[From time to time, my dear friend Kristy sends us an entry for the happyrobot. She is one of our west coast robots and has been in the wine & spirits business for many years.]
What would a hot summer afternoon be without a splash of the sparkly? You got your champagne, your sparkling wine, your cava, your prosecco, your lambrusco and by all means don’t leave out a bath with Asti. There is even sparkling shiraz from the Aussies! Traditional method vs. other. Should it be so hard to figure out the perfect way to end a blissful day of summer? Don’t go still, just go sparkly.
First of all, you always drink it nice and cold. Bubbles help you feel refreshed, no matter what size the bead, how thick the mousse, or how large or small the sparkle. AND, with sparkly wines, you can match them up to almost any summer foods you can figure. Try them with shellfish, sushi, grilled summer squash and salmon, or some spicy Thai or Indian take out. How about pairing one up with a simple caprese salad - mozzarella, basil and tomatoes. Why not have some friends over to indulge in a nice triple cream brie or a divine Brillat Savarin with your favorite sparkly and conversation of the day.
Bubbly is first made by making a still white or red wine -- rose is the combination of the two -- then putting the wine through a second fermentation under pressure to make the bubbles. Traditional method is the top of the line anywhere it originates - the French started the whole thing- and at the low end, simple sparkling wine is made cheapest by adding carbonation like they do in a coke bottling plant. Some producers inexpensively, massively ferment the second batch in a sealed tank, then bottle it -- cuve close, charmat or tank method. Some folks step it up a notch and do the second fermentation in the bottle, but let it all go into a pressurized tank before bottling it from there. The real deal, traditional method, is when they ferment it for the second time in the bottle for a duration of time where it lives especially for you, resting and changing with all it’s flavors. Traditional method provokes much more romance, personal attention from start to finish, and, of course, higher cost. You get what you pay for.
Prosecco is from Italy and so is the Lambrusco and the Asti, but prosecco tends to be on the dry side with subtle baked apple flavors, while Asti - yes spumante - is delicately and delectably sweet enough to take the most hard edged under it’s spell. Lambrusco is a nice red sparkler with dry to slightly sweet flavors of ripe cherries and a subtle frothy bubble. Cava is made as a rule in Spain by the traditional method and undergoes a required 9 month secondary fermentation on it’s lees in the bottle. Sparkling wine that is not made in the traditional method, while it is not necessarily less extraordinary, is made in a more bulk process with less attention to detail. Of course, your traditional method champagnes from France are the epitome of greatness.
Chill it down and turn it up. Cheers!
Only a few of the many sparklers to seek out this summer are:
$59 Laurent Perrier Brut Rose -- full of fresh almost berry flavor, yet dry and nutty on the finish
$22 Roederer Estate Anderson Valley -- dry, but full of flavor and subtle fruit, a very nice sparkler by a famous French family, made in California.
$45 Roederer Estate Hermitage -- amazing structure, dry, succulent, baked pastry, and almonds in finish and well worth it
$9 Cristalino Cava Brut / Rose -- Snoop’s Cristal, a dry toasty Brut or slightly sweet Rose
$10 Freixnet Cava Cordon Negro Brut -- apples - fuji - with tart lime finish and nice bubbly mouthfeel
$17 Fontanafredda Asti -- very fine mousse, fresh honeysuckle, lusciously sweet and perky
$15 Francesco Bellei Lambrusco -- one of the top producers, traditional method, amazing