Riedel "O" glasses
Bubbly, not Champagne
A grasshopper walked into a bar, and the bartender said, "Hey, we've got a drink named after you."
The grasshopper looked bewildered. "You've got a drink named Wilbur?"
Okay, pardon the vaudeville routine, but it's by way of making a point: If someone borrowed your name and used it to make money on a commercial product without seeking your permission or offering you a cut, you probably wouldn't like it very much. Which pretty much explains why the French producers of Champagne get all up in arms when wine makers in the rest of the world slap "Champagne" labels on their bubbly.
By tradition and, in much of the world, by law, the word "Champagne" is strictly reserved for the sparkling wines produced in the Champagne region of France.
For three-quarters of a century, though, thanks to a quirk of timing and history, producers in the United States weren't bound by this law.
Champagne's naming rights, you see, were written into international law during the 1920s. The U.S. during those days toiled under the yoke of the not so Noble Experiment called Prohibition, and the production and sale of alcoholic beverages was forbidden. With no legal market in alcohol, the U.S. didn't participate in the treaty.
After Repeal, major U.S. wine makers lobbied Congress to keep hands off so they could legally continue to use the name on domestic sparkling wine.
Only in the past few years has the U.S. finally joined the international agreement, so the C-word will eventually disappear from new lines of bubbly. But older labels remain "grandfathered," so familiar labels like Gallo's André and Brown-Forman's Korbel will continue to bear "Champagne" on the label for the foreseeable future.
Most other countries long since gave up the fight and use alternative terms such as "Sekt" in Germany, "Cava" in Spain, "Spumante" in Italy and just-plain "sparkling wine" in English-speaking nations.
Today's fizzy treat, Il Follo NV Cuvée Rosé Brut, is a pink sparkling wine made by a company in the Prosecco region of Northeastern Italy. It's not labeled Prosecco, though, but simply describes its nature: Vino Spumante Rosato, or "Wine Sparkling Rosé."
We're talking about sparkling wines other than Champagne in this month's Wine Focus in our WineLovers Discussion Group.
Join us as our friendly international crowd of wine lovers pop the cork on a worldwide variety of sparkling wines. To tell us about your choice, click to the forum topic "September Wine Focus: Bubblies, not Champagne."
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Today's Tasting Report
Il Follo NV Cuvée Rosé Brut ($16.99)
Clear pale pink, a light, pretty color, with a white mousse that foams up high but falls back fast. Subtle but attractive red fruit aroma, a hint of wild cherry. Fizzy mouthfeel introduces dry, tart red fruit, subtle cherries and a touch of citrus in a long finish. Interesting wine, very definitely not Champagne, but well put together and good with food. U.S. importer: Vanguard Wines LLC, Columbus, Ohio. (Sept. 9, 2011)
FOOD MATCH: I love to pair Prosecco and other modest bubblies with spicy ethnic fare. It was fine with Indian saag paneer with lime pepper tempeh strips substituted for the usual yogurt cheese.
VALUE: You can buy Prosecco, Cava and like wines for less, but in fairness, the quality of this Brut Rosé can justify its mid-teens price.
WHEN TO DRINK: Modest bubbly is generally best enjoyed fresh. A good rule of thumb: Buy it to take home and drink for dinner, or in any case, use it up within a few months to a year after purchase.
FIND THIS WINE ONLINE:
Wine-Searcher.com finds only a few sources in Europe for Il Follo Cuvée Rosé Brut, but it's certainly distributed in the U.S. If you can't find it in local shops, try contacting the importer, Vanguard Wines, for information about retail distributors.
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