Champagne is the most famous of the sparkling wines, but it certainly isn’t the only quality offering available. With entertaining at the forefront, consider this your guide to the high-end, the quirky and how to serve it all.
Sparkling Wines Around the World
Regions cooled by latitude, altitude or breezes are ideal sources for sparkling wine. Look for “traditional method,” “méthode traditionelle” or “metodo classico” on the label, and seek out the following regions:
Trentodoc—elegant, vibrant sparkling wine made from Chardonnay and Pinot Nero—comes from Alpine heights, in Trentino, Italy.
Italian Franciacorta, made predominantly from Chardonnay and Pinot Nero (a few producers also use some Pinot Bianco), is usually richer, which allows many producers to use less dosage or skip it entirely.
Spanish Cava, traditionally made from Xarello, Parellada and Macabeo grapes, has a round fruitiness and signature salinity.
Californian fizz is often made with Chardonnay and/or Pinot Noir, with Pinot Meunier sometimes in the mix. It’s marked by Pacific freshness and grace.
German or Austrian sekt is made from a range of grapes. Try Riesling sekt for added aroma, or Zweigelt rosé for fruity flavors.
English fizz, which uses the classic French trio of grapes (Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier), is an up-and-comer that impresses with its cool briskness.
Back in France, non-Champagne sparklers fermented in bottle are known as crémant. Both Alsace and the Loire have lots to offer.
What Are Prestige Cuvées?
Prestige cuvées are top-of-the-range sparkling wines usually made from a special selection of vineyard parcels or reserve wines. Often produced in limited quantities, these stand above the nonvintage bottlings and alongside vintage releases. Sometimes, they’re vintage-dated or aged for an especially long time. Meant to represent the very best sparklers that a house can offer, they are ideal to mark a special occasion.
Bottles to Look For
Sparkling wines are best served at 46–50˚F. Ideally the bottle has had ample time to chill. Though a full day or night in the refrigerator is best to ensure the bottle will be very cold and still, the minimum chill time in the fridge is two hours. Bottles that are agitated before opening tend to foam, as do bottles not sufficiently chilled—a waste of delicious wine.
If you need to chill a bottle quickly, use an ice bucket filled with an equal mix of ice and water. Submerge the bottle so that only the neck sticks out. It will reach its ideal serving temperature in approximately 20–25 minutes.
Champagne in the Mix
Something about bubbles evokes Hollywood’s golden age. A number of screen goddesses loved coupes of refreshing, invigorating bubbles on and off screen: Anita Ekberg, Elizabeth Taylor, Audrey Hepburn, Greta Garbo, Bette Davis and, most of all, Marilyn Monroe. While a glass of fizz channels plenty of Old Hollywood glamour, Champagne cocktails increase the allure.
The Marilyn Monroe is made by combining 1 ounce apple brandy with a dash of grenadine in a coupe glass, then topping with 4 ounces Champagne. Garnish with cocktail cherries on a stick.
The Classic Champagne Cocktail is equally festive and easy to make. Drop 1 sugar cube into the bottom of a flute. Add a few drops of Angostura Bitters, followed by a splash of Cognac. Top with Champagne.