Make Sure Your 2015 Sparkles All Year Long with these Great-Value Bubblies
“Prosecco outsold Champagne in 2013 to replace the famous French beverage as the world’s most popular sparkling wine. Some 307 million bottles of prosecco, made from the Glera grape and produced in northern Italy, were sold worldwide during the year, compared to 304 million for Champagne.”
–OVSE, the Italian wine observatory
The Lodge at Woodloch is one of our favorite places in the world to ring in the New Year, as we’ve had the pleasure and privilege of doing for the past few years.
However, this December 31st was non-traditional. When we led a tasting of six different sparkling wines for guests at the Lodge, none of them were Champagne. What the crowd loved: 1) All of them were impressive values for the price (under $20); and 2) Any of them are worth buying to have on hand at home to pair with dishes any night of the week throughout the year:
Ruffino Prosecco (around $10/bottle) is a relatively new entrant to this fast-growing category, but this producer has been making still wine for a long time. Better known for its Chianti than its Prosecco, Ruffino first started making Prosecco in 2011. This one is made from 100% Glera (aka Prosecco) grapes via the Charmat method (whereby secondary fermentation takes place in large tanks rather than in the bottle itself, as is the process in the Champagne region of France via the traditional method). Clean and crisp with a light-to-medium body (11% alcohol), this Prosecco is marked by nice acidity and fruity and floral aromas; notes of apples, citrus, pears, and peaches on the mid-palate; and a somewhat bitter finish. This was the #2 ranked crowd-pleaser among Lodge guests participating in the tasting.
Food pairings: appetizers, asparagus, fried foods, salty foods
Dr. Loosen “Dr. L” Sparkling Riesling ($15/bottle) would be known as “sekt” in Germany, as it’s been known since the late 1800s. This crisp and fruity wine with just a whisper of sweetness has juicy acidity, and notes of apples, citrus, ginger, and honey. Made from 100% Riesling grapes, it is also made via the Charmat (tank) method, which keeps its price affordable.
Food pairings: appetizers, fried foods, salty foods, stir-fries
Gia Frizzante Sparkling Chardonnay (around $14-17/bottle) just hit the market seven months ago, marking the latest member of the multitalented Coppola family to come out with an eponymous wine. Gia Coppola is the granddaughter of filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola (The Godfather) and the niece of one of Karen’s favorite filmmakers Sofia Coppola (Lost in Translation, The Virgin Suicides). Though made of 100% Chardonnay, this wine is light-to-medium-bodied with notes of tropical fruit (e.g., passion fruit, pineapple) as well as citrus, honey, and pears.
Food pairings: apple or pear tarts, Asian cuisine, paella, pineapple tart
Charles de Fere Reserve Blanc de Blancs Brut (around $10-12/bottle). Sixth generation Champenois Jean-Louis Denois — who is making sparkling wine 20 miles outside Champagne where he can select the grapes he wishes (which include Chenin Blanc and Ugni Blanc in addition to Chardonnay) and blend them the way he wishes — is producing wines of extraordinary value via the traditional method. This medium-bodied (12% alcohol) Blanc de Blancs leads with a fresh-from-the-bakery nose (with notes of bread dough, cinnamon, and yeast) while the palate follows with notes of apples, butter, lemon, hazelnuts, and pears.
Food pairings: appetizers, esp. fried, salty foods (e.g. popcorn)
Bleasdale Sparkling Shiraz ($19/bottle) was the hands-down crowd-pleaser at our tasting, with most guests never before having tasted a sparkling red wine let alone a sparkling Shiraz from Australia. They loved the wine’s medium-to-full body (13.5% alcohol), its rich, velvety texture; and its friendly notes of berries (e.g., blackberries, blueberries), cherries. chocolate, plums, and spices. Its fruitiness with a whisper of sweetness could stand up to blue cheese, but some couldn’t wait to give it a go with dark chocolate.
Food pairings: Christmas pudding, cranberry sauce, dark chocolate
Saracco Moscato d’Asti ($10-15/bottle) is a close second to our personal favorite Moscato d’Asti made by Vietti, and we’ve never met anyone who wasn’t pleased to be handed a glass to sip of either. This one is delightfully aromatic, with a wonderful nose suggesting fruit and flowers, and notes of apricots, grapes, lemon, lychees, melon, peaches, pears, orange, and tropical fruit. Semi-sparkling, it undergoes no secondary fermentation — traditional OR Charmat — but instead reaches its sacred state of perfectly balanced sweetness, alcohol, acidity, and froth when fermented to 5.5% alcohol.
Food pairings: berries, brunch, desserts, esp. fruit tarts; fresh fruit, fruit salads