For the past several years I have organized a holiday happy hour for friends and colleagues (especially ‘Grapenuts’ and the private dinner group www.off-the-grid.ws). The ‘Big Bubbly Blowout’ has been a favorite event of mine, but this year, my professional work would not allow me to spend the time required to create another fantastic holiday event, so I thought I would offer some sparkling wine recommendations for the Holiday Season.
Value: Villa Chiara Prosecco NV – Although I generally hold the opinion that most Prosecco is too sweet, too simple and simply flat flavor-wise, from time to time I find a Prosecco that beats the odds. In this case the Villa Chiara is a fine tasting (hint of sweetness, but only a hint) sparkler with a lively brightness that provides a lift lacking in most Proseccos. At $10 this prosecco is as easy on the wallet as it is on the palate! (PLCB code: 32955 was $19.99, now selling for $9.99)
Anna de Codorniu Brut NV – From the famous and storied Codorniu Cava house just outside of Barcelona Spain, unlike the less expensive Cava sparklers, Anna de Codorniu is produced in the traditional Champagne Method which is often thought to yield smaller bubbles and more nuanced flavors. In a further nod to Champagne traditions, Codorniu breaks with traditional Cava grapes (Parellada, Macabeo and Xarel lo) by including Chardonnay as 75% of blend. The result is a smooth and tasty sparkler, with delicate mousse countered by easy acidity that makes a fine pairing for appetizers and as a welcoming flute full of fun! (comes in a fancy zip up bottle-protecting cooler sleeve. PLCB code: 33033 was $15.00, now selling for $8.99)
Affordable Luxury: Gruet Sparklers – American bubbly from, of all places, New Mexico! But don’t let the winery location puzzle you – this sparkler is produced by a French-Champagne-making-family from Champagne! The Gruet family purchased land in New Mexico back in the early 1980s and several family members relocated from Champagne to New Mexico to watch over their vines and wine-making. Years later their efforts are rewarded by the well-regarded sparklers hitting our shelves. It is easy to find printed praise for these sparklers and I agree.
Gruet Brut NV (75% Chardonnay, 25% Pinot Noir) Delivers a blend of apple and citrus flavors balanced with an appealing creamy toastiness. (PLCB code: 29250 $16.99)
Gruet Brut Rose NV (100% Pinot Noir) Differing from its Chardonnay dominant sibling, this Pinot dominant sparkler presents red fruits and strawberry flavors complimented by a finish that carries through a crisp, rich creamy mousse. (PLCB code: 39937 $17.99)
Real Champagne Value: Le Mesnil Blanc De Blancs Grand Cru Champagne NV – Champagne is the top dog in the sparkling wine world. Generally, Champagne is also the most expensive of our sparkling wine choices. The expense may sometimes seem unwarranted, but just as often, Champagne’s magical finesse and complexity finds its way into a bottle. Tasting these bubblies often brings a satisfying sigh from the first toast. This “Le Mesnil” Champagne is produced by a co-op (hence the more affordable price) within the Grand Cru Mesnil appellation which is famous for Chardonnay based bubbly. At $33 this ‘bargain’ Blanc de Blancs (100% Chardonnay) Champagne is a great value when compared to other Grand Cru Champagnes and yet delivers the wonderfully delicate, finessed apple/chardonnay notes with finely integrated yeast, toast and mineral flavors. Find a special occasion, or simply declare one, and enjoy this sophisticated Champagne! (PLCB code: 39622 $32.99)
How to enjoy bubbly – Many people ask about the correct temperature to enjoy bubbly. The notion that a ‘correct’ temperature exists, is widely debated. For me, the answer is ‘ice cold’. I say this because in nearly every holiday celebration, if the bubbly hits the glass as cold as possible, the warming in the glass that takes place during the following minutes of celebratory conversation still leaves the sparkler at a tasty temperature. If bubbly is merely refrigerated, and gets into the glass above ice-cold, the warming will be too great and the flavors will be less crisp, and sometimes can turn ‘grapey’. My solution to this is to make an ice bath. I start by placing my bubbly (which can start at room temperature) into a bucket or similar vessel, and then I fill the remaining space with ice being sure to cover up the neck of the bottle. Finally I fill the bucket containing the bubbly and the ice with water, and then set a timer for 30-40 minutes. The result will be ice-cold sparkler that will remain cold longer in the glass and show all the wonderful crisp, taught flavors that compliment so many holiday party appetizers.
Need a gift idea for a wine-lover? A frequent wine tasting attendee and glass artist Jessica Rutherford creates hand-made-one-of-a-kind Wine Stoppers and Wine Charms – her limited addition cuff-links were provided to world-leaders at a recent G20 gathering, so you can imagine how much we like her wine-related gifts! Check out her page to find a gift for your favorite wine-enthusiast: https://www.facebook.com/JessicaRutherfordDesigns