Whether or not you’re not celebrating Valentine’s Day, consider having a glass of bubbly to put some fizz in your life!
By: Isabelle Kellogg
Posted on: February 8, 2024
We’ve been tasting Champagnes, sparkling wines, and non-alcoholic wines these past few months to prepare this article and uncovered a couple of surprises in this wine category. But first, let’s review some basics about sparkling wine.
Champagne is the government designated wine region in France that regulates the growing practices, vine pruning, grape pressing methods, secondary fermentation in the bottle which produces the carbonation of the wine. Up to three grape varieties are allowed for the wine to be labeled Champagne and must be grown in this designated region: Pinot Meunier, Pinot Noir, or Chardonnay.
This bubbly white wine traces its origins back to a monk who was tinkering with wine by adding sugar and fermenting it in the early 1500s. Not until 1841 did someone figure out the “cage” for the cork to prevent it from popping out from the bottle. Never, never let the cork pop out of the bottle—that’s a sign of wine ignorance, according to wine professionals. Ease it out, once you’ve removed the cage, using a dish towel, and twisting the bottle slightly while holding on to the cork.
Champagne and sparkling wines have evolved to being less sweet than their predecessors and therefore suitable as an aperitif or served throughout a meal. Lanson, one of the oldest Champagne houses in France (1798) is one of my favorites because it’s such an elegant and well-balanced Champagne due to the precision dosage and prolonged aging in its cellars.
Another favorite of mine, Perrier-Jouet Grand Brut, dates back to 1846 when the house experimented with the dosage and created “brut” Champagne. Hints of brioche, vanilla make this Champagne a memorable wine to serve with dinner.
Taittinger, what can I say except I love it all the time. Tip: try their Domaine Carneros sparkling wine from California which is superb and half the price. But coming back, Taittinger uses grapes from 35 different vineyards which results in a Champagne that can accompany any kind of food, from cocktail snacks to lunch and dinner.
Billecart-Salmon’s Brut Rose is a delicious blend of Chardonnay, Meunier and Pinot Noir grapes. Besides it’s golden pink color, and red berries and citrus zest make this a great sipping Champagne.
From Burgundy comes Le Grand Courtage (“the great courtship”) founded by American Tawyna Falker who promises “joie de vivre” in every bottle of her Blanc de Blanc Brut and Brut Rose. Crisp, light and refreshing, these sparkling wines have a hint of fruit, are floral on the finish, and are great with any cuisine, cocktail or occasion.
And how about these game changers? Did you know that Tasmania produces a sparkling rose wine with hand harvested Pinot Noir grapes? Dry on the palate with aromas of strawberries, cream, rose petals make Jansz a perfect accompaniment to smoked salmon and caviar. Heath sparkling wine’s Adoration 2020 grown in Texas is a winner! A rose sparkling wine made with Pinot Noir grapes is also under 11% ABV (alcohol by volume) with a pale coral color and aromas of cranberry, cherry and rose petal. Deliciousness in a glass.
Would you believe that there’s a premium grade 0% alcohol sparkling brut from New Zealand? At a recent tasting with Giesen’s winemaker Duncan Shouler, I learned their alcohol-free wines are made like wines—no added sugars either—through fermentation before the alcohol is removed in a contraption with spinning cones. Their sparkling brut is also a great sparkling wine substitute when making “mocktails”.
And now for something totally different for any of you Mezcal lovers. At a premium Mezcal tasting hosted by Zomoz, I was served a Raj Mamba, created by sommelier Rajat Parr of the Clock Bar at the St. Francis Hotel. A Mezcal chaser with Champagne (not sparkling wine, but a premium Champagne), this unlikely combination works and is refreshing, with the Mezcal not obliterating the dry Champagne’s taste. After leaving the bar business, Rajat became a Pacific Coast winemaker.
Based on your budget, there is something on the shelf or online for you to enjoy on Valentine’s Day, or everyday!
In addition to a career in communications and marketing focused on the luxury lifestyle sector, including co-authoring and lecturing a case study on French heritage jeweler Mauboussin with Harvard Business School, Isabelle continues to share her experiences about fine art, wine, travel, jewelry and culture as a freelance writer for internationally based digital publications.