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2015-12-01 / Wine Notes

Put A Little Sparkle In Your Holidays

by robert d. richards, CS W

Perhaps the most time-honored wine pairing in history is the holiday season and “bubbly” — Champagne and sparkling wines. Few things are more festive than watching those bubbles ascend the glass, seem­ingly racing for the chance to reach your nose and mouth. Make the most out of your sparkling adventure this holiday season with a few simple tips.

The choice of glassware is key. Flutes — the slender upright, tubu­lar glasses — are a must. Avoid using the martini-type, conical glasses. Flutes help to keep the bubbles in sparkling wine rather than release them into the air. After all, bubbles are the very reason you drink sparkling wine.

Knowing the kind of sparkling wine you want is also important. Champagne is a region in northeast France. Technically, only wines produced in that region, made by méthode champenoise, can be called Champagne. These rules, which dictate grape varieties and region, also require that the secondary fermentation (giving the “bubbly” its bub­bles) take place in the individual bottle rather than in a tank or barrel.

But delicious sparkling wines can be found all over the world. In Italy, you’ll find Prosecco, a less complex, slightly sweeter wine. In Spain, you’ll encounter Cava, a crisp, dry sparkling wine made in the same method as Champagne (although, by law, called Método Tradicional). In the United States, a number of producers make some excellent spar­kling wines — often in the traditional French method. Luckily, these wines are available worldwide, including in Pennsylvania’s Wine & Spirits Stores.

Here are a few wines to make your holidays sparkle.

Domaine Chandon Étoile Rosé (NV)
(#29036, $35.99)
With strawberry and raspberry notes on the nose, this wine is made by the traditional method with the secondary fermentation in the bottle. It also uses the traditional Champagne grapes: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinor Meunier. The grapes come from the cooler Carneros region of southern Napa and Sonoma counties.

Ayala Brut Rosé Majeur  (NV)
(#33616, $39.99)
This sparkling rosé from France’s Champagne region is a delicate and earthy wine. It showcases the minerals from the soil of the old world. Yeasty and fizzy, this wine would be a great opener at a holiday cocktail party.

Paringa Sparkling Shiraz 2012
(#37587, $14)
For your guests who like something a little out of the ordinary, this sparkling Shiraz from South Australia may be just the thing. With its deep, rich color and aromas of currant, strawberry and blackberry, this reasonably priced offering from Down Under could prove to be the sparkling wine enjoyed by that die-hard red wine fan.

Robert D. Richards, CSW, is a Certified Specialist of Wine through the Society of Wine Educators and has passed the first-level certification of the prestigious Court of Master Sommeliers.

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