Updated: Dec 14, 2021
What makes a sparkling wine: regions and grapes
We do not need a special occasion to enjoy a glass of bubbly. The great thing about the sparkling wines that we enjoy is that there are numerous varieties, and they complement pretty much everything we love to eat. Recently, friends invited us to participate in a pre-holiday virtual tasting of California sparkling wines that rekindled our affinity for bubbles that began in earnest while living in Barcelona in the late 1980s.
Cava from Catalunya
The sparkling wine from the Catalunya region of Spain (where Barcelona is located) is called Cava and is typically a blend of Macabeo, Parellada and Xarel.lo grapes produced in the traditional “Méthode Champenoise”. While we love Champagne, Cava is more accessible from a price perspective and often smoother and creamier on the palate. Some of our favorite labels are Raventos, Raimat, Codorniu, Segura Viudas and Juvé y Camps.
Prosecco from Italy
We also like to mix the bubbles with other ingredients for a refreshing sparkling cocktail. For this we usually depend on an effervescent Italian Prosecco, which is produced from the Glera grape variety. Prosecco is not produced in the same way as Cava or Champagne, which both undergo a second fermentation in the bottle (the “Méthode Champenoise”). With Prosecco, the second fermentation is undertaken in a large tank, and tends to produce a more floral and/or fruit flavor, as well as generally bigger bubbles.
Our recent Thanksgiving dinner featured a Virginia sparkling wine, Thibaut-Janisson, which has become one of our favorites. Virginia is making some very interesting sparkling wines and some of our other favorites come from Barboursville, Early Mountain Vineyards and Michael Shaps.
California sparkling is not Champagne
The producers in California are working hard to compete with the traditional method production of Champagne, using the same Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier grapes that characterize the French wines. The Chandon wines we recently tasted represent various blends of the three at different price points. The premium offering comprised Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from the recently released 2011 vintage.
Our inventory for the holidays represents a variety of the sparkling wines that we love.
Happy New Year!