As we approach February 14th, the stores are showing the bright red colors of Valentine’s Day – a time when our hearts turns toward expressions of love and romance. Nothing is more quintessential for this month than sparkling wine! Real Champagne can be pricey, but there are many lovely expressions of sparkling wine that can fit the occasion and the pocket book.
Sparkling wine is made all over the world, including in Champagne, France, which is the only place real Champagne comes from. It used to be that no other region could challenge the sparkling wine from Champagne, yet that is no longer so. Many wines, especially the sparkling wines of California, can provide the luxurious texture and flavors to rival Champagne.
Sparkling wine is made in different ways, contributing to the difference in price. Large production wines fermented in steel tanks will, on average, be less expensive than wines whose secondary fermentation takes place in the bottle and which are aged slowly. As with any wine, location and vineyard management also contribute to the price.
Champagne is known worldwide for the beauty and texture the region can deliver in a bottle. The grapes of Champagne are Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. Two major contributors to the distinction of Champagne are the weather and the limestone-laced soils. Champagne is made using the “Méthode Traditionnelle,” an extensive process where the secondary fermentation (which produces the bubbles) takes place in the bottle that you purchase. These wines present with great acidity and a creamy texture. There are modestly priced Champagnes, yet great ones can cost in the hundreds of dollars. The most famous may be Dom Perignon.
Some sparkling wines are produced using this traditional method, as well. One of the large production wines out of California is Roederer Estate Multi Vintage Brut. Wine Spectator frequently designates their wines as a “Smart Buy.” Other more expensive, well-crafted bottles come from Mumm and Schramsberg.
Prosecco is an Italian sparkling wine made from the glera grape. This friendly sparkling wine is produced by the “Charmat” method. The secondary fermentation is accomplished in large steel tanks rather than in the bottle. It has a simple fruity flavor with an appealing bitter edge. La Marca is a great example that is readily available in most stores. My personal favorite is Ruffino. These can be purchased for as little as $9 to $15.
Moscato is the Italian word for muscat. In the area of Piedmont in Italy, it is made into a variety of sweet wine that presents with a fruity and floral aroma and flavor. It is used to make sparkling Asti and moscato d’asti. Inexpensive bottles are readily found and can be quite refreshing.
All of these sparkling wines can add to the festivity of any occasion – especially that occasion with someone special.