Today we are so excited to present a holiday guide to bubbly that our friend Catherine, of the fabulously named Grapes of Cath, graciously put together for us. Cheers!
“This wine is too good for toast-drinking, my dear. You don’t want to mix emotions up with a wine like that. You lose the taste.”
-Count Mippipopolous, from “The Sun Also Rises”
In a scene from one of Hemingway’s greats, Count Mippipolous is referring to an unnamed though, presumably, very good bottle of Champagne which he is sharing with two fellow characters, expatriates living in Paris during the crazy party days of the 1920’s. Now, I don’t know if a Champagne is too good for toast-drinking (is a toast only as good as the wine that is used? Or the intention of its participants? A combination?), however, many may be too pricey for toast-drinking. Practicality and ease on the wallet are important during times of toasting a-plenty! Fortunately, when it comes to sparkling wines, it is very possible to satisfy Champagne tastes on a (higher end) beer budget.
Though bubbles are best at any time of year, I particularly enjoy them around the holidays. Satiating and cheerful, I feel they are well-suited for the endurance required during yuletide socialization. It can sometimes be tricky to know whether an unknown bottle is quality or crap. Use your head, shop at smart spots, ask for help, check the back label for a wine’s importer. Don’t be afraid to get creative with your choices…embrace the spirit of effervescence and try something totally new!
Sparkling wines are made in practically all of the world’s wine producing areas. Composed of different grapes and using varying methods, price, flavor profile, quality, and value certainly vary. Local tradition, style, and politics also play a role in the story of each sparkling. There is always a big picture, eh?
Here are just a few ideas to throw into the arena- some of my personal favorites- a few particular wines and some general styles- all tried and true:
An individual label through Schloss Muhlenhof, from the Rheinhessen, Germany, Perlwein is a frizzante, or slightly sparkling, style of wine made in Germany. This producer was a delightful find for me this summer. Lighthearted and palate-cleansing bubbles.
Anything from Schramsburg
Schramsburg is a sparkling winery located in Calistoga, at the northern tip of California’s Napa Valley. Founded by Jacob Schram, a German man who understood real wine and the capabilities of Napa’s terroir. Schramsburg’s sparklings are made in the traditional method and aged in the estate’s hauntingly impressive caves, which were dug by Chinese laborers in the late 1800’s.
Cava is often a great value as part of its legal qualifications require that it be produced méthode champenoise (second fermentation occurs in bottle). Cava mainly comes from northeast Spain and is composed of a blend of three native Spanish grapes (macabeu, parellada, and xarel-lo), the Llopart in particular tastes of quality far beyond its price- dry, bright red berries, brilliant acidity.
Coming from the northern Italian region of Lombardy, sparkling wine produced in Franciacorta is made in the traditional method using chardonnay, pinot bianco, and pinot nero, harvested from the area’s extremely interesting mineral composition. The name of the DOCG implies venerable quality. An interesting, deliciously toasty, and inexpensive Franciacorta project is pulled off by the folks of Quattro Mani (label features a big ‘ole “Q”).
There are so many! Italy is home to hundreds and hundreds of indigenous grape varieties. The country is full of regions, and those regions are full of towns, and many of those towns has a style of sparkling wine all its own. Prosecco and lambrusco are some of the better known, sparkling erbaluce and sparkling verdicchio are some of the lesser. If you grab a good producer, it is worth the gamble.
Crémant d’ …Alsace, Bordeaux, Bourgogne, Due, Jura, Limoux, Loire
I’ve lumped these goodies together, though each is quite distinct. In France, the word “crémant” placed before a geographic location is pretty much saying that a wine is produced in this place in the same way of Champagne in terms of yields, harvest, and vinification, and that it should result in a similar standard of quality. The name of its place is the indicator of its terroir and typical grapes.
Because, even though all the rest are really awesome in their own way, Champagne is still Champagne in all its chalky soil glory. Champagne Aubry is a small grower located around the city of Reims, owned by brothers, more than half of its blend is coming one of the three Champagne grapes, pinot meunier. So real – and completely fair in price.