SPARKLING WINES ARE BUBBLING UP FOR THE HOLIDAYS

Although sparkling wine is appropriate for any occasion, the holidays are its prime time. Lucky for us effervescent wine is so popular there are versions made in virtually every wine region. This column focuses on bubbles from France and Italy, ideal for any celebration, party, or even your nightly meal.

 

Champagne still is the world’s most prestigious bubbly. And Moët & Chandon is one of Champagne’s most historic and influential houses. Their wines – blends dominated by pinot noir with lesser amounts of pinot meunier and chardonnay – balance richness and delicacy, just what I like in Champagne.

 

Brut Impérial ($40) is Moët’s iconic cuvee and with good reason. Its balanced, seamlessly juicy charms, currently available in a limited edition embossed bottle, are a nice holiday gift. The seductively lively Brut Rosé Imperial ($40) is more intense and structured, yet luscious.

 

Moët’sGrand Vintage wines are special offerings. They reveal a complexity that comes with maturity but will evolve for several years.The delightfully succulent2009 Grand VintageExtra Brut($65) is creamy and toasty, rich and complex. The 2009 Grand Vintage Rosé Extra Brut ($70) leads with a sense of elegance complimenting the firm texture. Toasty richness and complexity are its hallmarks.

 

While Champagne is the benchmark for French pétillantwine, there are good sparklers elsewhere in France that are affordable alternatives. I particularly like Crémant d’Alsace and Lucien Albrecht is one of the best. Try the fine, appley Brut ($22) blending chardonnay, pinot blanc, and pinot auxerrois or the 100 percent pinot noir Rosé Brut ($22) for its nice measure of complexity.

 

Italians take their bubbly every bit as seriously as do the French and Prosecco, the fresh frizzantefrom north of Venice, has really gained in popularity in recent years. Its fresh, delicate pear, citrus and peach fruit and frothy palate make for an easy drinking and modestly priced wine.

 

One of my favorite producers is Adami, a family owned winery that produces benchmark Prosecco bursting with varietal purity and white flowers. The “Garbel” Brut ($15) is quite full flavored; the “Bosco di Gica” Brut ($18) is most lively and refreshing; and the 2017 “Vigneto Giardino” Brut ($22) is impressively focused and intense.

 

Lambrusco from Emilia-Romagna is enjoying a reintroduction to American consumers as artisan bubbly – exuberantly fruity berries and mostly dry. One of the best is Cleto Chiarli. They are delicious, versatile, and inexpensive.

 

The effusive, luscious, savory 2017 Vigneto Cialdini ($15) is a good introduction to the style. The floral, fresh, crisp 2017 Premium Vecchia Modena ($15) shows admirable depth. The succulent, spicy lightly Centenario Amabile ($11) is a delightfully semi-sweet exception to the rule.

 

Although Piemonte in Italy’s northwest is most famous for its red wines, the region also excels with spumante. Enrico Serafino is a leader here in the production of what Italians call “Metodo Classico” (traditional method). In keeping with that these wines use chardonnay and pinot noir. The fine value 2013 Brut ($25), offers enticing stone fruit, orange oil, and a luscious texture. The 2014 Brut Rosé ($27) presents a sophisticated, lightly toasty experience. The 2010 Brut Zero ($52) is a very special wine. It is extremely dry, complex and creamy with vibrant acidity and finesse.

 

(NOTE: All wines here are nonvintage unless otherwise noted.)

 

SPARKLING WINES ARE BUBBLING UP FOR THE HOLIDAYS

 

Although sparkling wine is appropriate for any occasion any time of year, the holidays are its prime time. Lucky for us effervescent wine is so popular there are versions made in virtually every wine region. Whether for a celebration, a party, or to drink with your meals, these fine bubbles from France and Italy are just the ticket.

 

Champagne, though, still is the world’s most prestigious sparkling wine. While a Champagne house’s Nonvintage Brut is notable as it represents a house’s signature style and tends to be its most affordable, there are many other worthy styles.

 

Moët & Chandon, one of Champagne’s most historic (founded in 1743) and influential houses is an ideal place to start a stylistic exploration. Overall, these wines expertly balance richness and delicacy, just what I like in Champagne. These blends are dominated by pinot noir with significant but lesser amounts of pinot meunier and chardonnay.

 

Brut Impérial ($40) is Moët’s iconic cuvée. And with good reason. Currently available in a limited-edition embossed bottle, it would make a nice holiday gift. It is elegant and seamlessly juicy with apple and lemon with balance and complexity from toasty elements. The Brut Rosé Imperial ($40) is seductively lively, with intense, fresh red berries, delicate floral notes, and a luscious, expressive structure.

 

Moët’sGrand Vintage wines are special offerings. They will evolve for at least ten years. The 2009 Grand VintageExtra Brut($65) is delightfully rich, complex and concentrated with juicy, pitted and red fruits balanced with vanilla cream, almonds, toast and light spice. The 2009 Grand Vintage Rosé Extra Brut ($70) leads with ripe berries, then floral and lightly peppery notes. A sense of elegance compliments the firm texture. Toasty richness and complexity are its hallmarks. Given their age, both drink with refinement but will keep for severl years.

 

While Champagne is the benchmark for bottle fermented sparkling wine, there are good sparklers elsewhere in France, usually labeled Crémant, is an affordable alternative. I particularly like Crémant d’Alsace, made using the Champagne method. Lucien Albrecht, a winery that dates to 1698 is one of the best. has produced fine, citrusy Crémant Brut ($22) using chardonnay, pinot blanc, and pinot auxerrois or the 100 percent pinot noir Rosé Brut for its crisp, berry fruit, finesse and nice measure of complexity.

 

Italians take their bubbly every bit as seriously as do the French and have been making it nearly as long.

 

Prosecco, the fresh frizzantefrom the Veneto hills of northeastern Italy, has really gained in popularity in recent years. Made from the native glera grape, it is produced using the Charmat Method (bubbles from second fermentation in pressurized tanks, instead of in the bottle as with Champagne). Its fresh, delicate pear, citrus and peach fruit and frothy palate make for an easy drinking and modestly priced wine versatile for many occasions.

 

One of my all-time favorite producers (along with Bisol) is Adami, a family owned winery in the prized Valdobbiadene area. Established in 1920, they produce benchmark Prosecco bursting with varietal purity and white flowers. The “Garbel” Brut ($15) is quite full flavored for its price; the “Bosco di Gica” Brut ($18) is most lively and refreshing; and the 2017 “Vigneto Giardino” Brut ($22) is impressively focused and intense.

 

Lambrusco from Emilia-Romagna is enjoying a reintroduction to American consumers as artisan bubbly – exuberantly fruity berries and mostly dry, not the sickly sweet, mass-produced froth of the past. One of the best is Cleto Chiarli. The wines below are made from regional variations of the lambrusco grape.I suspect these still may be an acquired taste for some but I think they are delicious, versatile, and inexpensive.

 

The effusive, luscious, firm, savory, peppery Vigneto Cialdini ($15) is a good introduction to the style. The 2016 floral, fresh, crisp, lightly Premium Vecchia Modena ($15) shows a bit more depth. The succulent, spicy lightly Centenario Grasparossa di Castelvetro Amabile ($11) is a delightfully semi sweet exception to the rule.

 

Although Piemonte in Italy’s northwest is most famous for its red wines – Barolo, Barbaresco, Barbera, etc. – the region also excels withspumante. Enrico Serafino established the winery in the Roero district 140 years ago and is one of the area’s most respected producers. In addition the winery is a leader in the production of what Italians call “Metodo Classico” or the Classic (read Champagne) Method.

 

Its 2013 Brut ($25), a chardonnay/pinot noir blend with enticing white flowers, stone fruit, orange oil, and a crisp but luscious texture, is a fine value. The 100 percent pinot noir 2014 Brut Rosé ($27) offers a sophisticated, lightly toasty experience. The 2010 Brut Zero ($52) is a very special wine, even at this price. A pinot noir/chardonnay blend, “Zero” means it is extremely dry. It also is “late disgorged”, meaning each bottle aged on its lees – a process that adds complexity – an extended period before being corked. Expect Creamy apple and pear with vibrant acidity and finesse.

 

(NOTE: All wines here are nonvintage unless otherwise noted.)

 

Unless otherwise noted, all are blends of pinot noir and chardonnay with dollops of pinot meunier.

 

Nectar Imperial Rosé ($50): an elegant sweetness and intense fruitiness give it an air of opulence

 

Dry Rive di Colbertaldo

 

Alta Langa is also a

2013 Brut

N: white fruits and flowers, orange oil

M: crisp and tangy, finishing clean and delicate

 

2014 Brut Rose

100% pinot nero (pinot noir), racy, refined delicate berry, pastry dough whiff of flowering rosemary, delicate palate, racy elegant strawberry, tangy citrus hint of white pepper

 

2010 Zero (Brut Nature)

A blend of 85% pinot nero and 15% chardonnay, “Zero” means it is extremely dry  (AKA Brut Nature). It also is “late disgorged”, meaning each bottle rested an extended period before being corked – a process that adds complexity.

 

vibrant creamy apple, ripe pear, pastry and tangerine zest hazelnut fresh elegance finesse

 

About Rich

I first became interested in wine while I worked in numerous liquor stores during college in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. In the years following college, I researched, tasted, traveled to vineyards in California and Europe, participated in countless tastings. I began writing about wine in 1995 with a column in Out Front Colorado. For me, wine is more than a drink. It is food. It is a connection to the earth. It is culture. There is just something amazing, even magical, about the transformation of grapes into wine. It is also remarkable how drinking wine with food enhances the taste and enjoyment of both. Appreciation of wine has become an integral part of my approach to life, which emphasizes balance, respect for nature, physical and emotional health, and an appreciation of our nature as social beings. In 2006, I was awarded a fellowship to the Symposium for Professional Wine Writers.