As you already know, I am a big fan of Prosecco and Cava, but I have been increasingly conscious of the myriad of different sparking wines on offer at wine stores around the city. There are many fantastic, great value sparkling wines for entertaining, as we have been discovering.
Beyond Champagne, Cava & Prosecco
We entertain a lot, partly because we love to and partly because it is easier than meeting friends in restaurants all the time when you have a seven-year-old.
It is nothing new that countries like Austria, Georgia, Greece, Italy and Portugal (to name but a few) are making sparkling wine. What is relatively new is the extent to which they are arriving on shelves in the US market. This is a testament to the US wine consumers' curiosity to try something different.
Inspired by what I was seeing I recently purchased a mixed case of sparkling wines from all over. Sophisticated packaging and labels were inspiring. For the most part they were made from indigenous grape varieties that I am more familiar with as still wines. This further piqued my interest.
So, armed with my case of mixed sparklers I was armed for any impromptu gathering. Over the course of a few weeks we managed to make our way through the case. Apart from being for the most part delicious, the wines served as fantastic conversation pieces. And everyone was more than surprised at their very modest prices.
It also served to reinforce a number of important points about sparkling wines. Firstly they are not necessarily expensive so there is no need to wait for a special occasion to open a bottle, secondly they can be just as much an everyday wine as any still wine of equal price; and thirdly sparkling wines are so versatile when it comes to food. They differ in style, body, richness, sweetness, color and flavor, thus enabling them to weigh in anywhere from the pre-dinner drink right through to dessert. In fact many of our guests stayed on sparkling wine all evening. Hence the rapid depletion of stock!
Delicious Sparkling Wines to Try
Here are my notes on some of the favorites from my big case of mixed sparklers.
• Luis Pato Baga, Vinho Espummante Bruto NV, Casta Baga, Portugal, $16 – From the Bairrada region of Portugal and made from the local Baga grape. Rosé style and quite deeply colored with aromas of red berries and exotic citrus. Dry on the palate with an earthy, biscuity, red fruit flavor. Medium-bodied, this would be great with pork or veal chops, grilled chicken, over roasted fish or simple pizza.
• Galetto Dry Rosé, Vino Spumante NV, Colli della Murgia, Puglia, Italy, $16 – From the south of Italy and made from the red Aglianico wine. A delicious, fairly full-bodied but dry rose. Great food wine, especially with grilled whole fish, tuna or Mediterranean style char grilled vegetables.
• Dürnberg Sparkling Rosé NV Brut –Lower Austria, $15 – Made from the local Zweigelt red grape variety. It has attractive fresh red berry aromas and flavors, crisp with delicate bubbles and a smooth mousse. On the lighter side, this is one to start the evening with or with seafood, salads and cured meats.
• Il Brut and the Beast NV, Vino da Tavola, Piedmont, Italy $16 – Don't you just love the name? Only slightly frizzante, so it comes with a regular pull cork. Delightfully tingly, citrusy, and dry. Light bodied and refreshing – another to start off the gathering. Made from a blend of the local white Cortese and Favorita grapes and Moscato (muscat).
• 2007 Brüder Dr. Becker Scheurebe Sekt Extra Trocken, Rheinhessen, Germany, $19 – While Sekt is fairly well known, Sekt made from Scheurebe is less so. Scheurebe is a German grape (actually a crossing of Riesling and Silvaner). Moderately aromatic, it shows hints of exotic fruit, spice and has great acidity. It is lively, with a smooth flavorful mousse. While it can be confusing 'Extra Trocken (Extra Dry) is actually sweeter than Brut. So this is an off-dry style and works well with paté and Asian dishes, particularly noodles.
• Domaine Tselepos Amalia Brut NV, Peloponnese, Greece, $24 – Made from the local Moscofilero grape, it is fresh and lively with an elegant creamy mousse. Delicate floral aromas with hints of macaroon and brioche. Pair with grilled shrimp, char-grilled squid or taramasalata.
• 2008 Antech "Emotion" Crémant de Limoux Rosé, Languedoc, France, $15 – Blend of Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc and the local Mauzac grape. Lively persistent creamy mousse. Dry with subtle red cherry-berry flavors with nuance of freshly baked bread and hints of summer flowers. Lovely on its own or enjoy with salt cod, sushi, pad Thai or freshly grilled sardines.
Until next week have fun exploring the bubbles!
Mary Gorman-McAdams, DWS, is a New York based wine educator, freelance writer and consultant. She holds the Diploma in Wine & Spirits from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET), and is a candidate in the Master of Wine Program.
(Images: Mary Gorman)