This post comes to us courtesy of Maria Hunt, author and blogger at The Bubbly Girl.
When it comes to New Year’s Eve and entertaining friends, there’s no more festive way to get everyone in the party mood than by popping open a bottle of bubbly. Bubbles have a way of making everyone’s spirits rise and reminding them of good times. I like to call it liquid mood tonic; it’s nearly impossible to be in a bad mood while sipping sparkling wine.
Champagne is the classic choice; the French sparkling wine is singular in its cachet and historic appeal. But there’s a whole other world of delightful sparkling wines to explore. Along with offering a range of different flavors and styles, international bubbly often can be a more affordable choice if you’re entertaining a crowd.
Some of my favorite sparkling wines are the ones made right here in America. Made using the traditional champagne method, sparkling wines by Iron Horse, Domaine Chandon, Gruet and Schramsberg offer bright fresh flavors and toasty complexity bathed in fine bubbles.
Here’s the low-down on some of my favorite international sparkling wines for the holidays or any time you want to add some sparkle to your day.
Traditionally made from Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier grapes, Champagne is the most famous sparkling wine in the world. The thing that makes Champagne special is the way it gets its fizz. When you see the words “méthode champenoise” on the bottle, it means a combination of yeast, wine and sugar was bottled, starting a secondary fermentation that sent C02 gas into the wine. Among connoisseurs, some of the most popular champagnes are the ones from families who grow grapes and then use it to make their own boutique style champagne.
Down under in Australia, deep dark burgundy sparkling Shiraz has been enjoyed since the 1860s. Legend has it that a Frenchman from Champagne moved to Australia and started making méthode champenoise wines using the abundant local Shiraz grapes. Sparkling Shiraz offers deep flavors of berries, cassis and chocolate balanced by a spicy hint of white pepper. Pair it with roast turkey dinner like they do in Australia, heartier meats like lamb and pork or blue cheese.
Fresh flavors of green apple, green pear and citrus come in every glass of Prosecco, which is a very popular sparkling wine these days. The best Proseccos come from the Veneto, where they’re made from prosecco grapes. Its soft bubbles, lower acidity and fruitiness make Prosecco very easy to quaff. Prosecco is an ideal mixing wine for making fruity cocktails like the classic peach nectar Bellini or Mimosas.
Chances are, if you’ve had a “Champagne cocktail” at a brunch or swanky bar, you were probably drinking a Cava. With its bright fresh flavors and minerality, this Spanish sparkler is a great stand-in for more expensive Champagne. Cava is made the same way as Champagne but using three local grapes: Xarel-lo, Macabeo and Parellada. The name Cava literally means “cave” in Spanish, referring to the place where this wine is aged before being brought to market.
With its appealing aromas of peaches, apricots and flowers and delightful sweet-tart flavor, moscato is like drinking in a summer day. Crafted from moscato grapes, this fine, softly sparkling wine from Italy’s Piedmont region is very easy to love. Moscato is especially appealing for guests who aren’t big wine drinkers, but love to enjoy a glass of something bubbly around the holidays.
Stay tuned: in the next post, we’ll explore making some deliciously easy cocktails using sparkling wines and Champagne.
Photo credit: Brooke Lydecker.
About the author: Maria Hunt is the author of The Bubbly Bar: Champagne & Sparkling Wine Cocktails for Every Occasion (Clarkson Potter, 2009) and the hostess of The Bubbly Girl, a champagne and sparkling wine and cocktails entertaining site.