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In This Issue

 Serious pink bubbly
If you suspect that pink sparkling wines are too frivolous, or too down-market, I have a few words for you.
 Like it, or your money back! The California Wine Club
What makes The California Wine Club special? The answer is quite simple: Hand-selected wines from California's best mom & pop wineries.
 Col di Luna NV Rosé di Valmonte ($15)
A real attitude-shifter for anyone who thinks of pink bubbly as beneath a "connoisseur's" notice.
 This week on
We answered wine questions on last week's Internet Radio TalkShoe; Saturday, we'll take on "terroir." In our WineLovers Forum, we're comparing notes on packing wine when you travel by air, and our weekly CompuServe forum poll asks whether you consider red wine a seasonal drink.
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This article was published in The 30 Second Wine Advisor on Monday, Sep. 24, 2007 and can be found at

Serious pink bubbly

Mention "pink champagne," with the C-word in lowercase, of course, and chances are you'll summon up an image that's anything but serious. A drunken playboy of the 1920s, maybe, sipping just-off-the-boat fizz from a starlet's high-heeled slipper. Or maybe just an unpalatably sticky-sweet something in a cheap bottle with a plastic cork.

If you suspect that pink sparkling wines are too frivolous, or too down-market, I have just two words for you: "Pol Roger." Or maybe five words, if you want to be finicky: "Pol Roger Brut Rosé Champagne."

No tipple of tipsy old-time lounge lizards this, nor of street winos either: Pol Roger is one of the best big-league Champagne producers. Its vintage rosé Champagne, which gets its pink color and its rich yet subtle, full-bodied flavor from 100 percent Pinot Noir grapes, is one of my favorite wines of any color, sparkling or still.

Alas, we won't be tasting pink Pol Roger today. I love the stuff, but its price tag - typically $80 to $100 at U.S. retailers - puts it far above everyday drinking range. For New Year's, maybe, but not for the first week of autumn.

But here's another word that will provide an excellent pink-bubbly experience if not such an ethereal one: Raboso. Found in the Veneto region of Northeastern Italy but not widely known, Raboso doesn't have many fanciers as a still red table wine, thanks to its screeching high acidity and perceived lack of balance.

It turns up in the region's modest, quenching sparkling wines, though; and if the presence of red Raboso bars the use of the familiar name Prosecco on the label, that doesn't seem to matter much. Today's featured wine, from the portfolio of importer John Given (featured most recently in the Sept. 14, 2007 Wine Advisor)

Labeled "Col di Luna" ("Hill of the Moon"), it's bottled by Bellenda, the first-rate Prosecco producer that Given represents in the U.S., and blends 85 percent Raboso with Pinot Nero (Pinot Noir). The wine's creamy carbonation and perhaps a homeopathic touch of fresh-fruit sweetness seem to tame the acidity of the Raboso, and the Pinot Noir contributes significantly to its subtle earthiness. It's an exceptional sparkler as an aperitif or at the table, and its quality makes it a significant value at its mid-teens price point. You'll find my tasting report below.

Col di Luna

Col di Luna NV Rosé di Valmonte ($15)

Pretty pink color with an attractive salmon hue; pours up with a white froth that settles back to a lasting bubble stream. Fresh, delicate berry scent adds a distant, elusive fresh-herb note. On the palate it's crisp and dry, good creamy texture on the palate, fresh red berries and an attractive, subtle earthy character. An exceptional sparkling wine, and a real attitude-shifter for anyone who thinks of pink bubbly as something too frivolous to deserve notice. U.S. importer: John Given Wines Co., Manhasset, N.Y. (Sept. 22, 2007)

FOOD MATCH: This crisp, delicate sparkler would fare very well with a broad range of dishes across the "white-meat" spectrum from richer seafood and fish dishes to veal, pork or poultry. It was very good indeed with a braised turkey dish made after the fashion of a Northern Italian veal glassato, bite-size chunks of meat "glazed" with a long-simmered pan reduction, which I'll feature in a coming edition of The 30 Second Wine Advisor FoodLetter.

VALUE: Pink, white or any other color, a sparkling wine of this quality is a splendid bargain in the middle teens.

WHEN TO DRINK: Made for immediate enjoyment, not for cellaring, but with its balance and character, there's no need to rush to drink it.

Here's a fact sheet on Col di Luna on the U.S. importer's Web page:

Given's wines are distributed in many states of the U.S., however, and his office will be happy to help you find local or Internet sources. Click "Contact Us" on the John Given Website,
or send E-mail to
Find online vendors and check prices for Bellenda sparkling wines on

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Here's a simply formatted copy of today's Wine Advisor, designed to be printed out for your scrapbook or file or downloaded to your PDA or other wireless device.

This week on

Our Internet radio "TalkShoe": Terroir: What is it?
This French wine word that means "earth" is hard to define, but there is no shortage of opinions about it. We'll be talking terroir in our next Internet Radio TalkShoe on Saturday, Sept. 29, at 1 p.m. US EDT (10 a.m. Pacific, 7 p.m. in Western Europe. Click for the details:
In last week's TalkShoe, we took on a variety of frequently asked questions about wine, including definitions of decanting and "bricking" and talk about growing grapes, tasting and enjoying wine. Play it back in streaming audio, and browse all our archived editions online:

WineLovers Discussion Group: Wine and airline security
With the ban on liquids and gels in the airline passenger cabin, it's not as easy to take wine when you travel. Are there security issues with checking wine bottles through? What's the risk of loss, theft or damage? Tell us your wine and air-travel stories in this conversation in our online WineLovers Discussion Group!

Netscape/Compuserve Community Poll: Is red wine seasonal?
You might not believe it from looking at the thermometer here, but autumn is here in the Northern Hemisphere (and spring in the Southern). If you've put away your robust red wines for the season, it's time to start thinking about pulling them back out. Or did you ever put them away? This week's poll invites you to tell us whether you consider red wine seasonal, keep drinking it year-round, or even if you don't drink much red wine at all. Click here to vote:

Last Week's Wine Advisor Index

The Wine Advisor's daily edition is usually distributed on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays (and, for those who subscribe, the FoodLetter on Thursdays). Here's the index to last week's columns:

 Tannic Tannat (Sept. 21, 2006)

 The other Verdicchio (Sept. 19, 2006)

 How old are old vines? (Sept. 17, 2006)

 Complete 30 Second Wine Advisor archive:

 Wine Advisor FoodLetter: Pizza Margherita (Sept. 20, 2006)

 Wine Advisor Foodletter archive: