If I could turn on my sink facet and have true Champagne flow from the pipes, I’d die a happy woman! I’d also charge people by the glass to drink from my miraculous fountain, but that’s beside the point. Though I am an equal opportunist when it comes to good wine, I think Champagne might be my favorite, and I’m hard pressed to think of an occasion when I might be inclined to turn down a glass or two (or three). True grower Champagne stands alone as the most luxurious of all bubbly, but there is also a whole world of bubbles available for the savvy drinker for a fraction of the cost.
While all Champagne is bubbly, not all bubbly is Champagne. What’s the difference between bubbly and Champagne, you ask? Well, grower Champagne is exclusively produced in the Champagne region of France. Primarily, three grapes are used in its [delicious] production: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier. Additionally, a secondary fermentation occurs inside the bottle, producing those illustrious bubbles. I am in the midst of a full-on love affair with Pierre Moncuit, Brut Blanc de Blancs Huges de Coulmet NV (Blanc de Blanc is a fancy way of saying that the Champagne is made entirely with Chardonnay grapes). This is a complex champagne, with multiple layers of seductiveness that unfurl like petals. The first sip is Gala apples and ripe, vibrant lemons. As it warms up, it transitions to a sort of savory honey, graham cracker feel, rounded out by lingering acidity and elegance. It retails for about $50.
Sparkling wine can basically be made anywhere wine is made. One example of a sparkling wine that is not from the Champagne region of France is Cava, usually produced in the Catalonia area of Spain, though it can be made in 6 different regions in Spain. Though Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are used in its production, Macabeo, Parellada, Xarel·lo and Subirat are also employed. It can run from super sweet to really dry. The Cava that I could drink all day lately is Mercat Brut Nature Cava. Straw yellow in the glass, with a zingy pear nose, this cava is bone dry but shows beautiful expressions of juicy apricot. A wonderfully electric acidity keeps it in balance. It retails for about $16.
You can’t mention Cava without giving a nod to its Italian cousin Prosecco, the main ingredient in a yummy Bellini. Prosecco is normally made from the Glera grape, in the hills of Conegliano and Valdobiaddene and is for the most part dry. Unlike Champagne, Prosecco is not meant to age and tastes best when consumed young and fresh. I am really loving the Sommariva Prosecco, which is pale yellow in color, and full of crisp apple, pear and lemon fruitiness. This Prosecco is classy enough to introduce to your folks, but racy enough to drink for breakfast. It retails for about $21.
As always, these selections are off the beaten path, small production wines.