4 Bottles of Bubbly to Pop
Sparkling wine is not just for the holidays! To help us comb through the clutter, we tapped Kat Hawkins, Assistant General Manager & Beverage Director of Shaw’s Crab House – Chicago and one of Wine & Spirits Magazine’s Best New Sommeliers of 2019 to share her favorites. From value-driven options to a unique pick from Champagne, here are four bottles of bubbly perfect for any occasion.
Everyday sparkling: Cava
Recommendation: Mestres ‘1312’ Cava, Penedes, Spain, NV ~$19.99 retail
Cava is Spain’s contribution to the sparkling wine game and generally are very affordable options. Like French Champagne, it’s produced in the traditional method, which allows the bubbles to form during fermentation in the bottle in which you open and consume it from. This method is extremely important in quality sparkling wine production, as it produces the finest bubble for the best texture. Cava is primarily made from the native Spanish grapes of Xa-rello, Macabeo and Parellada.
Italy’s best-kept secret: Franciacorta
Recommendation: Barone Pizzini, ‘Animante’ Franciacorta, Lombardy, Italy, NV ~$36.99 retail
Franciacorta is another sparkling wine that makes a big impression without a hefty price tag. These wines have been made since the 16th century, but had been little-known until a resurgence in the 1950’s. Generally made from a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Nero, and Pinot Bianco, the wines are gently pressed and then fermented using the traditional method. They see extended aging, just as Champagne does in France, and this imparts depth and complexity that is a hallmark of quality sparkling wines. Bring Franciacorta to any gathering where you want to turn friends and family on to something new and delicious.
“Champagne” from England
Recommendation: This vintage selection from Chapel Down is a way to really show you’re “in the know.” Chapel Down “Three Graces”, Tenderten, England, 2011 ~$75.99 retail
When you think of the hills of Dover, you don’t generally think of sparkling wine; however; you should. The chalk hills in England are a continuation of the famed chalk hillside vineyards of Champagne in northern France. The English have done their homework, leaned into the similarities in soil and climate and are making extremely high-quality sparkling wines. These are rich yet focused, with Chardonnay as the base in the majority of the quality production. Legally, they can’t call it “Champagne,” but it is about as close as you are going to get outside of France.
Champagne, A Toast to the Classics
Recommendation: Charles Hiedsieck ‘Blanc de Blancs, Champagne, France, NV. ~$59.9 retail
Champagne is often a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Meunier grapes which can mean that there is a broad range of styles. However, when a wine is labeled ‘blanc de blancs’ it is made of entirely white wine grapes and will be 100% Chardonnay. Charles Hiedsieck was one of the first to produce a Champagne in this style and they are able to delivery the freshness and complexity that drives this style. Hiedsieck overdelivers for the price in its category time and time again and is sure to become a household favorite.
Recommendation: Champagne Collet, ‘Art Deco’ Brut, NV ~$39.99 retail
If a little more depth and texture is your style then the ‘Art Deco’ blend from Champagne Collet is a dynamite value. Finding true Champagne of this quality and provenance is generally unheard of with a $40 price tag. The dominant portion of the blend is made from the red grapes Pinot Noir and Meunier and shows a richness that compliments game, fish, meat, and celebrations.
Stellar Sparkler from South Africa
Recommendation: Graham Beck, Rose, Cap Classique, South Africa, NV ~18.99 retail
South African wine is on the rise, and rightfully so. With a commitment to quality and identity, the South Africans are finding their place on the global stage. Cap Classique is the term used to define traditional method sparkling wine from South Africa, so keep your eye out for that term in order to reap the benefits of price and quality. Made from Pinot Noir and Chardonnay Graham Beck’s Rose is the perfect way to toast with friends, or enjoy with your favorite meal.