Wine Time: Choose a sparkling wine to make holidays merrier

Whether you call it Champagne, Prosecco, Sekt, Cremant, Cava or just bubbly, there is nothing like a good sparkling wine to make the holidays merrier. Just look at your guests’ faces when you pop that cork and you will know they are already enjoying the occasion.

 

Too many people have the idea that sparkling wine is only for special occasions, and if you are among them, now is the time to pop a cork.

Sparkling wines pair with most holiday foods, whether it’s traditional Hanukkah treats like latkes, Christmas roast beef, or shrimp on New Year’s Eve. But remember that sparkling wine tastes great any time of year.

We started our celebrations with one of my favorite sparklers, Frank Family Rouge ($55). It is a sparkling pinot noir with great color and robust flavors. It also paired well with the many side dishes we had for Thanksgiving.

Sparkling wine matches any food, from sweet to spicy, from hearty to delicate. All you need to do is decide what style you like and what your budget is.

To help you, I offer some of my favorites and recommendations from local wine shops.

l Frank Family, Blanc de Blancs, Napa ($55).

l Piper-Heidsieck Brut, Champagne ($38).

l Several Proseccos from Bisol, including Crede Prosecco Superiore DOCG ($25), Bisol Cartizze Prosecco Superiore DOCG ($50) and Jeio ($15). Mionetto also makes a range of nice Proseccos from the fun Il brand to $10-15 everyday sparklers to their Luxury Collection ($20).

l Zonin Prosecco ($17).

l Loosen Brothers Dr. L Sparkling Riesling, Germany ($16), Slightly off-dry.

l Brut Rosé Spumante V.S.Q. Grasparossa, Italy ($15).

l Akakies Sparkling Rosé 2016, Greece ($22).

l Santo Sparkling Brut, Greece ($22).

l Valdivieso Brut Rosé, Chile, ($13).

l Champagne Palmer Rosé, France, ($52).

l Guelfo Verde Marche IGT Frizzante, Italy ($11).

l Biltmore Estate Blanc de Noir, North Carolina ($25).

l Cote Orelia Blanc de Noirs, New Mexico, ($11.99).

l Cleto Chiarli Premium Vecchia Modena Lambrusco di Sorbara DOC, Italy (SRP $15).

At The Vineyard in Evans, owner Roger Strohl says December is when he sells the most sparkling wine.

“By far, this is the biggest time of the year, especially the week between Christmas and New Year’s Eve. And you don’t have to spend a lot of money.”

For bargain hunters Strohl recommends Prosecco. It has all the bubbles and less alcohol than most sparklers.

“I wish people would drink Prosecco more often,” said Strohl, “especially in the summer. It’s a perfect drink for summer.”

Some of his favorites include Casa Defra ($9.99), LeMarca ($13.99), Belstar ($12.99) and La Bella ($12.99). Other Vineyard recommendations:

l Saint-Hilaire, France ($16.99). This is the oldest sparkling wine in France, created by Benedictine monks more than 100 years before sparkling wine was made in Champagne.

l Mumm Napa ($22.99), one of the finest American sparkling wines.

l If you want real Champagne, Strohl recommends Pierre Peters ($55.99), Laurent-Perrier ($42), Heidsieck &Co. Monopole Blue Top ($39.99), Taittinger ($69.99).

l If you like sweeter sparkling wine, two popular brands are Rosa Regale ($19.99) and Mamamango ($9.99).

Over at Wine World in North Augusta, Dale Siliko has several recommendations for sparkling wines:

l Louis de Grenelle, from the Loire in France, ($19.99).

l Taittinger Champagne ($41.59).

l Perrier-Jouet ($53).

l Cote Mas, Brut Rosé Cremant De Limoux ($15.99).

l Chateaux Beausoleil, Blanquette de Limoux, France ($14.99).

l Segura Viudas, Cava from Spain, ($7.99). Siliko says this is the perfect wine with pizza.

l Cuvee Aurora Rosé, an Italian sparkling rosé from Banfi ($29.99).

l Chandon Blanc de Noir, from Napa ($23.99).

Once you’ve made your selections, here are some tips:

Don’t put your sparkler in the freezer – that tends to kill the wine’s effervescence. For quick chilling, place the bottle in a mixture of ice and water for 15 to 20 minutes. Or lay the bottle down in the refrigerator for three to four hours.

Be careful when opening the bottle. Point the bottle neck away from your face and away from your guests. Remove the foil. Hold the cap down with your thumb and begin untwisting the wire, loosening the cage. Gently remove the wire and immediately replace your thumb on the exposed cork, watching for any movement.

Now place the rest of your hand firmly around the cork and twist gently, while counter-twisting the bottle gently with your other hand. Allow the cork to free itself from the bottle with a quiet sigh or gentle pop, leaving the bubbles and wine inside the bottle.

wine trivia

Sparkling wine should not be called champagne. Only wine from the Champagne region of France, about 90 miles northeast of Paris, can legally be called Champagne.

For French sparkling wines made in other regions, the word “Cremant” is used, as in Cremant d’Alsace. German sparklers are called Sekt; the Italians call it Prosecco, and in Spain it’s Cava.

From driest to sweetest, sparkling wines have designations, including brut nature, extra brut, brut, extra dry, dry, demi-sec, doux. Extra dry and dry are slightly sweet wines, so don’t be fooled by the words.

Many sparkling wines are also identified as “Blanc de Blancs” (made from Chardonnay grapes), “Blanc de Noirs” (produced from black grapes), or rosé or pink sparkling wine/champagnes (small amount of red wine added to the blend or wine that is allowed brief skin contact with color-laden grape skins).

 

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