WAYS TO SPARKLE ONCE A MONTH
Cristalino Cava Brut NV, Penedes, Spain. Whole Foods $8.99
Riccardo Prosecco Brut NV, Veneto, Italy. Wine Warehouse $19.99
Cantina del Taburno Falanghina Vino Spumante NV, Campania, Italy. Market Street Wineshop $21.99
Steininger Riesling Sekt 2006, Kamptal, Austria. Greenwood Gourmet Grocery $27.99
Domaine de la Bergerie Crémant de Loire NV, Loire Valley, France. HotCakes $18
Domaines de Martinolles Blanquette de Limoux NV, Languedoc-Roussillon, France. Tastings of Charlottesville $12.95
Vve Fourny et Fils Champagne Grand Réserve Brut NV,
Graham Beck Brut NV, Western Cape, South Africa. Siips Wine and Champagne Bar $17.99
Thibaut-Janisson Blanc De Chardonnay NV, Virginia, US. Wine Warehouse $26
L. Mawby Blanc de Blanc NV, Michigan, US. Market Street Wineshop $19.99
Gruet Brut NV, New Mexico, US. Foods of All Nations $14.99
Domaine Carneros Brut NV, California, US. Tastings of
Since its auspicious beginnings with mid-17th century English coopers, sparkling wine has inspired poetry. Dom Perignon, a Benedictine monk and pioneer in the Champagne industry, said upon his first sip, “I am tasting the stars!” Napoleon Bonaparte said, “In victory, you deserve Champagne; in defeat, you need it.” American writer Oscar Herford wrote, “Some take their gold in minted mold, and some in harps thereafter, but give me mine in bubbles fine and keep the change in laughter.” I, on the other hand, become hopelessly ditzy when handed a glass and come across more like the dim-witted fish in Finding Nemo who screams “Bubbles! Bubbles! My Bubbles!” every time the treasure chest in his aquarium opens. While Champagne remains the benchmark for sparkling wine, virtually every wine-producing nation offers an affordable sparkler these days, making bubbles the perfect libation for before, during, and after the New Year’s festivities.
In Spain, it’s cava. In Italy, it’s prosecco or spumante. In Austria and Germany, it’s sekt. In France (outside of Champagne), it’s mousseux or crémant. In America, it’s, well, sparkling wine. In all lands, it’s a wine with significant levels of carbon dioxide as a result of a secondary fermentation that takes place in the bottle (as with the Champagne method), or in a large tank designed to withstand high pressures (as in the Charmat method), or as a result of carbon dioxide injection (as in the Dr. Pepper method). Differences among these sparklers from around the globe have more to do with their fermentation process (with the traditional method touting the highest prices, the finest bubbles, and the most complex taste from their close co-habitation with yeasts) and their sugar levels (brut being dry, extra dry/sec and dry/demi-sec falling in the middle, and doux being sweet) rather than their country of origin.
I will never understand why we reserve sparkling wines for setting ships to sail, toasting newlyweds, and ushering in the New Year. It is like starting out a journey on top of the world just to plunge into the depths of banality the next day. O.K., perhaps I’m being dramatic, but why not celebrate the everyday instead of just “The Day?” I’ll have more wine-related suggestions for the coming year in next week’s column, but as I’ve caught you before the ball drops, do yourself a favor and drink bubbles on New Year’s Eve and then at least once a month (or once a week for best results) throughout the year and keep track of just how much fun you’ve had. Bubbly will make you feel (and look) sexy. It will tickle your nose and your imagination. It will stir your senses and your passions. It will replace complaints with giggles and regrets with resolutions. It will clarify the past, celebrate the present, and illuminate the future.
Madame Bollinger (of the Champagne Bollingers) wrote, “I drink Champagne when I’m happy and when I’m sad. Sometimes I drink it when I’m alone. When I have company I consider it obligatory. I trifle with it if I’m not hungry and drink it when I am. Otherwise I never touch it—unless I’m thirsty.” Raise a glass of bubbles to the end of 2009, to the beginning of 2010, and keep on bubbling into 2011.