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Saturday, January 8, 2011

Bubblies: So now that the holidays are over ...

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People want to drink Champagne/Sparkling Wine/Bubbly, whatever you want to call it, for the winter holiday season.   Once that's over then it's back to Chardonnay and Cabernet.   Why?   Don't people enjoy the effervescence in their wine?

Or is it more not realizing how good sparkling wines can be at other times -- even with dinner!  Or after dinner.

The drier sparkling wines are often good with salty and spicy foods.   Salty can be appetizers like cheese and salami and main courses such as ham.  Also, with most traditional white wine dishes.  There's nothing like crab cakes and bubbles!   Fruit or nut-based desserts often go best for a slightly sweeter bubbly.   People have asked, "What kind of wine should I serve with the salad course?"  I say either sparkling wine or just have water.

In the warmer months of the year when many turn to lighter and more refreshing wines like Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Noir a sparkling wine would definitely fit, also.  (Higher acid wines are often considered more refreshing and sparkling wines are definitely higher acid).

Maybe the issue is because it's different.  There's Brut and Extra Dry, there's a unique way to open the bottle, and aren't you supposed to have special glasses for drinking?   Well, the best way to start is:
1) Buy a non-vintage Brut that says "methode champenoise" on the label that sells for less than $25.
2) Just twist and pull the cork slowly (while not pointing the bottle at your eye)!
3) Drink out of any wine glass or even a Pilsner beer glass.
4) Try it with lighter foods especially anything a bit fatty, salty, or spicy.  You'll be surprised.

In California there are great deals in sparkling wine.  Yes, you can pay $75 and more if you look hard enough, but you can find very good ones for much less.   I would recommend staying away from the non-methode champenoise wines, those that are bulk-processed and usually cloyingly sweet.   Besides not being so great going down these are usually the wines people complain about when they say, "Champagne gives me a headache."

In the past few months I've found excellent sparkling wines for under $25 from Gloria Ferrer, Mumm Napa, and Roederer Estate. For a few more bucks Iron Horse, J, or Schramsberg.  I haven't had this one yet, but the '05 Domaine Carneros Brut has gotten a lot of buzz and is under $25.

End note:  I try to be proper and not call it Champagne if the sparkling wine is not from that area, but damnit, it just sounds right!  Maybe I should say to hell with the French and the wine snobs!