A Sparkling Wine Holiday Guide: Bubbles Occasions, or Occasional Bubbles?
It's something of a pity that most Americans think of sparkling wines as wines of celebration -- that extraordinary act of niche marketing has rendered these complex and versatile wines into an unfortunate pigeonhole, when they can, and should be enjoyed anytime, anywhere. Nevertheless, here we are, in the thicket of special occasions, with feasts to toast and new years to welcome. Here, then, are a few sparklers worth considering for a few occasions.
Cava, the Party Wine:
Made with macabeo, xa-rello, and other indigenous Spanish grape varieties, cava has a taste that's remarkably different than most sparkling wines. A good cava always leads with a clean pronounced minerality and citrus pith line of mild bitterness that happens to make the wine exquisite with the snacks and nibbles of a holiday party. But you'll appreciate cava not only for its pairing facility but for its price -- it's rare to find one over $25.
Some go-to Cavas: Drescher, Raventos, Gramona, German Gilabert.
Prosecco, the Quaffer:
Made mostly with an indigenous variety Glera, once called Prosecco, Prosecco the wine, from the Valdobbiadene and Conegliano regions, are among the most approachable sparkling wines in the world, with a palpable freshness to its flavors of lemon and peach, and a soft, velvety palate finely tethered by a clean mineral tang.
Some go-to Proseccos: Adriano Adami, Nino Franco, Bisol, Fantinel.
American Sparkling, the Pretender:
In the past half-dozen years American sparkling wine producers have fine-tuned their wines to a newfound level of finesse, even as they remain lavishly rich, ever the product of the California sun, for a palate generosity that many French Champagnes can't claim. They are also typically a smidge cheaper than Champagne, making them another party favorite.
Some go-to Sparklers: Schramsberg, J, Roederer Estate, Iron Horse.
Champagne, the Ideal of Effervescence:
And then there is Champagne, the region, the beverage, the platonic ideal, grown in one of the coolest, most northerly wine-growing regions on earth, in some of the chalkiest soils, resulting in wines of unparalleled poise and elegance, and the symbol of celebration all over the world. Whether going the route of richness or finesse, Champagne's greatest attribute is precision of expression, leading to a giddy intensity of flavor that seems the perfect accompaniment to holiday enjoyment.
Some go-to Champagnes: Charles Hiedseick, Deutz, Louis Roederer, Diebolt Vallois, Krug, Billecart-Salmon.