Sparkling wines, in particular champagnes, have been the quintessential celebration wines for joyous and festive occasions. They have evolved this way since the blind monk Dom Perignon helped, or as some claim, to have discovered how to capture millions of bubbles in wine.
Sparkling wines are lively, they glitter and dance in the specially designed flute glass, and more importantly, feel the consumer exuberant, youthful, energetic and happy.
Few things rival coming home for the holidays, whether it’s from halfway around the world or just around the corner. Splendid gifts and fine wine are just the icing on the cake.
It is said that most of the sparkling wine consumption occurs just before, or at mid-night December 31, to welcome the New Year, but this need not be so.
You can drink sparkling wine anytime of the day; in defeat you need it, in victory you enjoy it. You can take a glass before your meal, when you feel depressed, or happy, or just to revive your senses or spirit.
Sparkling wine can be light-, medium-or full bodied, extra dry, dry, off-dry or sweet.
Light bodied sparklers, particularly champagnes are elegant and subtle. They suit toasting, are best as aperitifs, and go well with light foods.
Medium-bodied ones possess enough flavour and power to complement a range of foods and can be sipped on their own, when contemplating the future, or projects, and even planning gastronomic adventures.
Full-bodied sparkling wines are creamy, rich, substantial, and exude ripe fruit suitable to savour with fine fare at dinner including poached salmon or marinated salmon, Dover sole a la meuniere, just to name a few dishes.
All champagnes are sparkling, but not all sparkling may be called champagne.
There are several techniques to producing sparkling wines, the most elaborate of which is the champagne method invented by Dom Perignon in the region called Champagne in northeastern France. It takes four years to complete the production and requires significant amounts of labour.
Other methods are less time and labour consuming, therefore more affordable.
Spain, particularly San Sadurni di Noya, close to Barcelona in Catalonia, is well known for its sparkling wines, selling at a fraction of champagne. Spanish sparkling wines produced by the champagne methode are labeled cava.
German sparkling wines, particularly those made exclusively from riesling and Quality wine of designated regions (Q b A) can be absolutely delightful, and represent good value.
Canadian sparkling wines tend to be light and fragrant, and well worth the money, as are Hungarian.
Here are some sparkling wines you can buy with confidence:
Grand Brut, Perrier et Jouet, Champagne, France
The house was established in 1811 and enjoys an excellent reputation worldwide. This refreshing, dark yellow, bright champagne exudes aromas of stone fruits and pineapples with floral accents. In the mouth it is smooth, rounded, balanced with fine perlage that elevates the wine to heavenly heights.
Brut Prestige, G, H., Mumm, Napa Valley, California
Blended using Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. This wine opens with gorgeous, layered white blossom aromas, followed by creamy, vanilla, citrus, stone fruits, and melon. Nicely balanced and refreshing.
Dom Perignon Brut, 2002, Moet et Chandon, Champagne, France
This is excellent, expensive, but reliable, and world famous champagne of the house. Although it is expensive it represents value due to its rarity, flavour, elegance, and refinement.
Big toasty aromas, roast apples and nuts waft out of the flute. Flavours are lushly delivered, with roasted cashews nuts, and citrus.
Great presence and very fine bead of bubbles.
Grand Cuvee Brut Krug, Champagne, France
Another very expensive but outstanding champagne from an old, and well-established champagne house.
The aromas are reminiscent of toasted almonds, almond and ripe apples. This is an excellent, elegant, and refined champagne with innumerable bubbles, and fine texture and long finish
Brut Premier, Roederer, Champagne, France
This elegant and elicate sparkling wine, that is blended using Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier offers ripe fruit aromas. In the mouth the wine displays good structure, richness and length. Serve confidently with terrine of foie gras, or crawfish etouffe, a New Orleans specialty, of filet of Dover sole a la Meunier.
Sparkling Shiraz, Jip Jip Rocks, South Australia
This winery takes young Shiraz fruit and ages it in barrels for smoothness an rich weight across the palate. The blend is then made sparkling wine. Very pleasant and enjoyable.
Cremant de Loire, Chateau de Montgeret, Loire, France
The Loire region in France produces excellent sparkling wines at a fraction of champagne costs. Here is sparkling wine of brilliant yellow green colour, enhanced with fine bubbles. The Chenin Blanc provides the smoothness, a refreshing character and aromatic complexity while Chardonnay provides it with floral notes. Can be enjoyed as an aperitif, with light dishes of withe meat and to end a pleasant evening.
Prosecco di Valdobbiadene , Bottega, Veneto, Italy
Elegant, light, fruity and refreshing.
Kir Royal, Lejay-Lagout, Burgundy, France
The company specializes in crème de cassis (blackcurrant) liqueurs, but has now developed a recipe to make a sparkling Kir, which was invented by Canon Kir, who was the mayor of Dijon in 1940’s.
It is balanced, light, and fruity with a pleasant sweetness.
Sparkling Rose, Mezzomondo, Alto Adige, Italy
This clean and crisp sparkling wine offers aromas and flavours of fully ripe fruits. It is light and balanced with fine bubbles.
Hungarian Sparkling wine, Torley, Budapest, Hungary
This is an excellent value for a fine sparkling wine produced by the methode champenoise. An absolute value with elegant perlage, fruit and balance.