As we come to the end of 2012, it’s time to break out the bubbly! Daunted by the extensive selection in the wine department? Never fear! We’re here to help you find the perfect sparkling wine for your taste.
Isn’t it All Champagne?
Just as some wines and cheeses are only produced in a specific geographic area, only sparkling wine made in the Champagne region of France can be officially labeled "Champagne." Other European countries use other names for the sparkling wine they produce: Cava in Spain, Prosecco, Asti or Spumante in Italy and Sekt in Germany. Bubblies from California, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and the several wine-producing countries of South America are generally referred to as simply sparkling wine or sparklers.
Do I Have to Get the Expensive Stuff?
It’s true, champagne can be pricey. Some argue that it is worth spending the extra cash for “real” Champagne, while others prefer lower-priced alternatives. There’s not a right or wrong answer here –it comes down to a matter of personal choice. Whole Foods Market® wine department team members are happy to offer their recommendations to fit your preferred flavor profile and budget!
Why Does Sparkling Wine… Sparkle?
Unless it says otherwise on the bottle, all champagne and most domestic sparklers are composed of three grapes: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and the less often used varietal Pinot Meunier. The bubbles are created through a process called "secondary fermentation," which means they make regular wine first and then re-ferment it with yeast left in the bottle (which is filtered out later). This is why you'll often get a fresh-baked bread aroma from bubbly.
How Do I Choose?
Here are a few basic terms to help narrow your search to match your taste preferences.
Brut: The driest one, not to be confused with "Extra Dry," which, funnily enough, is not as dry as Brut. Brut is the most food-friendly of champagnes. The smoky, salty nature of caviar makes for a classic match. For everyday occasions, try potato latkes and sour cream or any number of salty delights.
Extra Dry: A touch of fruity sweetness but finishes on a dry note. These are quite versatile and can be served as an apertif or after dinner. They're more or less in the middle of the spectrum.
Sec: Next in line for dryness, but you don't see it very often.
Demi-sec: The most residual sugar of the bunch (outside of Doux, which is rare). This is the ultimate dessert wine and, perhaps, the most romantic of the bunch. Never sweet in a cloying way, these have a caramelized quality that is absolutely delicious. Avoid pairing these with fare that is sweeter than the wine, as the bubbly will come off harsh and dry. Fresh fruit works best.
Blanc de Blanc: This bubbly is made from 100% Chardonnay. The Chardonnay grape lends sparkling wine its toasty, nutty and rich quality.
Blanc de Noir: This bubbly is made from mostly Pinot Noir. The Pinot Noir grape gives it the refreshing, fruit driven, citrus quality.
We hope this basic primer to bubbly will help make your holiday season sparkle. We’re curious – what are you pairing with your favorite bubbly at your next holiday gathering?