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Nov 27th
Bubbly: It’s Not Just for Holidays Anymore PDF Print E-mail
Written by Bill Citara -- BT Contributor   
December 2013

Red, white, and you: Agreeable wine for $12 or less

IVino_1t’s not even New Year’s Eve, and already I’m making resolutions I won’t keep.

I’ve done this every year at this time, pretty much since the invention of dirt, or at least since I’ve been writing this column. We here at Vino do our annual Christmas and New Year’s bargain bubbly roundup, a day’s worth of shopping and a week’s worth of tasting, all to come up with a batch of affordable sparklers to gin up your holiday cheer.

Every year I’m struck with how many good-quality, modestly priced sparkling wines are on the market, especially if you move away from the familiar names on every grocery store shelf.

I’m also struck with what a terrific complement good bubbly is to food, whether a crisp, mineral-y French sparkler with pan-fried hogfish in a simple lemon, caper, and butter sauce, or a fruity, toasty Spanish cava with roast pork tricked out with romesco and a wedge of tortilla Española.

And I love pairing a lush brut rosé with something like chipotle-spiked shrimp tacos or a Cuban sandwich stuffed with leftover pork and homemade dill pickles. It’s a naughty pleasure thing, like wearing flips and shorts to the opera.

By the end of the week, I’ve made a firm resolution to buy bubbly and drink it with dinner throughout the year, not just during the holidays. And every year it gets away from me. Sigh….

But not this year. Or rather, next year. In 2014, I promise to put sparkling wine into my regular wine-buying rotation, to pour it with a variety of foods, and increase my quotient of naughty pleasures. I expect that will happen right after I exercise more, lose 20 pounds, stress out less, heal the sick, and raise the dead.

On the other hand, with a glass of the terrific Roger d’Anoia NV Brut in hand, I may actually keep that promise. It’s made by the giant Spanish sparkling wine producer Freixenet, and while I’m not a fan of the black bottle bubbly, the d’Anoia is the best sparkling wine under $25 I’ve tasted in years. It shows off surprising complexity in the nose, layers of earthy, yeasty, citrus aromas, all of which carry over to the palate, where it offers a creamy, mouth-filling texture and lingering lemon-lime finish. Pour this at any holiday party, and I’ll bet no one guesses it costs less than $10.

Another very good wine and excellent value is the Jaume Serra Cristalino NV Brut. It’s got lots of lively little bubbles and a nose that suggests bread and citrus and baked apple. In the mouth, it’s toasty and mineral-y, with a taut structure and crisp lemon-lime-grapefruit flavors that would make it a fine playmate with oysters, scallops, lobster, or any other rich seafood dish.

A wine that I’ve loved in the past didn’t quite live up to expectations this year. The Saint-Reine NV Brut gave up only the faintest aromas of citrus and green apples, and seemed more one-dimensional than I remember. It’s still a nice wine for $12, with hints of minerals and herbs beneath its delicate citrus and fruit, but it’s not the category-killer it once was.

More enjoyable and two dollars cheaper was the NV François Montaud Brut Rosé. It’s a very pretty pale rose color, with aromas of strawberries and raspberries complementing orange and lemon-lime. It’s got a sprightly berry-citrus flavor profile too, with notes of minerals and toast and a long, elegant finish.

A gregarious Italian bubbly to the more reserved French sparklers was the Cupcake NV Prosecco. Despite its silly name (and really, isn’t everyone sick to death of cupcakes already?), it’s a serious and well-made wine, with aromas of fresh-baked bread, citrus, and minerals, and flavors of sweet red apples and white peaches, with a hint of limestone on the back palate.

We did have to include at least one wine from California, and while I haven’t even thought of the wines of giant, Sonoma County-based Korbel for ages, I was pleasantly surprised by its NV Brut. It displays the bright, forward fruit you’d expect from a California sparkler, with subtle tones of spice, toast, and minerals, and a rather unexpected delicacy. It’s one more reason to finally keep my long-neglected resolution to buy and drink more sparkling wine.

Raising the dead, I guess, will just have to wait.

 

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