Everything You Need to Know About Sparkling Wine for New Years
Rule numero uno…. Whatever you pick is sure to be a delight this time of year! It’s more about sharing something sparkling with great company and looking forward to the year ahead. No wrong choices here! Chill ahead of time and pop open when the moment’s right.
With that said, there are several different “types” of sparkling wine. Below are a few of my favorites from each style, as well as an explanation on what’s what:
Recommended Pick: Billiecart-Salmon Brut Rosé
About: Technically to be “Champagne”, the wine must be from the Champagne region of northern France– and this one fits the bill! Crafted from the three varietals standard for Champagne (Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, and Chardonnay), this cuvée is a reference point amongst rosé champagnes. On the nose it displays delicate aromas of red berries and citrus fruits, with a beautiful palate well-suited to accompany salmon or sushi. Champagne is made using the “methode champenoise” (or “traditional method” which has a very strict set of guidelines developed in France. It involves creating the effervescence (bubbles) in the bottle during the secondary fermentation. During the process, bottles must be rotated regularly; the method champenoise is very labor intensive but develops complex sparkling wines with soft bubbles.
Recommended Pick: Paul Cheneau Brut
About: Cava hails from Spain and is traditionally produced from varietals native to their country: macabeu, parellada, and xarello grapes. It’s always produced using the “traditional method” — the same high-intensity process that Champagne is. It’s mainly produced in the Penedes region, which is on the eastern side of the country, near Barcelona. This is a classic Brut Cava; the tiny, persistent bubbles form a beautiful mousse at the top of the glass. Aromas of fresh fruits and a light toast give way to a fruity, well-structured, rich taste on the palate. Each sip lingers until the next. Cava was the first type of sparkling wine I fell in love with!
CREMANT DE LOIRE
Recommended Pick: Domaine de la Bergerie Cremant de Loire Brut
About: Cremant is a group of sparkling wines made with the same technique as Champagne, but from the Loire Valley instead (look here for a high quality to price ratio!). It’s typically produced using Chenin Blanc, Cabernet Franc, and Pinot Noir, but can also include other grapes from the region. The predominant use of Chenin Blanc lends these high-quality wines unique flavors of lemon, quince, pear, honey, and chamomile. This particular example is from an estate that’s been in the family since 1964.as Yves and Marie-Annick’s daughter, Anne, begins to take the lead, the domaine is converting to organic viniculture and exhibiting an exciting new energy — and fascinating wines. Definitely a producer to watch!
Recommended Pick: Valdo Floral Rosé Brut
About: This is the first wine on the list not produced using the “traditional method” — instead it’s produced using the “tank method”. Unlike the ‘Traditional Fermentation’, whereby the second fermentation happens in bottle, in Tank Method it takes place in a large closed pressure tank. Tank Method sparkling wines also go through two fermentations, as the second fermentation is where the bubbles come from. Prosecco is also typically produced from the “Glera” grape varietal.
The Valdo Floral Rosé Brut pictured here is a young, bright, crisp sparkling wine made from a blend of 75% Nerello Mascalese and 25% Glera grapes. It has a fruity bouquet with hints of raspberry and red fruits, and a fine perlage of tiny bubbles.
Recommended Pick: Cinzano Asti DOCG’
About: Asti is also from Italy and fermented in a tank, similar to prosecco. The second fermentation process is stopped earlier, however, to retain the aromatic nature of the grapes and high-sugar content. This premium sparkling wine is made from 100% white Moscato grapes grown in the heart of Piedmont, Italy. It offers sweet, ripe flavors of peach and melon and hints of delicate honey. This is the perfect wine for those with a sweet tooth!
CALIFORNIA SPARKLING WINE
Recommended Pick: Paula Kornell Napa Valley Blanc de Noir
About: Wineries in California have the flexibility to produce sparkling wine using any of the above methods, and therefore range in style, quality, and price point. If you’re looking for something that holds up against the best sparkling wines but is domestically produced, I’d highly recommend Paula Kornell’s new sparkling wine project — her Napa Valley Blanc de Noir 2017. When a sparkling wine has “Blanc de Noir” in the name, this refers to the type of grapes used and translates to “white from reds”. Using primarily Pinot Noir grapes (a red skinned varietal), this wine is a beautiful pale yellow and displays generous notes of crisp green apples, lemon zest, tender peaches, and brioche. Paula Kornell is certainly someone to watch in the California scene; with 30 plus years’ experience in the wine industry, this is her inaugural vintage of her own label. Her wines are designed to be stylish, sophisticated, and engaging. The perfect way to ring in the New Year, or celebrate any of life’s little moments.
So grab a glass, pop open some bubbly, and let’s ring in 2020! CHEERS!