Let the festivities begin!
The Thanksgiving holiday starts off weeks of merriment punctuated by twinkling lights, sparkly dresses, epic feasts and large amounts of presents, culminating in a raucous celebration to welcome the New Year.
Sparkling wine is the unofficial beverage of this season, and why not? The bubbles perfectly capture the season’s joy and merriment.
But don’t just take my word for it. According to the Wine Institute, 40% of the sparkling wine shipments made during 2014 will be sold between October and December.
Though Champagne is an excellent, if automatic, go-to for many people, a recent tasting I attended demonstrated that some incredibly exciting and vibrant sparkling wines are made outside of that famous French region.
Following is a roundup of the best bubblies from around the world as well as a few from Champagne – because what would a story on sparkling wine be without acknowledging the original sparkler?
In addition, look for profiles of two particularly terrific producers. Please note that all prices are estimated retail.
Aldo Rainoldi Brut Rose NV: This bubbly is crafted from nebbiolo, and it’s easy to taste the grape’s signature mushroom and earth flavors in this delicate wine. Though smooth on the palate, this is best paired with food. From Italy’s Valtellina region. $31
Aphros Sparkling Loureiro Reserve 2009: Another delight. Crafted from the loureiro grape in Portugal, this wine felt warm and embracing. It smelled like a combination of just-from-the-dryer sheets and soft wool, and is very delicate on the palate. $22.50
Bodegas Naveral Cava Brut Nature 2012: This wine was mouth-wateringly delicious with lots of floral notes. It had a slightly juicy feel, perhaps thanks to the chardonnay that’s added to the traditional cava blend. From Spain. $16
Bortolotti Lagrein Rosato Sparkling NV: Love this wine! From the Veneto in Italy, it is incredibly smooth to drink with lots of dark berry flavor and a seductive smoky note. $20
Brundlmayer Rose Brut NV: This Austrian wine is a blend of pinot noir, St. Laurent and zweigelt grapes. It is the loveliest shade of light pink and is incredibly smooth on the palate. Imagine liquid cashmere… $23.50
Covides Cava Brut “Casteller” NV: This Spanish wine is perfect for your everyday bubbly needs! A classic cava blend of parellada, macabeo and xarel-lo, it shows crisp floral notes. $14
Domaine de l’Enchantoir Vin Mousseux Rouge “L’Amarante” NV: This bubbly is all cabernet franc, from an estate founded in 2009 in France’s Loire Valley. It has a nice mix of spice, red fruit and smoky notes. My notes say simply, “Mmmmmmm.” $19.50
Fiorini Lambrusco Grasparossa “Becco Rosso” 2013: With its beautiful color (see photo), enticing flavors and incredible price, this is a crazy delicious wine that leaves you wanting more! From Emilia-Romagna in Italy. $15
Ronco Calino Franciacorta Brut Saten NV: Franciacorta is Italy’s answer to blanc de blancs, bubbly created from white grapes. This wine is creamy and delicious with subtle notes of pencil shavings. $30
Schloss Gobelsburg Reserve Brut NV: Another Austrian wine, this one produced in the methode Champenoise, with the secondary fermentation taking place in the bottle. It blends gruner veltliner with riesling and pinot noir to produce an elegant wine with precise flavors. Delicious! $37.50
Spanish Wine Estate: Raventos i Blanc
This estate was founded in 1497 – yep, just five years after Columbus “sailed the ocean blue.” It’s been in the same family for all that time and they have long strived to up the ante when it comes to their wines.
For starters, it was Josep Raventos Fatjo who created the first Spanish sparkling wine (from native grapes parellada, xarel-lo and macabeo) in 1872. And in 1984, Josep-Maria Raventos built the current winery with a focus on quality and small production to differentiate the estate from the large co-ops in the region.
And in 2012, the family left the Cava appellation, creating their own more strictly defined, geographically specific designation, Conca del Riu Anoia.
So needless to say, their wines have a lot to live up to. Here are several I tried that didn’t disappoint.
Conca del Riu Anoia Brut “de la Finca” 2010: This was the first cava produced by Raventos i Blanc. The wine is xarel-lo with macabeo, parellada, chardonnay and pinot noir playing supporting roles. It is made in the methode Champenoise style. This is a deliciously complex wine, yet not too demanding of the drinker. $32.50
Conca del Riu Anoia Brut “L’Hereu” 2012: A blend of macabeo (50%), xarel-lo (35%) and parellada (15%), this is a delightful bubbly! It comes across as bright and lively with copious floral notes. $21.50
Conca del Riu Anoia Brut “Maneul Raventos” 2007: The estate’s top wine is a blend of xarel-lo (80%) and parellada (20%) from the Clos del Serral vineyard. It is also made using methode Champenoise and was aged for five years before release. This is a beautiful cuvee, with rich earthy and yeasty flavors. $42
Penedes Blanc “Silencis” 2013: Crafted exclusively from the xarel-lo grape, this wine ferments in stainless steel for freshness and ages on its lees for extra creaminess. It is richly textured and very smooth to drink. $21
A. Margaine Traditionelle Demi-Sec Brut NV: Mostly chardonnay with a touch of pinot noir blended in, this wine is fairly weighty with layered flavors and rounded feel on the palate. Definitely a more serious bubbly! $53.50
Chartogne-Tailet Cuvee les Barres Extra Brut 2009: This is made with pinot meunier grapes from a single vineyard in Merfy. Some of the wine was fermented in stainless steel and the rest was done old school in concrete eggs. This wonderful bubbly is on the earthy-animal side. $69.50
Egly-Ouriet Champagne Blanc de Noirs “Les Crayeres” Vieilles Vignes NV: This wine is pinot noir from the 2007 and 2008 vintages. It is fresh and delicious for truly special occasions. $172
Marc Hebart Rose Brut NV: An equal blend of chardonnay (from the 2011 vintage) and pinot noir (from 2009), this wine is a seductive tease. On the fuller side, it is at its best when paired with food. $59.00
A Champagne Superstar: Pehu-Simonet
So it should come as no surprise that their vines are planted in several of Champagne’s Grand Cru vineyards, including the renowned Le Mesnil-sur-Oger. In addition, the wines are crafted to preserve the finesse and expression of the fruit.
This care shows in the bottle, and my favorites included:
Blanc de Blancs Brut NV: This wine is 100% chardonnay from the Le Mesnil-sur-Oger vineyard. It is a beautiful wine with a delicious combination of floral and bready flavors. Like eating brioche in a garden! $79
Blanc de Noirs Brut NV: All pinot noir from old vines, this wine spends time in oak barrels sourced from a top Burgundy producer, who uses them once before passing them on. The result is a smooth wine that is as light and fluffy as a cotton ball. (Really, that’s what my notes say!) $79
Millesime Extra Brut 2006: Another crazy delicious wine! I could not get enough of this one, either. It’s an equal blend of pinot noir and chardonnay, both from older vines. The wine is layered and creamy with a dry bite at the finish. A splurge, but worth it! $120.50
Rose NV: One-quarter chardonnay with the rest pinot noir, this wine is minerally and lean, yet doesn’t hold back on the palate. The flavors are quite mouth-filling and the wine is a delight to sip. $70.50