Sparkling Wine - It Goes with Everything!

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As we continue through the holiday season, the question of ‘which wine to buy?’ is constantly on our minds. And, the answer in any situation can always be ‘Sparkling wine!”

Yes, sparking wines are maybe the most versatile wines out there. For brunch, sparking wine is an obvious answer. If you are having an early evening hors d'oeuvre party featuring anything from popcorn to caviar, sparking wine is the answer. A steak, chicken, pork or seafood dinner - they all work with sparkling wines. And, yes, desserts go great with sparkling wines.

By the way, try serving your sparkling wine in a white wine glass. After all, it’s a white wine. And a standard white wine glass will allow you to enjoy the sparkling wine while also allowing you to experience all the wonderful aromas that a flute precludes.

So, whether you are splurging on the real-deal Champagne from France, or simply opening a bottle of Cava, Prosecco or any other sparkling wine, know that it will go with everything this holiday season, and all year long. Cheers!

'Tis the Season for Sparkling Wine!

Everybody loves sparkling wine. It's festive. And this is the time of the year that a lot of sparking wine is served.

Sparkling wine consumption in the U.S. surges during the holiday season. It is estimated that more than 40% of sparkling wine purchases occur in the final 12 weeks of the year, with more than 25% coming in the last four weeks leading up to New Year's Eve.

There are many choices when it comes to sparking wines. Champagne is a sparkling wine that is produced in the relatively small region of Champagne in France. Only those sparkling wines produced in this region are allowed to be labeled as 'Champagne.'  And an entry-level bottle of Champagne is going to start in the $50 range.

The various styles of Champagne can be confusing. As a reminder, here are the styles and their percent of residual sugar (RS):

  • Extra Brut: 0-6% RS
  • Brut: 0-15% RS
  • Extra Dry: 12-20% RS
  • Dry: 17-35% RS
  • Demi Sec: 35-50% RS
  • Doux: Greater than 50% RS

If you enjoy a dry (low RS) sparkling wine look for Cava from Spain. It's produced using the same method as Champagne. Cava is produced in the Catalonia region of Spain where Barcelona is located.  Nice bottles of Cava can be purchased for around $15.

In the U.S., there are a tremendous number of makers of sparkling wine. Most will produce a wine that can taste very much like the French Champagne. And, you can also find these sparkling wines infused with fruit flavors such as peach and nut flavors such as almond.  An entry-level bottle of sparking wine in the U.S. can start around $10.

If you prefer sparkling wine with a more fruity and floral character, look for Prosecco from Italy. It's their signature sparkling wine. Produced in the Veneto region just north of Venice, this sparkling wine usually produces big bubbles in your glass. Bottles of Prosecco can be purchased in the $10- $15 range.

Asti is another popular sparking wine from Italy. It is produced in the Piedmont (peh-ah-MON-tey) region from the Moscato Bianco grape. Both Moncato d'Asti and Asti sparkling wines can be found in the $10-$15 range

And, if you happen to have heard about pétillant-naturel—more affectionately known as “pét-nat”— you know that this is another sparking wine option. One that I'll address in more detail next time. 

So here's to raising a glass of bubbly during the holiday season. Cheers!


Italian Sparkling Wines - Prosecco and Asti

France has its Champagne. Spain has Cava. In Italy, Prosecco and Asti are its two most popular sparkling wines.

Prosecco is primarily from the Veneto region of Italy and made from the Glera grape.  Like Champagne, Prosecco must be produced in designated regions of Italy to be called Prosecco on the label. Unlike Champagne and Cava that undergo a secondary fermentation in the bottle (the 'traditional method'), Prosecco is produced using the Charmat ('transfer') method.  Using this process, large quantities of wine are kept under pressure in stainless steel tanks during the second fermentation.  The resulting sparkling wine is then bottled. While most people can't tell the difference in the secondary fermentation process used, it is generally believed that the traditional method results in smaller, more persistent bubbles, while the transfer method results in lighter bubbles, being almost frothy, and having a creamier feel in the mouth.  Prosecco tends to be fruiter than Champagne and usually sweeter. Prosecco has been described as having flavors of melon, peer, apple, honey suckle and cream.  There are three main styles of Prosecco: Brut has up to 12 gram per liter of residual sugar, while Extra Dry has 12-17 gm/liter and Dry has 17-32 gm/liter.  Prosecco also tends to be lower in alcohol, around 11-12%  And, nice entry-level bottles of Prosecco are easily found in the $12 - $15 range. 

Asti is another popular sparkling wine from Italy. It is produced in the Piedmont region around the towns of Asti and Alba from the Moscato Bianco grape.  Originally known as 'Asti Spumante' (spumante means fully sparkling), the name was shortened to just Asti in 1993 when it received its official designation.  This fully sparkling wine has an alcohol content around 8% to 9% by volume. Sharing the Asti designation is Moscato d'Asti that is also made from the Moscato Bianco grape. This sparkling wine is typically in the frizzante style (frizzante means lightly sparkling). Like Asti, Moscato d'Asti is made using the transfer process, but the fermentation is stopped quite early, resulting in a sparkling wine that is sweet, has fewer bubbles and is low in alcohol (5-6%). Because Moscato d'Asti is lightly sparkling, it is typically packaged with a standard bottle and cork. Both Moscato d'Asti and Asti sparkling wines can be found in the $10 - $15 range.

These Italian sparkling wines are not meant for aging and should be consumed young and fresh. So pick up a bottle or two, chill them, and enjoy them right away. Cheers!