Yes, I loves me some champagne. Without a doubt. I love it for its elegance, its sophistication, and its yeasty deliciousness and I find it to be one of the ultimate food pairing wines.1 But I also sometimes find that I want a sparkler that showcases the fruit characteristics of the varietal and is just easy to drink. Or sometimes I just want to expand my horizons. Whether just hanging out enjoying a glass, pairing with snacks, or having a casual meal, these non-champagne sparklers will tickle your fancy. Join me for a sparkling wine journey around the world.
NV Mionetto Prosecco Superiore DOCG, Valdobbiadene, Italy ($17) 2
Known for offering a greater QPR than sparkling counterparts from other parts of the world, there is good reason that Prosecco is the fastest growing wine segment in the USA.3 Many are drawn to Prosecco over champagne because the wines offer more of the fruit flavors of the underlying varietal4 versus more of the leesy, autolytic5 characteristics of champagne. As a champagne lover, I’ll admit that I haven’t always loved Prosecco. That was, until I found the right one. Remember my most memorable wines from 2017 that included that DOCG Prosecco? While there are some fine DOC wines to be found, the highest quality wines come from the Conegliano-Valdobbiadene DOCG region. This refined Prosecco from Italy’s famed Valdobbiadene DOCG is an example of that superior quality. Hailing from Mionetto, one of the pioneers of Prosecco, the elegant bubbles draw you into a heady bouquet of floral aromas followed by juicy green apple and pear flavors with a long, elegant finish. As an Extra Dry wine6 this one has a touch of residual sugar that makes it so enjoyable as an aperitif in addition to other pairing partners such as cheese, seafood, and creamy risotto. While this one doesn’t come in splits, Mionetto’s entry level Brut and Rose sparkling wines do and are perfect as gifts on when one glass of bubbly will do.
NV Bodegas As Laxas Sensum, Rías Baixas, Spain ($20)
Yes, I have a flair for the dramatic, but this is one of those wines I’ve had recently with my friends from Snooth that I just can’t stop talking about. The Bodegas As Laxas Sensum is my 1st ever sparkling Albariño7 and what a great sipper it is. A relatively new phenomenon in the region, only a handful of producers make it. Rías Baixas is well known for the dry, high-acid, refreshing, fragrant wines made from Albariño and this one is an excellent example of what it can do as a sparkling wine. With easy-going light bubbles that dance on the tongue, this one pulls you in with crisp apples, apricot, tropical fruit, and a touch of cream and mineral. The wine has a richness which makes it smooth and easy to drink as an aperitif. But do yourself a favor and pair this with a savory puff pastry, campechana, fish tacos, Pad Thai, or just about anything else you can throw at it. I’m so excited to try more sparkling Albariño.
2014 Carter Estate Blanc de Blanc Sparkling Wine, South Coast, California ($40)
Who knew I could find sparkling wine in Temecula,8 let alone good sparkling wine? Now I know! Crafted of 100% Chardonnay by former Texan9 Jon McPherson (brother of Kim McPherson, owner/winemaker of McPherson Cellars), this Carter Estates bubbly is reminiscent of a fine Méthode Champenoise sparkler. After undergoing secondary fermentation, it was aged for an additional fifteen months on the lees. Showcasing a full, creamy texture and a fine mousse along with telling biscuity and toasty aromas, this was a joy to drink and made it quite easy to buy more for the cellar. Crisp apple, peach, and floral characteristics are carried along by bright acidity. And I have to say that their sparkling Rosé is a damn fine wine too!
2017 Villa Maria Bubbly Sauvignon Blanc, New Zealand ($15)
I first covered this one during a Snooth chat that featured the wines of Villa Maria. The OG of screw cap wines, Villa Maria bottles this one under screw cap. Definitely my first screw cap bubbly as well as my first Sauvignon Blanc bubbly. The #1 wine in New Zealand and one of the most admired brands in the world, Villa Maria is family owned and a leader in sustainability. The bubbly Sauv Blanc is a soft frizzante style which allows the fruit to really shine through. Fresh, crisp and bursting with citrus and peach. So easy on the palate. Fans of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc should add this to the repertoire.
2015 Weingut Juris Sekt Rosé Brut, Burgenland, Austria ($17)
Sekt is the sparkling wine of Austria as well as that of neighboring Germany.10 I’d had a few Sekt wines here and there over the years but only recently have they come into full focus for me. In fact, the quality of these wines was not very good for many years, but Austria has been leading the way in setting the quality standard in recent years.11 Made from St. Laurent (or Sankt Laurent), I picked up the Juris Sekt on a recent trip to Austria (stay tuned for a recap in the coming weeks!) and am such a fan. Sekt is made using the Tank Method (like Prosecco) where the second alcoholic fermentation takes place in a pressurized tank rather than in a bottle. This allows the wines to retain more of the primary fruit characteristics of the grapes. This one is full of wild berries and has a roundness in the mouth indicative of strawberries and cream. If you enjoy Prosecco but also enjoy champagne, give Sekt a whirl as it sort of straddles the two categories.
NV Griffin Dark Side Sparkling Wine, Plešivica, Croatia ($30)
Crafted of 100% Portugiser, this is a rich and full-bodied, dark red (almost black) sparkling wine. The winemaker refers to it as “black champagne” which is quite fitting given how dark it is. I’d had a few sparkling Shiraz wines back in the day – some of which I really enjoyed and some not so much – so I was still on the fence with the whole red sparkling wine thing. Well no longer. I’m thrilled that the folks at Topochines Vino12 have added this to their collection of wines they import. The beauty of this wine is that it provides not only the traditional acidity found in champagne but also the aroma and flavor characteristics of the underlying varietal. This balance is accomplished by using cryogenic maceration, which exposes the fruit base to extremely low temperatures to halt fermentation and allows absorption of color and retention of flavor. After the maceration, the first fermentation occurs outside of the bottle with the secondary fermentation occurring in the bottle like champagne. All of this results in a wine that showcases an enhanced fruit profile with ripe red berries and nuanced tannins. Delicious and cerebral. Now to discover more sparkling red wines.
The world of non-champagne sparkling wines is vast, but I’m certainly up to the challenge to try more.
- If you haven’t had a vintage champagne with a juicy steak, you need a do-over.
- Provided as a sample. All opinions are my own.
- Prosecco or Glera as its now known, is grown in northeastern Italy in the Veneto and Fruili-Venezia Giulia regions.
- We all love the fresh green apple, pear, and melon characteristics.
- Autolysis is the breakdown of dead yeast cells (called lees) where the wine ages over years on the lees creating a yeasty, bread-like note to the wine.
- Extra Dry is essentially the next level of sweetness over from a Brut with a touch more residual sugar.
- I mean I had no idea there was such a thing!
- Stay tuned for more details to come about my Temecula wine adventure.
- Is there really such a thing as a “former” Texan? Aren’t you in for life?
- Germany is the second largest producer of sparkling wine behind France.
- Most of the wines you find outside of Austria will conform Austria’s recently enacted quality pyramid.
- Check out a couple of the other wines I’ve purchased from the folks at Topochines here and here.