Monday, December 29, 2014
Bubbles Make the World A Happier Place
It is a well known fact that we have an affinity for bubbles. A light, zippy style sparkling with fresh local oysters, a rich full bodied Champagne with a big juicy steak, a tasty cremant added to a cocktail, a celebratory toast - bubbles are one of the few wines we enjoy with or without food. And our selection reflects our passion - with 45+bottles to choose from ranging in price from $10 to $200, we truly have something for everyone!
Cava, Prosecco, Cremant, Franciacorta, Champagne -how do you choose? Here's my quick primer on what to buy depending on your purpose and your budget! We have great bottles representing all of these and more...
Champagne - The big dog of the sparkling wine world, you can only call it Champagne if it comes from this
unique region of France located 100 miles east of Paris. Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunire are the classic Champagne grapes with vintage, non vintage, blanc de blanc (white wine from white grapes), blanc de noir (white wine from red grapes) and rose' produced. The production method requires that the secondary fermentation, the one that gives it the bubbles, takes place within the bottle over very defined periods of time. It is these regulations and requirements that make Champagne expensive and delicious! The wines can range from bright and zippy to rich and toasty depending on the house style. Big house Champagnes like Roederer, Moet, Bollinger and Veuve Cliquot use mainly purchased grapes from small growers to create a house style that is consistent with each bottle you open. Estate grown and produced wines are called Grower Champagnes and are much smaller volume wines, often with more individuality, made by the growers themselves. How can you tell what's what? It is easy to spot the source of a Champagne from its label. Virtually all of them carry a numerical code prefixed by two letters - NM stands for négociant-manipulant, one of the big houses. RM stands for récoltant-manipulant, a grower. Prices for true Champagne starts around $40 and really should not be used for mimosas or cocktails. The addition of bitters, fruit juice, other spirits mask the unique qualities of Champagne and make it one very expensive mixer! Staff Fav's - De Sousa, 2005 Taittinger Comte de Champagne, Doquet Blanc de Blanc
Cremant - Basically French sparkling wine that is not from the Champagne region but from other designated areas. The best known are from Alsace, Loire, Limoux and Burgundy and use the same classic method of secondary fermentation in the bottle with their local grapes but still with strict regulations on how they are made. This is where you find some of the best values in French sparkling wine! Starting at around $18 per bottle these are tasty, less expensive alternatives to Champagne. Staff Fav's - Dopf & Irion Rose', Langlois, Gerard Bertrand Rose'
Franciacorta - Italy's best kept secret has been my current obsession! From Lombardia in north central Italy, Franciacorta can rival some of the best Champagnes of France. Using the same grapes, with the exception of a little added Pinot Bianco, and same classic method of production, this tiny region in Lombardy (north east of Milan) is where the highest quality Italian sparkling comes from. Franciacorta is also similar to Champagne in that it produces vintage, non vintage, blanc de blanc (called Saten) and rose' with like aging requirements and styles based on amounts of residual sugar. However production here is very limited so exports are scarce with only the larger producers making their way into the US market. Prices range from $24 to $75+ and offer a high quality alternative to Champagne for Italian wine lovers! Staff fav's: Monterossa Rose', Ferghettina 2009 Saten, Contadi Castaldi Brut
Cava -Cava is Spain's beloved sparkling. While made in the same method of Champagne, Cava is produced with some of Spain's most important grapes. Macabeo adds a floraly, citrus note with a slight bitterness while Xarello is richer with more melon and pear and Paralleda gives Cava its zesty acidity. It is usually fruity, but not sweet and doesn't have the yeasty, leesy notes of Champagne. It is also made as a rose' with Pinot Noir and while most is produced to drink young and fresh, aged and vintage Cava are also made but not something we see much of in the US. It is usually priced between $10-$25 per bottle and offers good quality for the money. Staff fav's: Mont Charell, Florinda
Prosecco - Italy's most well known bubbly comes from a specific area of the Veneto and Friuli regions in the northeast part of the country. The main grape used is called Glera and it is produced using the "charmat" method where the secondary fermentation takes place in a tank instead of the bottle. This type of fermentation usually results in a softer style wine with a fruity taste that is meant to be drunk young and fresh. The highest quality or DOCG Prosecco comes specifically from the Conegliano Valdobbiadene zone. While the styles of Prosecco range from Brut, Extra Dry and Dry (depending on levels of residual sugar), there is a perception that all Prosecco is sweet. Not so! Brut Prosecco has from 0-12grams of sugar the same level as Brut Champagne. Prosecco is my bubbly of choice for a good Mimosa! Usually priced between $13 - $27 per bottle depending on DOC or DOCG designations. Staff fav's: Furlan, Terriero,
These are not your only options as California, South America and many other regions produce great sparkling wines. Once you get into bubbles there is a whole new world out there to explore! Have fun, experiment with different styles and different foods like a Lambrusco or Gragnano with Pizza, a Brachetto d'Acqui with a fruit tart, a Bugey Cerdon as an aperitif, a sparkling dry Shiraz with lamb - endless possibilities!
Cheers and Happy New Year!