgeview Bloomsbury, England, Brut, 2013, $36.99
The Bloomsbury is chardonnay dominant, supported by the fullness of pinot noir and pinot meunier. The light golden wine has a persistent mousse with fruit aromas of melon and honey. The wine can age for three to four years. Noted wine critic and writer Jancis Robinson said, “England’s vinous glory: fizz made in the image of Champagne.” A limited quantity of the Ridgeview Bloomsbury is available for tasting.
Served with Rock Barn Cider Brats, Caraway Onions and Grain Mustard