D ecember is the biggest month of the year for sales of sparkling wines, so this week I am giving you my second list of great sparkling wines to drink at the holidays or all through the year.
There are so many great Champagnes and sparkling wines it is difficult to tell you about them all. From the least expensive Cavas to the premium-priced Champagnes, all of these should find a home at your table. Which ones you choose depend on the occasion and sometimes your bank balance.
We certainly can’t drink top-shelf Champagne every day, but on holidays and other special occasions, the great Champagnes are worth the splurge.
One of my favorite splurges is G.H. Mumm Grand Cordon ($39-41), one of the best selling Champagnes in the world. Though it is nearly two centuries old, Mumm never stops innovating. They produce the reliable wines everyone loves, but they are always trying something new.
Last year they released a bottle that’s designed so you can drink Champagne in space. The Grand Cordon has a new label; in fact it has no label. Mumm’s signature is a red diagonal sash but the new bottle laser cuts the red sash in a depression in the glass. An eagle and the Mumm name are printed in gold directly on the glass.
You might have seen Mumm bottles if you watch the Kentucky Derby. It is the preferred Champagne at the derby and at the Melbourne Cup, another famous horse race.
The sash on the Mumm label is patterned after the red sash of the Grand Cross, formerly called the Grand Ribbon (Grand cordon), the highest level of the French Legion of Honor, France’s highest civilian and military award.
You also can get a special package that includes a bottle of Champagne and two unique glasses designed by Mumm. Just released last month, the glass is called a cloupe, a hybrid between a flute and a coupe glass. Each glass has the red sash in a groove in the glass.
It can be used if you’re only drinking bubbles, or if you want a Champagne cocktail. I found the package online for about $65, and you should be seeing them in local stores soon. The set makes a great gift for a party host, or you might just want it for yourself.
I wasn’t sure I would like the cloupe because I have gotten used to drinking bubbly from flutes, but the glasses were great. They’re easy to hold, the bubbles still seem to last, and you can get a better whiff of the wine’s aroma.
The Grand Cordon itself is exceptional. The golden-colored wine is loaded with tiny bubbles that last a long time. I picked up aromas of ripe peach and pineapple, with hints of vanilla and yeast. The long finish delivers more fresh fruit flavors and caramel.
The blend is 55 percent pinot noir and 45 percent chardonnay.
There are many great Champagnes, but another one of my favorites is Moet & Chandon Imperial Brut ($49-51). This year the company is releasing a 150th anniversary limited edition bottle and gift box for about $40. The wine itself is excellent. It is a golden straw color with bright fruity aromas of apple and pear with peach and citrus flavors with a touch of yeast.
There is no bad place to drink sparkling wines, but one of my favorite places for bubbles is the beach. Any beach is perfect, but my favorite is Edisto Beach, S.C. I don’t think I have ever been to Edisto without drinking at least one bottle of sparkling wine. When we had the whole family there over Thanksgiving this year, we had the Mumm, as well as a bottle of pink Taittinger, a great Champagne.
I have touched on American sparklers before, so here are some great ones from other countries:
South Africa produces beautiful wines, and I recently discovered three sparklers that can compete with any in the world.
NV Graham Beck Brut ($16-18), South Africa. The celebratory wine was served at both Nelson Mandela’s inauguration and Barack Obama’s presidential win. Limey fresh fruit on the nose and a rich creamy complexity on the palate.
2016 Simonsig Kaapse Vonkel Brut Méthode Cap Classique ($24-26), South Africa. A fine expression of a Méthode Cap Classique, Simonsig’s Kaapse Vonkel was South Africa’s first traditional method sparkler, produced in 1971. An elegant light straw color with fresh primary notes of Granny Smith apple and white stone fruit, this 2016 vintage reflects its terroir with balancing crisp acidity and citrus aromas and flavors.
NV Boschendal Brut Rosé ($27-29), South Africa. This brut rosé is mostly pinot noir, with a touch of pinotage and chardonnay from the estate’s top vineyards. It displays notes of red berries and cherries, with complexity and depth from 12 months on the lees.
Crémant d’Alsace is another longtime favorite of mine going back to my first trip to Europe in 1984 when we could buy Cremant d’Alsace for less than a 12 pack of Coke. The wines are produced from some of the classic French varieties—pinot noir and chardonnay— though pinot blanc, pinot gris and riesling may also be blended for regional flair. All Crémant d’Alsace rosés are made from 100 percent pinot noir, showcasing an eye-catching pale salmon color.
I generally enjoy Alsace wines from northeast France because of their crisp mineral flavor, but the Crémant d’Alsace is the best. Here are three great ones, all under $25: Gustave Lorentz Crémant d’Alsace Brut NV, Lucien Albrecht Crémant d’Alsace Brut NV and Dopff & Irion Crémant d’Alsace Brut Rosé NV.
Spain offers delicious cavas at bargain prices. The Vilarnau Brut Reserva ($14-16) and Vilarnau Rosé Brut Reserva ($15-17) are delicious cavas made in the traditional méthode champenoise. And, adding a little nod to its Catalan roots, Vilarnau wraps the bottles to reflect the avant-garde imagery of Antoni Gaudí, with vibrant, colorful designs called trencadis, a kind of mosaic made from tiny fragments of broken ceramic tiles, roof tiles, or crockery.
The grapes for the brut reserve are 50 percent macabeo, 35 percent parellada and 15 percent xarel lo. Each base wine is made separately. After the wines are blended the second fermentation takes place in the bottle. The result is a fruity wine, with complex flavors of apples, mangos, citrus with herbal hints.
The rosé is made from 85 percent garnacha and 15 percent pinot noir grapes. It is pale pink with intense aromas and a smooth, creamy palate. There is a hint of sweetness.
Whichever sparklers you choose I hope you will raise a toast to peace and harmony in the new year. Prosit!
(Below are photos from our Thanksgiving family trip to Edisto Beach, which was filled with delicious sparkling wine.)
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If you have questions about wine you can email Dennis Sodomka at email@example.com