Spring is here and the streets are calling—let’s cheers to surviving one of the most trying years in modern human history. As we move into warmer seasons, filled with celebrations and a general sense of jubilee, we often choose sparkly libations to enjoy the moment. Bottoms up, but it’s important to know there’s a lot more to bubbles than champagne showers and spade clad bottles. Too frequently, I find myself agasp at the frequent passing off of cremants as proseccos and proseccos as champagne.
Sparkling beverages are complex and rich in their process and history. As a sommelier and baby winemaker I endeavor to ensure you are well ‘pre-paired,’ so let’s get into it. The world of sparkling wines is like any other foreign land with a language all its own, so let’s learn how to speak in fizzy tongues.
Now let’s talk wine...
The Major Grapes: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir & Pinot Meunier
The Minor Grapes: Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Petit Meslier, Arbane
A true cultural benchmark of luxury, sparkling wine can only be named champagne, if created in the wine region of Champagne, France. A potation with a history as rich as its taste, the first sparkling champagne was wholly created by accident. The bubbles which we all adore were considered by many (including Dom Perignon) to be a fault in the wine…a tasty accident if you will. It was made using the Methode Champenoise technique where the wine is given a secondary fermentation in the bottle.
Purchase Suggestion: Stuyvesant
Why: This amazing Black-owned bubble that will not break the bank. A thoughtful cuvee with a floral nose opens up to a crisp bouquet of gingerbread with a graham cracker finish.
Major Grapes: Macabeo: Parellada: Xarel-lo
Minor Grapes: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Trepat, Garnacha Monastrell
If you are looking for all the effervescence of champagne on a beer budget, then Cava is your answer. Inspired by the wines of Champagne, it was first made in 1872 by Joseph Raventós using the method champenoise. What separates Cava from other sparklers are its distinctly acidic and well-balanced flavor profiles reflective of its use of indigenous Spanish grapes. Cavas tend to be lean and elegant with floral notes of bergamot and camomile that seamlessly melt into notes of underripe stone fruit yellow citrus.
Purchase suggestion: Recaredo “Terrers”, Brut Nature Cava 2014
Why: I love a bone dry crispy zesty sparkler. This one does not disappoint. Additionally, as a farmer and baby winemaker I also appreciate sustainable and biodynamic farming. This family does both.
Category: Blanc de Blancs
Major Grape: Chardonnay
Every wine person has a secret love and it’s often Blanc de Blancs. It’s effortlessly elegant, unique and simply beautiful. It is Champagne made entirely of white grapes unlike most, which are most often comprised of some blend of Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay. The principal Champagne localities for Blanc de Blancs are the Côte des Blancs and Côte de Sézanne, both areas known for producing the best Chardonnay grapes.
Purchase Suggestion: Pierre Peters Grand Cru Cuvée Grand Reserve Blanc de Blancs Brut Champagne
Why: This gem was included in my wine subscription to Kelly Selects by Kelly Mitchell, my sister in somm whose palate I trust. Every single time I get her wines they never disappoint.
Major Grape: Glera
Minor Grape: Bianchetta, Verdiso, and Perera
Some would say (some meaning me) that Prosecco is the ruler of brunch. It has become the cuvee of choice for day drinkers from LA to NYC. Prosecco is primarily produced in Veneto, Italy and can be offered at a fraction of the cost of Champagne because it uses the tank method, which is considerable less expensive than method champenoise. That doesn’t make them inferior to Champagne. Great Proseccos exist and you should absolutely try them.
Purchase Suggestion: Tesoro Della Regina
Why: Shout Ken Pettus for putting me on to this delicious bubble. His words on the Tesoro, “ Can’t find it everywhere but I always buy a few bottles when I can. Lighter style sparkling. Keep the biscuits & bread I’ll take the green apple & honeysuckle.”
Grapes: Vary based on region
This is a French sparkling wine that is methode champenoise but wasn’t blessed with the good fortune to be born and made in Champagne. There are eight regions where Cremant is produced, Limoux (the originators of the technique), Loire, Burgundy, Jura, Bordeaux, Savorie, Die Alsace. Sparkling aside each of these regions have something beautiful to offer wine lovers at every level.
Purchase Suggestion: Dopff Au Moulin