New Year's Eve Sparkling Bargains

So the New Year is just around the corner and you still haven't gotten around to picking that special beverage for your midnight toast.  Not a problem!  There are many very good, affordable choices out there to be had and sure not to disappoint.  Now you can always drop the plastic and pick up a bottle of Champagne, most of which cost over $30 per bottle.  But there's so many bottles of sparkling wine to grab that taste great and cost around $20 or less.  Let's get down to some of these choices:

There is always value to be found in Italy and for this occasion, grab the Prosecco.  It's a light, fresh sparkling wine made from a grape with the same name.  It typically has fairly intense primary flavors like pear, peach and apple.  I recommend Mionetto ($9.99) or Bisol ($12.99).

Cava has been a hot item, made in Spain from typically three different local varietals: Macabeo, Xarel-lo and Parellada.  It's made in the traditional method, where fermentation takes place in bottle, giving it extra complexity as the wine ages on the lees.  My favorite producer is Gran Sarao ($8.99) as they add a touch of Chardonnay to the blend giving it more body.

Next stop we have Methode Cap Classique, or sparkling wines from South Africa fermented in the bottle.  Many of these are made with Sauvignon Blanc or Chenin Blanc, but Chardonnay and Pinot Noir use is growing.  Go for the Graham Beck Brut ($14.99), a blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir with nice weight and lemon custard pie flavor.

In central Europe, the Germans and Austrians also are involved in excellent sparkling wine production, known as sekt.  The Germans normally (90%) use imported juice to make their sparkling wines, while the Austrians use local varietals and the traditional method to make theirs.  I'm a big fan of Szigeti Austrian sparkling Gruner Veltliner ($18.99) for it's clean apple flavor and light pepper spice.

We are, of course, no slouches to making sparkling wines in the United States.  California has great producers like Domaine Chandon, Iron Horse, Schramsberg and Domaine CarnerosSoter and Argyle are some of the best from Oregon, while Domaine Ste. Michelle holds the reigns in Washington state.  Chandon's Riche ($14.99), Schramsberg Mirabelle ($21.99) and Ste. Michelle's Blanc de Blanc ($7.99) provide a good range of weight, fruit, and style at inexpensive pricing.  I also really like Gruet Rose ($13.99) from New Mexico, as it provides a sparkling wine with excellent red fruit taste.

Now before we bypass France altogether, it's important to remember that there are alot more sparkling wines than just those that come from the Champagne region, mostly known as Cremant.  Examples can be seen all over the country, but I highly recommend one from Alsace by Gustave Lorentz ($14.99) made mostly of Pinot Blanc.  It has excellent citrus and apple with bright floral aromatics.

Whatever you choose, I'm sure that you will enjoy your New Year.  But just remember: be responsible and ask the Windy City Wine Guy for any further recommendations you may need.

(image courtesy of flickr)

Sparkling Wine 101 Event

Spring is upon us, so no better time to have a Sparkling Wine 101 tasting and seminar from the Windy City Wine img_11051Guy.  The event took place at the Binny's South Loop Tasting Room.  It was an intimate setting with a gorgeous view of the Chicago skyline, including the Sear's Tower.  My guests were set to taste three sparkling wines paired with cheese, and a whole lot of info.

The tables were pre-set with three Riedel sparkling wine glasses and the pouring began.  The sparkling wines we were about to taste are simple and affordable examples geared to give occasional bubbly fun, without the need to splurge on a Champagne.  The three samples included:

  1. Mionetto "Il" Prosecco.  This is a great, every occasion, sparkling wine.  It is light and bubbly, with simple peach and pear flavor.  The perfect apéritif!

  2. Gran Sarao Brut Cava.  Cava is always made in the méthode champenoise, and this is a great value example.  Green apple and light, doughy flavor.

  3. Dm. Ste. Michelle Blanc de Blanc.  A Washington state sparkling Chardonnay produced in the traditional method.  Dry, tart, and rich, with pear, pineapple, and toasty coconut.

We also had three perfectly paired cheeses to go along with the wines:

  1. Brie le Chatelain.  This creamy, buttery, soft cow milk cheese from northeast France is delicious inside and out.  A perfect rich texture to accompany the crisp acidity of a sparkling wine.

  2. Mimolette.  This semi soft cow milk cheese from northwest France has a Parmesan-like sweetness and nuttiness.  Perfect with sparkline wines.

  3. Gorgonzola Dolce.  Dolce in Italian means sweet, but it also means young when referring to this cow milk blue cheese.  It hails from northwest Italy (Lombardia).  The creamy texture and mild, salty flavor make it ideal for sparkling wine.

The lecture ranged on subjects from differing sparkling wine viniculture methods to Dom Perignon and the history of Champagne.  There was a very informative Q&A segment, followed by a pour-off of the remaining wine.  A great time img_1101had by all!  I want to thank the Binny's staff, especially GM Juan Torres, and all the attendees.  Ciao!img_1095img_1099img_1103img_1092img_11041

Sparkling Wine Interview on Vintuba

162917592_10576d486a1I know the New Year festivities are over, but remember that bubbly is not just for celebration!  You can pop some open anytime, knowing that you'll have a refreshing beverage to enjoy alone, with a meal, or with company.  For a bit of extra sparkling wine knowledge, tune into Vintuba for another Podcast team-up interview with Chris O (Napa Wine Expert), Jon M (St. Louis Wine Novice/Comedian!), and the Windy City Wine Guy.