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Sparkle Your Holidays!

December 23, 2015 Leave a comment Go to comments

The holidays are still upon us, and nobody would argue that bubbles in your glass make you feel excited and festive, and that is exactly what we want for these special days.

Bubbles – let’s properly call them “sparkling wines”, so nobody would think that we are talking about condiments for your bath time – come today absolutely from everywhere. Forget the times when Champagne was one and only, and Cava and Prosecco were known only to a few professionals. Now literally each and every winery offers at least one sparkling wine, even if it is produced in a few hundred cases for the tasting room only.

Such an abundance is great for the oenophiles, as you always have something new to try. Today I want to bring to your attention few of the sparklers I tried recently, which would go great with whatever holiday festivities you are planning. As an extra bonus, these sparkling wines can also serve as a perfect illustration to diversity of places and production methods.

Sparkling wines

Let’s start from Champagne’s homeland, France – however, this wine is not produced using Méthode Champenoise. NV Coté Mas St. Hilaire Blanquette de Limoux Méthode Ancestrale (7.5% ABV, $15.99, 100% Mauzac) is produced using so called Méthode Ancestrale, which is very close to traditional method and most definitely precedes it. In case of Méthode Ancestrale, first fermentation is stopped before all sugar is converted into alcohol, and then secondary fermentation takes place in bottle with additional only of the yeast (no sugar is added). Unlike Champagne, Méthode Ancestrale sparkling wines undergo very short bottle ageing (3 month versus minimal 12 month and typical 2-3 years for Champagne). This Paul Mas’ sparkler had light golden color, showing yeast with touch of apple, good intensity, promise of a classic sparkling wine on the nose, and then touch of honey and honeysuckle, hint of ripe peach on the palate. As one would expect from only 7.5% ABV, it was quite sweet (similar to spatlese level of Riesling), but with the help of fine mousse, perceived very light and refreshing. I would serve it at the end of a good meal with a sharp cheese, they should go together very well. Drinkability: 7+

From south of France, it is short trip east to Italy, where outstanding sparkling wines are crafted in the northern region called Trento. Here the wines made using “metodo calsssico“, which an Italian name for Méthode Champenoise/Méthode Traditionelle. The requirements for metodo classico wines are even stricter than those for Champagne, with minimal bottle age starting from 15 month to the 10 years for the Riserva. And who can represent Trento DOC better than Ferrari – pioneer in both Chardonnay plantings and classic wine production in the region (Ferrari winery started in 1902). NV Ferrari Brut Metodo Classico Trentodoc (12.5% DOC, $25, 100% Chardonnay) had delicious nose of yeast and fresh apples, and clean acidity on the palate, with lemon and green apple. Classic, classic classic – clean, crisp and refreshing. Drinkability: 7+

Conversation about Sparkling wines would be incomplete without mentioning Cava – Spanish wine produced using classic Méthode Champenoise. Production of Cava is every bit as laborious as classic Champagne, with main differences been slightly shorter minimum bottle ageing requirements (9 month) and typical use of Spanish indigenous grape varietals. Anna Codorniu is one of the best representations of Cava and Spanish winemaking overall, producing wine since 1551 and pioneering Cava production in 1872. I wrote about NV Anna de Codorniu Brut Rosé Penedes DO (12% ABV, $14.99, 70% Pinot Noir, 30% Chardonnay) a few month ago – the wine is delicious, fresh, with fine mousse and pleasant body weight – it will complement any of your holiday festivities perfectly well. Drinkability: 8-

Now, I have two more interesting sparklers for you to consider, both coming from the USA. However, the place is rather unexpected – Finger Lakes region in New York. First one is made using the classic Méthode Champenoise2006 Glenora Brut Métode Champenoise Sparkling Wine Finger Lakes (12% ABV, $29.99, 52% Chardonnay, 48% Pinot Noir). Wine had light yellow color, fizz of light intensity. Classic nose – yeast, fresh bread, overall delicate. On the palate, it showed Granny Smith apples, touch of lemon, good acidity, fresh, clean. Overall, it was a good rendition of classic sparkling wine, however, to be consumed in one single day, as it lost all fizz by the second day. I can’t help to mention that at $29.99, QPR is not great. Drinkability: 7+.

To round off, while our last wine is also produced in Finger lakes, it is made using one more significant sparkling wine production technique – Transfer method, where after second fermentation in the bottle (6 month minimum), the wine is transferred to the pressurized tank, thus greatly reducing cost and labor which go into production of Méthode Champenoise wines. Italian Prosecco is made in somewhat similar way (sans the second fermentation in the bottle), and this Finger Lakes wine was modeled exactly after the Prosecco. 2013 Damiani Bollicini Bottle Fermented Sparkling Wine Finger Lakes (12.4% ABV, $15.99, 47% Cayuga, 35% Chardonnay + Pinot Noir, 16% Chardonnay, 2% Pinot Meunier) had straw pale color, touch of tropical fruit on the nose, complemented by a hint of gunflint. Nice creaminess on the palate, delicate fizz, clean, refreshing, crisp. Excellent overall, pleasure to drink, and would complements lots of different foods. Drinkability: 7+

That’s all I have for you for today. I wish you sparkling holidays, whatever bubbles tickle your fancy. Cheers!

  1. December 24, 2015 at 7:40 am

  2. December 24, 2015 at 8:18 am

    Champagne, sparkling wine is always on hand in my house and is what I serve every holiday. Great recommendations, I have never seen a pink bottle before but have heard of this particular wine. Happy Holidays Anatoli to you and your family!!

    • talkavino
      December 24, 2015 at 12:25 pm

      You should look for Anna Codorniu Rose, it is an excellent sparkler. Happy Holidays Suzanne!

      • December 24, 2015 at 12:30 pm

        I found it once on a online wine store but it was sold out. Will look for it. You too Anatoli a very happy Holiday!

  3. December 24, 2015 at 11:45 am

    Hi Anatoli, interesting post as always. The method you describe as transfer method is actually the Charmat-Martinotti method. For the transfer method, the 2nd fermentation does take place in individual bottles, which are then emptied into a tank. (I have to say it makes little sense to me, but apparently it is cheaper than methode traditionelle/champenoise). As you can tell, I’m studying for my sommelier exam 😉

    • talkavino
      December 24, 2015 at 12:21 pm

      Thank you, Stefan, you are right – and I fixed the post. I’m still under impression that they use some other combination of methods in production of this wine, but label says “bottle fermented”, which implies 6 month in the bottle for the second fermentation. I guess Transfer method is cheaper, but still leads to the finer bubbles, so I would assume this is the rationale behind it. Glad to see someone is actually reading my posts! 🙂 Happy Holidays!

  1. April 4, 2016 at 5:23 pm

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