It’s hard to believe that another year is already coming to a close – and what a year it’s been. An enduring ritual is to think back on the past year while also looking forward to the next one. This requires a bottle of Champagne or sparkling wine and a toast to the known and the unknown. So let me share with you some new sparkling wines that can make your celebration that much sweeter, as well as a couple of ideas for Champagne cocktails that I’ve gleaned in my past year of travels.
The first new bubbly I want to present is from Lombardy, Italy and is made by our favorite sparkling sweet wine producer, Giorgi, who makes our perennially popular sweet sparkling red, Costarosa. This year we brought in their Fusion, a more classically crafted Champagne-like sparkling wine, in a gorgeously familiar golden package. Made from 85% Pinot Nero (Pinot Noir) and 15% Chardonnay, this Italian sparkler is made in the classic method, Methode Champenoise, with bubbles created in each bottle, not in a large tank. Though Brut, this wine has a softness on the palate and a surprising element of juicy fruit as well as wheatberry with hints of apricot, vanilla and sage on the nose yet still maintains a crisp and refreshing finish. And to get Champagne-like quality and packaging for under $20 is an absolute steal.
It was while visiting Giorgi in October that I was introduced to their version of a spritz, the “Cru Zen,” and as you might imagine we had many versions of the spritz on that visit. At Giorgi, they add fresh ginger to their sparkling dry Rosé, but my take would be to use the Fusion, add some slices of fresh, peeled ginger and a splash of pomegranate juice to get the lightly pink color as well as a little tart sweetness to play off the potent ginger spice. For reference, a classic Northeastern Italian spritz is three parts Prosecco (or Giorgi Fusion), two parts Aperol and one part soda, poured over ice in a large wine glass and topped with a slice of orange (though in Venice they tend to use a couple of olives instead of the orange). Try either version and you will be pleasantly surprised.
My next new sparkling wine brings the sweet back in a very French way, the new Demi-Sec from Veuve Ambal, makers of excellent Crémant de Bourgogne, with all the flavors of classic Champagne but at about half the price since they are sourced from Burgundy rather than Champagne. We’ve had great success with their Brut versions, so we were excited to bring in their sweeter fare, and at $15 per bottle, it’s a bubbly for the masses. Not as sweet as Moscato, but sweet doesn’t always have to be THAT sweet. This sparkling wine has the elegance of its Champagne cousins, with hints of pear blossom and jasmine on the nose and a lightly sweet palate with just a touch of minerality to let you know it’s a French sparkler. This is a true crowd pleaser and is a bubbly everyone can share!
My last “new” sparkling wine is one we’ve carried before and have just brought back at an even better price, Treveri Blanc de Blancs from Washington State. Jürgen Grieb is the winemaker and he just focuses on sparkling wine and that passion shines through. Made from 100% Chardonnay this bubbly has that crisp acidity with citrus tones and a mineral sustain to give it depth and complexity. There is a hint of classic Champagne yeast, since it is also made Methode Champenoise, but it has a ripe fruit, New World polish to make it accessible to anyone. At only $15 per bottle and with a 91 score from Wine Spectator, this one is a no-brainer and proof that you can great quality for your New Year’s celebration at a very reasonable price.
As far as another Champagne cocktail that is holiday-themed, there are plenty of Poinsettia-like cocktails with cranberry juice and sparkling wine, often with a splash of orange liqueur like Cointreau or even citrus-flavored vodka. One that reminded me of the “Cru Zen” above was three parts sparkling wine, one part ginger beer and one part raspberry liqueur with fresh raspberries to garnish. You get the picture. There are lots of fun holiday-themed drinks that we can make with sparkling wine and I’ve just given you three new bubblies with which to experiment. I hope your New Year’s celebration is one with plenty of popping corks and lots of fizz to herald in the New Year! Cheers!
Daniel Eddy, Wine& Spirits Sales Manager
Follow me on Twitter @ABCWineDanE