Sparkling wine recommendations for the holidays.
By Louis Marmon
Gazette Newspapers December 21, 2005
Nothing says holidays like the pop of a cork and a tall glass of sparkling wine. Festive, fun and a bit extravagant, Champagne and other sparkling wines are a wonderful way to celebrate the joys of the season with family and friends. A vast amount of ‘‘bubbly” is sold is during the weeks leading up to the New Year and discounts abound as retailers compete for a share of this increased demand. The many varieties of available styles and prices make it easy to find one to fit your budget and holiday menu.
The traditional method of production (methode champenoise) creates the characteristic bubbles by a second fermentation within the bottles. The bottled are then slowly turned, or ‘‘riddled,” to force the dead yeasts into the neck. This labor-intensive process is one of the explanations for the high cost of premium Champagne. With the less expensive ‘‘Charmant” process, the second fermentation occurs in tanks and lower quality sparklers are made by pumping carbon dioxide directly into the wine.
While true Champagne is made only in one area of France, high-quality sparkling wines are produced in other parts of the world including California, Spain, Italy and even within different regions in France. Most are ‘‘brut” with no appreciable sweetness, but they also can be made (in terms of increasing sweetness) as ‘‘extra-dry”, ‘‘dry” (or ‘‘sec”), ‘‘demi-sec” (an excellent dessert wine) and the sweetest, ‘‘doux.” A ‘‘Blanc de Blanc” is made entirely from chardonnay grapes while a ‘‘Blanc de Noirs” is produced from pinot noir and pinot meunier. Sparking wine labeled as ‘‘Rose” is created by allowing the wine to sit on pinot noir skins to impart color, or by adding a small amount of pinot noir to the blend.
Vintage wines are produced entirely from grapes harvested the year printed on the label while the less-expensive non-vintage offerings (NV) are blends of multiple years. Here are some NV recommendations for this year’s celebrations:
Gosset Brut Grande Reserve NV ($60): Established in 1584, Champagne Gosset, produces more than 80,000 cases a year, including this very aromatic sparkler with berry and biscuit flavors and an elegant finish. They also make the very good Gosset Grand Rose NV ($49), with toasty citrus notes and a floral finish.
Mumm Cordon Rouge Brut NV ($43): Adorned with a bold red stripe on the label, this is a well-balanced, creamy textured wine with floral and citrus notes.
Perrier-Jouet Grand Brut NV ($49): Very dry, with lemon and toast flavors and a nice crisp finish.
Soutiran Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru Brut NV ($50): Nutty aromas, with creamy honey and bread notes and a touch of nuts on the finish.
Heidsieck Monopole Blue Top Brut NV ($22): A great value for ‘‘real” Champagne, it has toasty honey and hazelnut flavors with a bright finish.
Louis de Sacy Brut NV ($38): Apple and honey aromas with bread dough and slight mineral notes and a touch of honey on the finish.
Charles Heidsieck Brut Reserve NV ($40): Biscuit, hazelnut and coffee flavors, with great balance and a beautiful finish.
Domaine Carneros Rose Brut NV ($34): A California producer owned by the Taittinger Champagne house. Smooth, creamy texture that has a rose scent, with cherry, citrus and floral flavors.
Freixenet Extra Dry Cordon Negro NV ($10): An excellent value, with spice and citrus flavors. Spain’s Freixenet also makes Freixenet Brut Cava Carta Nevada NV ($10) that has almond and peach notes.
Codorniu Cava Brut NV ($9): Also from Spain, with balanced toasty honey and apricot flavors and a nice finish.