I hope everyone enjoyed our Prohibition Repeal Party on Saturday December 4th. We will be posting more on that later, when we can get the pictures uploaded, etc. But for now, on to the upcoming holiday which has become a big night in the cocktail business, and that is New Year’s Eve, of course. While some people prefer to stay in, cozying up with their loved ones and ordering take out, others prefer to gallivant around town and ring in the new year with complete strangers, and of course, their favorite glass of bubbly. This leads me to an interesting discussion on the different types of bubbly that are out there. While there are many different kinds of sparkling wine from every continent (including America), I would like to shine the spotlight on the 3 most prominent, in my own humble opinion, and in no particular order: Champagne, Cava, and Spumanti. Keep in mind that all sparklers have one thing in common – secondary fermentation. That is to say, they ferment again while stored in the bottle.

So where to begin? Well let’s start with the gran’ daddy of them all – Champagne. This has become one of those words that are used as a generalization for all sparkling wines for many people. When someone mentions bubbly – immediately Champagne springs to mind. And why shouldn’t it – it has been produced since the middle ages. However, it began its booming popularity in the more recent 17th and 18th centuries. For starters, Champagne, by definition, is a sparkling wine that MUST be grown in the Champagne region of France. This is actually in the northeast region of France, and more specifically, only about 100 miles from Paris. The location of this region invokes high altitude growing conditions for the grapes, producing high acidity, ideal for sparkling wines. Some of the most popular grapes grown in this region for use in Champagne are Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier. Au Revoir from France for now!

Next, we move a bit further West on the Iberian Peninsula, to our friends in Spain. Spain is more popularly known for their fantastic red and white wines that can be bought at great values, and of course, their Sherry. However, they are quietly becoming an excellent source of good sparkling wine. And with over 2.9 million acres planted, Spain is the most widely planted wine producing nation. Spaniards began producing the sparkling wine in the late 19th century and originally called Champagna – as it is made in the same tradition as its French cousin. The primary grapes used in Cava production today are Macabeo, Perellada, and Xarel-Lo. Most of the Cava production these days comes from the region of Catalonia in Spain. Interesting note: Cava actually comes from the Latin word ‘cava’ which means ‘cave’. This refers to the early uses of caves for the storage and aging of the Spanish sparkler. Cava has varying levels of dryness and can range from dry to semi-sweet. Either way, Cava makes for a much more economical substitution in cocktails then does Champagne, as it is currently much cheaper. So adios for now as we head East to the Mediterranean country of Italy.

The Italians produce their own kind of sparkling wine known as Spumanti. Some of the more popular kinds of Spumanti are Asti – from the Piedmont region, Lambrusco from the Emilia region, and Prosecco, which is on of the more common sparklers from Italy. While Asti tends to be on the sweeter side of sparkling wines, Prosecco can be dry. However, they do make some sweeter wines from Prosecco as well. Most common grapes used in the Italian countryside for this sparkling wine are Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Blanc.

Whichever your choice for the holiday season, keep in mind, each sparkling wine has its own unique characteristics. Here are a couple of my favorite recipes to use when making a sparkling cocktail…Cheers!

SPARKLING NO NAME

3/4 oz. St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur
1 bar spoon fresh lemon juice
Shake in cocktail shaker with ice
Pour in chilled champagne flute
Top with your choice of sparkling wine

KIR ROYALE
1 oz. Creme de Cassis Liqueur
1 bar spoon fresh lemon juice
Shake in cocktail shaker with ice
Pour into a chilled champagne flute
Top with Champagne

Comments

  1. Chris
    Thu 30th Dec 2010 at 5:12 pm

    Here is a pretty good link that discusses the various types of sparkling wines and is a good guide in navigating through all the nomenclature.

    http://www.snooth.com/articles/wine-varieties/how-to-read-a-sparkling-wine-label

    So, what will you be drinking this New Year’s Eve? I’d love to hear some of your suggestions!

    -Chris

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