Keep the bubbly flowing
New Year's Eve is well past us now. We've put away the noisemakers and the funny hats and settled into the routine of gray, chilly and blustery January, and we've pretty much gotten over carelessly writing "2010" on forms and checks.
But do we have to put away the sparkling wine?
Whether you fancy true Champagne, the pricey bubbly from the French Champagne region, or any of the other sparkling wines from around the world that offer a similar bubbly experience, there's no reason to reserve these fizzy pleasures for New Year's Eve and June weddings.
Sparkling wine, after all, differs from other wine only in that it's bubbly. For me at least, that's not a problem but an advantage.
Beyond the bubbles, sparklers work in just about any context in which wine is served. Bubbly goes well with food, it's fine for sipping as an aperitif or cocktail, and - although the opening process requires modest skill - it doesn't even need a corkscrew.
So why wait? Treat yourself to something sparkling tonight. The many affordable alternatives to Champagne range from Italian Prosecco or Franciacorta through Spanish Cava to the many fizzy wines from California or Australia or ... well, just about any region with the climate for grapevines produces a bubbly, such as the well-regarded Gruet sparkler from New Mexico.
I've been spending time recently with crémant, the sparkling wine made by producers in France outside Champagne. Under the law, they mustn't use the name "Champagne," but crémant is made from similar grapes by an identical process, making a delicious and more affordable alternative.
Pronounced "Creh-MAHN," with a French nasal N at the end, crémant looks just like Champagne, with its wire cage and cork that comes out with a pop. It's frothy and bubbly in the glass, a French-made sparkling wine that's prickly, crisp and dry.
Crémant is made in many French wine regions, which are usually tagged on to its name on the label: Crémant de Bourgogne from Burgundy, Crémant d'Alsace from Alsace, Crémant de la Loire from the Loire valley, and Crémant de Limoux from the hills of Southwestern France.
Here are two good crémants I've enjoyed this month - yes, after New Year's.
Today's Tasting Report
Bott-Geyl Crémant d'Alsace Brut Paul-Edouard ($18.99)
This is a clear, pale-gold sparkling wine with a distinct greenish hue. It froths up to a foamy mousse that drops back fast, leaving a prickly mouthfeel but no lasting bubbles. Lime and subtle flowers or fresh herbs make an elusive, appealing aroma; there's crisp citrus and a herbal not of thyme on the palate. Dry and quite acidic, it was a fine food wine.
FOOD MATCH: It was excellent with an omelet of free-range eggs filled with fresh cheddar on the first night; the leftovers were just as good with a sausage pizza another night.
Deligeroy Crémant de la Loire Brut ($14.99)
This wine is the color of straw with just a hint of brass. The wine foams up to fill the glass but falls back quickly, leaving only a few random bubbles. Its delicious scent of fresh apples adds a pleasant back note of rising bread dough. Carbonation evident on the palate with a creamy, prickly mouthfeel; crisp white fruit flavors are framed with snappy, food-friendly acidity.
FOOD MATCH: It made a fine match with a seafood pasta dish, linguine with white clam sauce.
FIND THIS WINE ONLINE:
Check Wine-Searcher.com for vendors and prices for Deligeroy Crémant de la Loire.
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