Hooray for sparkling wine. It’s not champagne, and it doesn’t pretend to be. But it’s the same idea -- usually chardonnay and/or pinot noir still wines allowed to re-ferment in the bottle to create those bubbles that make it the beverage of celebration. Usually at a lesser price than champagne.
Sparkling wine is great as an aperitif, or for toasting, especially during the
holidays. Top chefs have also created all-champagne dinners in which different sparkling wines are served with each course.
It’s easy. See what it says on the bottle. If your sparkling wine is a “blanc de
blanc,” it made entirely from white grapes, probably chardonnay. This bubbly is light and frothy, great for toasting, hors d’oeuvres and fish or light chicken dishes.
If the sparkling wine is a prosecco, it's an Italian bubbly made from the grape of the same name. It usually has softer bubbles than other sparkling wines, and it can be dry or slightly sweet.
If the label says “brut,” the bubbly is probably a blend of chardonnay and pinot noir. Yes, pinot noir is a red grape, but the juice is white even in red grapes. It’s just a matter of separating the juice from the skins as soon as the grapes are crushed. Brut bubblies are good for mid-range dishes -- creamy fish and chicken dishes, casseroles and so on.
And if the label says “blanc de noir,” it means the sparkling wine is entirely from red
grapes like pinot noir. There are bubbly lovers who would drink this with prime rib or a
charcoal-grilled steak. Or other red-meat dishes. This can be a bit of a stretch: Try it
and see if you like it.
Rosé sparkling wines have just enough red wine in them to turn that lovely
salmon-to-cherry color, and have tiny hints of tannin from those red grapes. When made
dry, these are great with steaks, or even fruit desserts. If made sweet, they’ll match the
deepest chocolate dessert.
So if you’re a real purist, you could drink nothing but sparkling wine for the rest of
your life. As I was saying, Hooray for sparkling wine.
• Nonvintage Piper Sonoma Select Cuvée Brut, Sonoma County: crisp and rich and firm,
with lemon/lime flavors; $14.
• Nonvintage J Brut Rosé, Russian River Valley: crisp and full-bodied, with rich red
berry flavors; $40.
• Nonvintage Santa Margherita Prosecco Brut, Valdobbiadene, Italy: frothy, mineral
• Nonvintage Piper Sonoma Blanc de Noir Sonoma County: rich, red berry flavors; $17.
• Nonvintage Codorníu Cava, Sant Sadurni d'Anoia, Spain: firm body, green-apple
• Nonvintage Jacobs Creek Chardonnay/Pinot Noir Brut Cuvée, Barossa Valley, Australia:
full-bodied and rich, pineapple flavors; $12.
• Nonvintage Domaine Ste. Michelle Blanc de Noir Columbia Valley Sparkling Wine,
Washington: tart melon flavors, crisp; $13.
• Nonvintage yellow Tail Sparkling Wine, Australia: lighty sweet, soft, white peaches;
• Nonvintage Freixenet Cordon Negro Brut, Sant Sadurni d'Anoia, Spain: light and crisp,
with citrus flavors; $11.
• Nonvintage Domaine Ste. Michelle Extra Dry, Columbia Valley Sparkling Wine,
Washington: lemon-lime flavors, lightly sweet; $13.
• Nonvintage Korbel Natural Russian River Valley, Sonoma: crisp, light, red berry
• Nonvintage Mumm Napa Blanc de Noir, Napa Valley: frothy, light, apricot flavors; $21.
• Nonvintage Schramsberg Blanc de Blanc, North Coast, Calif.: lemon meringue flavors,