Dec. 27 2015 09:00 AM

Sparkling wines fit any occasion, and budget

While the impending New Year’s Eve holiday puts sparkling wines on shopping lists everywhere, for me they’re an anytime staple of my wine rack. Bubbly is palatable on its own, pairs well with a variety of foods (try it with potato chips) and makes you feel fancy. Plus there are many to choose from: Champagne (France), Cava (Spain), Prosecco (Italy) and many good ol’ domestics.

I recently went in search of some to celebrate with or pop open on a rainy day. I tried nearly 20 sparklers at two tastings— hard work, but I was up for it.

At Village Vino in Kensington I sampled many Blanc de Blancs—which translates to “white of whites.” Made entirely from Chardonnay grapes, these ranged in flavor with some presenting citrus and others featuring more yeasty qualities. But I was waiting to be struck by something—especially with price points mostly between $50 and $60. The one that did it was R.H. Coutier Grand Cru Brut—made from 70 percent Pinot Noir and 30 percent Chardonnay. It had an intense nose with fruit and floral elements. The flavors were mouth filling and rich despite the light dance of bubbles on the tongue. It was so tasty I bit the bullet on the $40 price.

Vom Fass in Hillcrest also had bubbles on its mind with a tasting that presented five very diverse wines. Two Champagnes by Henriot were particularly stunning. Its Brut Souverain— made mostly from Pinot Noir and Chardonnay with a touch of Pinot Meunier—was deliciously creamy with a faint honeysuckle note. Also in the lineup was Henriot’s Blancs de Blancs— decidedly different than what I expected with its concentrated nuttiness. Though I fell in love with these, my budget called me back to Sophora—a sparkling rosé from New Zealand. At about half Pinot Noir and half Chardonnay, this under-$20 wine presented a floral nose with a touch of strawberries and light berry flavors to match. And with its romantic pink color, I may save it for Valentine’s Day—if I can hold out that long.

Shopping for sparkling wine can be confusing. Attending tastings like these will help you learn what you like and allow you to ask questions of professionals. Just make sure you set a budget first.


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