While true Champagne comes from the France’s Champagne region, almost every wine-producing country makes some type of bubbly wine. In Spain, they sip Cava made from the native grapes. In California, quality producers such as Schramsberg, Domaine Carneros and Domaine Chandon turn Pinot Noir and Chardonnay into fantastic sparkling wines.
Grapes destined to sparkle require acidity to make the base wine “mean enough” to stand up to a second fermentation. By adding a sugar-and-yeast mixture to the base wine in a closed bottle or stainless steel vat, the winemaker traps the carbon dioxide bubbles produced as a by-product of fermentation.
The traditional method bottle-fermented wines, aged on the spent yeast, take on toasty aromas like freshly baked biscuits. Those produced in a large vat often retain the fruity character of the grape and are perfect for early consumption.
Bubblies are best served well-chilled. Pop them in the refrigerator for a few hours or place them in an ice bath for 20 minutes. Lowering the temperature improves the taste and makes opening the bottle easier by reducing pressure.
Not a fan of dry whites? No worries. Sparklers come in many styles, including rosé and red and may be bone dry (Brut Champagne) or slightly off-dry (Prosecco from Italy). Add a bit of peach purée to the Prosecco, and you have a great brunch Bellini.
In Australia, winemakers craft their beloved Shiraz grape into a deeply colored, red sparkling wine that is full of intense raspberry fruit.
The year’s end is a wonderful time for celebrations, gift-giving and kicking back with a glass of wine — preferably one with beautiful bubbles served in a fluted glass. Better yet, grab a can of Sofia sparkling wine and sip it through the designer straw attached to each serving. Either way, it is a time for celebration.
Marianne Frantz, founder of the Cleveland Wine School, was joined by some of her Advanced Wine & Spirits Education Trust students in selecting and sampling this month’s wines.
Domaine Carneros, Carneros, California ($27): A Taittinger holding, this dry wine is made with the traditional method. Creamy mousse with citrus, vanilla and slight yeasty flavors on the palate, while crisp acidity provides a clean finish. Great value wine.
Taittinger La Française Brut, Reims, France ($48): Made with the traditional method, this dry wine exhibits toasty, apple and citrus aromas. Crisp acidity and delicate mousse make it a great partner for salty starters or fried foods.
Mionetto Sergio Rosé, Valdobbiadene, Italy ($24): Off-dry sparkler made in stainless vats to keep strawberry and cherry fruit fresh. Lower in alcohol, this wine is a great starter made from the Raboso and Lagrein grapes of Italy.
Riondo Presecco, Veneto, Italy ($13): Light-bodied with simple, airy mousse. Slightly off-dry with low alcohol and plenty of citrus, fruity and white-flower aromas. Perfect alone or made into a festive cocktail for holiday brunch.
Niebaum-Coppola “Sofia” Mini Cans, California ($5): Fun sparkling wine served in fashionable mini cans with designer straws for casual sipping. Off-dry and fruity, the wine is easy to drink and pairs well with most foods. Great for holiday parties.
2004 Paringa Sparkling Shiraz, South Australia, Australia ($13): Vivid violet color with beautiful purple mousse. Loads of fresh raspberry fruit dominate the aroma profile. Moderate alcohol and tannins are balanced by sweet fruit. Try with cheesecake.