Sparkling wine has established itself as a drink that transcends celebratory toasts. As author Hester Browne quipped, “Always keep a bottle of champagne in the refrigerator for special occasions.” Sometimes the special occasion is that we have a bottle of Champagne in the fridge.
Indeed, this adage can be expanded to include all the exciting global options available today, from the tried and true to the emerging – which are to be savored, not saved. It helps that sommeliers tout the friendliness of sparkling wine with everything from fried chicken to foie gras. Today’s wine drinkers are also more willing to venture into different styles, regions and varieties.
Champagne wishes and Crémant dreams
Eternal and the ultimate benchmark for sparkling wine, Champagne continues to attract enthusiasts attracted by its heritage, its method of production, its quality and its prestige. But its popularity extends from non-vintage (and vintage) expressions of well-known houses to those that represent a broader share of the category.
“We’re taking a modern approach to Champagne with our menu in general, with more emphasis on grower Champagnes and terroir Champagnes,” explains Erin Dudley. She oversees the wine program for Josephinea new 285-seat French brasserie in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia, in her role as wine director for Neighborhood Restaurant Group.
At Joséphine, Dudley’s wine program focuses on French sparkling wines, particularly Champagne, with few well-known houses represented. It offers 10 sparkling wines by the glass, including four Champagnes, all available in 3 ounces. cut or a 5 oz. glass; prices range from $7 to $17 for the former and from $12 to $28 for the latter. Champagne options include Grand Cru Klepka Sausse “Pream’Bulle” ($16/$27), Champagne Rosé Louis Dumont ($15 for a 3-ounce glass; $25 for a 5-ounce glass), and Champagne Brut Charles Orban Carte Noire ($17/$28).
While Dudley strives to always offer a Blanc de Blancs, Blanc de Noirs Champagne, a classic blend and a Rosé Champagne by the glass, the list goes well beyond that. “We strive to offer a wide range of sparkling wine styles, from dry and mineral to round and fruity.”
She is particularly enthusiastic about crémants, traditional-method French sparkling wines produced in regions other than Champagne, particularly those made in the Jura region between Switzerland and Burgundy. “These wines, often made from Chardonnay and/or Pinot Noir in the subalpine region, are beautifully rounded and luscious for a fraction of the price of Champagne.”
One example is the Patrick Bottex “La Cueille” Bugey Cerdon Rosé, priced at $11 for 3 ounces. and $18 for 5 oz.
Joséphine’s other crémants include Salasar Carte Azur, Crémant de Limoux Brut ($7/$12) and Paul Buissé Crémant de Loire Rosé ($8/$14). Customers often take advantage of the 3 oz. pours out as an opportunity to create their own mini-Champagne tastings or other sparkling flights.
Historic New Orleans restaurant Commander’s Palace last August Launch of Commander’s Palace Cuvée Brut, a Crémant from Burgundy. Produced in partnership with Terres Secrètes and made from grapes from the Mâconnais region of Burgundy, the Pinot Noir-based sparkling wine is available for purchase online for $42. The private label sparkler is also available at the restaurant by the half glass ($7.50), by the glass ($15) and by the bottle ($68).
HAS Brush Creek Ranch, three all-inclusive properties in Wyoming’s North Platte River Valley with five dining concepts, Chastenay’s Victorine Crémant de Bourgogne is included for resort guests. Since it comes from a producer who focuses on sparkling, the wine is on par with expressions from neighboring Champagne, says wine director Sydney Werry. “The quality is incredible and I love that it’s a blend of the four legal grape varieties in Burgundy,” she explains. “Fresh and bright with notes of citrus zest, almond and a long finish, it is the perfect aperitif or as an accompaniment to a salad or fish dish. »
The resort, located on a 30,000-acre working cattle ranch, has the underground Brush Creek Winery, a 300-foot cellar holding 35,000 bottles. According to Werry, the depth and breadth of the list encourages increased enthusiasm among guests to venture into uncharted territory. This includes the sparkling wine category, whether it’s a bottle from a previously unavailable vintage or from an up-and-coming region.
Werry explored the “tasty and fresh” bubbles of Mexico’s Baja California region, where the warm Mediterranean climate is tempered by the Pacific and a series of microsites. Quality producers to look for in the area include Symmetria, Casa Vegil and Pouya.
“I think we are living in the golden age of sparkling wine and I hope we can continue to do so,” says Tucker Hurley, general manager of The French Wine Shop At New York. He believes that “winemakers who focus on sustainability and respect for the planet will ultimately prevail.”
To that end, the store began offering Telmont Champagne “Réserve de la Terre” (priced at $159), the first Champagne to receive organic AB (Agriculture Biologique) certification. The attention to detail extends to the packaging, made with recycled and biodegradable materials; ecological hemp rope replaces metal cages.
In a diverse market like New York, Hurley says it’s important to offer a wide selection of sparkling wines. “When you describe a “bru nature” or a “pét-nat,” it’s as if you’re introducing them to a new type of cuisine that they may have only heard about previously.
The French Wine Shop focuses exclusively on bottles from across France and will soon launch a monthly wine club. The diversity of tastes found in New York is also why the store offers classic champagne, including Canard Duchene Brut Rosé Champagne ($69), Billecart-Salmon Brut Rosé Champagne ($99), and Henriot Brut Souverain Champagne ($69). “For me, Henriot truly embodies the tradition and excellence of Champagne,” says Hurley. “They have been winemakers since 1808, and their blend of pinot noir and chardonnay is largely premier cru and grand cru wines – it’s very elegant.”
Champagne — and other traditional method sparkling wines — labeled “non-vintage” or “NV” are ready to drink with no additional maturation required. In fact, some producers advise against storing them for long periods of time, lest they lose their freshness and vibrancy.
But what happens if you don’t follow this rule? HAS Grill 23 & Bar, a 400-seat chophouse in Boston, beverage director and advanced sommelier Hugo Bensimon is on a quest for discovery by aging non-vintage styles for a few years. “We’ve aged some wines that are ‘staple bottlings’ from producers, some of which aren’t that expensive, and we’ve seen them completely change direction,” he admits. “You can turn a $30 bottle into something incredible, with just a little patience.”
Grill 23 & Bar offers more than 200 sparkling wines priced from $44 to $9,000 a bottle, in every style and category, even sparkling Riesling from Germany that dates back to 1984. “I’m encouraged by the number of people drinking champagne today compared to current times. years ago,” says Bensimon. “It seems that he has finally crossed the threshold of opening not only on special occasions.” Among its three sparklers by the glass, two are Champagne: the Champagne Brut Vilmart & Cie “Grand Cellier” ($43) and the Champagne J. Lassalle “Prférence” Premier Cru Brut ($28). The other option is the Zonin prosecco ($13).
Speaking of prosecco, whether in a Mimosa or as an aperitif, its popularity continues. But this Italian sparkling wine according to the Charmat method, from the Conegliano Valdobbiadene region in Veneto, is no longer always just an easy-drinking tumbler.
HAS Stirrups, the 150-seat restaurant at the 248-room Equestrian Hotel in Ocala, Fla., beverage director Roland Micu delights and surprises guests when he serves Giusti Asolo Prosecco Superiore DOCG Brut. Full-bodied and structured, it has vibrant acidity and more complexity than some of its Venetian cousins and commands excessive prices for $40 a bottle.
“Many proseccos lack the acidity to balance the sugar content, but Giusti is a prosecco for Champagne drinkers,” says Micu. A temperature-controlled primary fermentation results in a fresh, clean flavor, he says.
Stirrups offers 41 sparkling wines by the bottle priced from $40 to $4,200 (for a vintage magnum) and three by the glass: Col de Salici Prosecco ($11), Veuve Clicquot Champagne Brut ($35) and Placido Moscato d’ Asti ($9).
Panoramic wine bar, a 147-seat concept inside Philadelphia’s Penn’s View Hotel, offers more than 120 wines on tap and 30 tasting flights, including 11 sparkling wines. General manager and wine director William Eccleston says the 2020 Ruggeri Prosecco Rosé “Treviso” ($15 a glass, $75 a bottle) “takes prosecco to a new level with the added depth of flavor that pinot noir can add to any sparkling wine”.
Eccleston suggests other Italian sparklers at Panorama Wine Bar, including the Antica Fratta Brut Franciacorta NV ($22 a glass, $110 a bottle), Italy’s traditional answer to champagne. And it sells three different styles of Lambrusco, from dry to amabile (slightly sweet).
These include Lini 910 Lambrusco Bianco dell’Emilia ($16 a glass, $80 a bottle), Lini 910 Lambrusco Rosso dell’Emilia ($16 a glass, $80 a bottle) and Cantina Settecani Lambrusco Grasparossa di Castelvetro Amabile ($17 a glass, $85 a bottle). bottle.) “It highlights this traditional but often under-explored style of sparkling wine that pairs particularly well with tomato sauce and other Italian menu items,” says Eccleston.
He also likes brut nature styles and wines from emerging regions. “Portugal’s Sidónio de Sousa Brut Nature Branco Bairrada Método Clássico ($15 a glass, $75 a bottle) is a particularly head-turner as it’s my own recommendation for a high-value, polished, elegant and well-crafted sparkling wine in a region that has really improved the quality of their winemaking in recent years.
Kelly Magyarics, DipWSET, is a wine, spirits, travel and lifestyle writer in the Washington, DC area.