As we venture into New Year’s Eve festivities, let’s take a moment and chat about different kinds of bubbles to help you ring in 2022.
Chief among bubbles, most folks are familiar with Champagne, but perhaps don’t realize that Champagne only hails from Champagne, France. Made traditionally from Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and/or Pinot Meunier. The traditional method (known as méthode champenoise or méthode traditionnelle) used to make the most popular bubbles involves a secondary fermentation in the actual bottle. Wine is added to the bottle and then a mix of sugar and yeast are added and a beer cap placed on the bottle. As the sugar consumes the sugar, alcohol and carbon dioxide are released.
The wine is allowed to rest on the expended yeast cells, known as “sur lie,” which gives Champagne its famous brioche, biscuity, or yeast bread flavor profile. Over time, wine makers slowly rotate the bottle until the dead yeast settles in the neck of the bottle. The yeast is then disgorged, by freezing, and the beer cap is replaced with the standard cork. Depending on the desired result, differing wine makers either allow a little residual sugar or none. The method itself was at one time very cumbersome and thus resulted in smaller production, thus higher prices. That began an association of Champagne as a wine of luxury and opulence. It is a reputation well deserved!
You will often see terms such as “Blanc de Noir,” or “Blanc de Blancs.” If you see the Blanc de Blancs, you are enjoying a sparkling wine made from Chardonnay. If you opt for the Noir, you are drinking a white wine made from the red grapes, Pinot Noir and/or Pinot Meunier. If there is no label indicating “Blanc de,” In terms of styles of Champagne, Brut Nature is going to be the driest of the wines, with Extra Brut right behind it. Brut is still a dry wine but may hold hints of the residual sugar. Extra Dry or Sec indicates that it will have a hint of sweetness but not too sweet. This may be a good option for a party of sweet and dry wine revelers. Finally, Sec, Demi-Sec, or Doux will mean a sweeter wine, so choose wisely! You can also find Rosés of Champagne, which are wines that have kissed the skins of the red grapes used in making the wine.
If Champagne is not in your budget (don’t spend the money on something you are just using to toast…there are lots of choices that don’t break the bank and are still awesome celebratory wines!), consider a Spanish version made in the same method known as Cava. As with Champagne, Cava is made in the traditional method but uses grapes common to the Catalonia region of Spain: Macabeo, Parellada, and Xarel·lo. The styles of Cava follow Champagne and as with Champagne, you often have those brioche, green apple, and lemon curd notes from Cava…but often at a third or even half the price of Champagne!
Cremant is another type of sparkling wine that you can find from France that is more moderately priced than Champagne. Cremants can be found from Alsace, Burgundy, the Loire, the Savoie, Limoux, Jura, and Bordeaux. They are also made in the traditional method from grapes commonly found in the specific region. These are fun wines and unusual…a great wine to ring in the new year.
Other alternatives to sparkling wines from Champagne, France, are sparkling wines made in the new world, following the traditional method as well. These sparkling wines often will let you know if the wine maker followed the traditional method, such as the Schramsberg Blanc de Blancs pictured below. Now, Costco was in the wrong to list this as a “Champagne;” even Schramsberg list this wine as a sparkling wine! But note the style is listed as Brut and this is certainly a Blanc de Blancs or Chardonnay wine.
If the yeast bread notes of Champagne do not appeal to you, I encourage you to try Prosecco. Prosecco is a sparkling wine from Italy made in charmant or steel tank method. The secondary fermentation takes place in steel tanks off the expended yeast cells, rather than in individual bottles, given the crisp profile and lower cost. Made from the Glera grape found in the Veneto and Friuli Venezia Giulia regions, Prosecco is a crisp, popping acidity, lemon zest delight. Perfect for mimosas or toasting at midnight, these sparkling wines are lighter on the tongue. They can range in price points…from very inexpensive to the more moderately priced. The quality of production can be determined by the classification of DOC (Deminominazione de origine) or DOCG (Denominazione deorigine controllata) or the rarer, Superiore DOCG. Their styles will also mirror the Champagne styled sparkling wines…although it is often easier to find those semi-dry or semi-sec (read, sweet) Proseccos. I love Prosecco…it is a great wine to open up the pallet or to start with when conducting a wine tasting. And it makes the best mimosas or bellinis!
If you need a much sweeter option (like my own mother and mother in law), there are a plethora of sparkling wines to choose from. Moscato d’Asti (Moscato is the grape, Asti the region…made famous by Asti Spumante) is probably one of the most famous sweeter bubbles, but Lambrusco is a sparkling red wine from Italy that definitely will suit those looking for sweet bubbles. As I mentioned above, you can find all of these kinds of wine in various styles. If the labels seem confusing, look for terms like Dolce, Amabile, Demi-Sec, Doux, or Late Harvest if looking for a sweeter wine. I find Moscato d’Asti the best for toasting…it has a gorgeous pear and apricot note without being overly sweet. An absolute delight with a good cheesy fondue or strawberries. Perfect pairings for your New Year’s Eve celebration.
As we enter 2022, I do wish for good health, happiness, and hopeful year for you and yours. Join me in January as my husband and I embark on our #DryJanuary and #Whole30 challenges. One of my New Year’s Intentions is to be more present in this blog in the hopes we can connect more to chat food, wine, health, yoga, and happiness.
Until next year,