Sparkling wine is versatile, both in price and flavor, making it an ideal wine for many occasions By Tom Ward
Traditionally, sparkling wine is a staple for ringing in the New Year. And many fun-loving folks pop the cork to celebrate birthdays, anniversaries and other special occasions. Because the wine is so versatile and affordable, some celebrate days that end with the letter “y” with the bubbly. I probably fall somewhere in the middle of all that. If I am starting an evening, or outing, with someone who enjoys Champagne, Cava, Prosecco or other sparkling wines, what better way to start? There is something about the pop of the cork that shouts, “Let the fun begin.” If you want to really impress someone, you can saber a bottle. But be careful if you do.
I have some personal rules for Champagne and sparkling wine. First, always have a bottle chilled in your fridge. You never know when you’ll have something to celebrate. You may run into an old friend, celebrate a promotion, job offer or great day in the stock market. You might be sitting there enjoying a sunset with your significant other, and the mood hits to have some Champagne and take it to the next level. Inspiration is everywhere. There is a footnote to this rule: have a wine bar that has a good selection of sparkling wine as well.
Secondly, I keep different types of sparkling wine around for different purposes. Higher end Champagnes are reserved for the most special occasions, or when I am trying to impress a fellow wine lover. Champagnes can be costly, as their entry level retail price is still around $30 and up. I don’t typically keep a bottle of Armand de Brignac, the king of Champagnes, in the fridge. For an occasion that would call for a bottle like that, which sells for around $325, it’s usually for a big event, a wedding perhaps. As for everyday occasions, the more affordable choice, and at about half the cost of true Champagne, is a crémant.
Crémants are some of my favorite sparkling wines. They are made in the same way that Champagne is made, but from areas outside of Champagne. Most crémants come from Alsace, a region that was German, then French, then German, then French again. They grow many German varietals, as a result, with a French influence. Sparklings from Alsace are called Crémant d’Alsace.
Make no mistake though, the French love their bubbles, so every wine region makes a crémant. Burgundy, Limoux Loire, Bordeaux, Jura, Die, Savoie and the only areas outside of France that can legally call their sparkling crémants, Luxembourg, all produce exceptionally high quality-to-price ratio crémants.
It can sound confusing and overwhelming, and every region has its own style. They also use different grapes, as the French grow their grapes based off the terrior of the region. They don’t try to force a grape to grow where it doesn’t yield grapes that produce great wine. While Champagne uses the same three grapes (chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier), crémants have much more versatility and diversity in the grapes used. For instance, the only region that produces a crémant with sauvignon blanc as its base is Bordeaux.
This being said, explore! Wine is a journey and an adventure. It can take you to new places and help expand your palate. I encourage everyone to celebrate with crémants from every region. Some regions are going to be much more difficult to find, and to a self-professed wine geek like myself, that’s half of the fun. It almost becomes a scavenger hunt. Reading wine lists and saying to yourself, “A Crémant du Jura! I’ve never seen one in the states!” See which ones you like more than others. One thing is for certain, they are bubbly, and who doesn’t like bubbles. As a matter of fact, sparkling wine is probably the most food friendly wine there is: Great with seafood, sushi, and dishes with creamy sauce; rich foods, light foods and everything in between; clean food and those sinful fried foods.
This year when you go the Celebration of Bubbles event at the Seeing Red Wine Festival on Sunday, Nov. 11, don’t pass up the crémants. When you find one that makes you swoon, stop by 45 Central wine bar and order it anytime you want to start the night with a celebration, or just to treat yourself to a glass and some sushi. No need to travel any further than the heart of Seaside to enjoy these amazing sparkling wines.