Champagne and Other Sparkling Wines
Sparkling wine is among the most celebrated and the least understood types of wine. While in the United States the tendency is to call all sparkling wines “Champagne,” Champagne is only one of many forms that the elegant and delicious sparkling wines can take. A better understanding of these forms will help you select and enjoy the right sparkler for any occasion.
For this lesson we went all out. My sisters were visiting for the holidays and we decided to make our wine education group into a wine party and potluck dinner. Everyone from group signed up for a dish to bring. This is a great way to make a super fancy dinner into an affordable extravaganza.
Main meat dish: Duck l’Orange
Main vegan dish: Rice Stuffing
Side Dishes: Coconut mashed potatoes, fruit salad, marinated carrots, corn muffins, green salad, asparagus, gravy…can’t remember what else.
Dessert: Poached pears with pecan stuffing in some kind of yummy syrup.
We organized the get-together by watching our Everyday Guide to Wine lesson on sparkling wines first, then we tasted our wines while we ate dinner. One interesting tidbit we learned is that the longer Champagne ages, the smaller the bubbles get and the higher the quality. Wines for this lecture included: a nonvintage (NV) Champagne, a Cava, a Prosecco, a California sparkling wine, a Moscato d’Asti and a Brachetto.
We bought a Piper-Heidsieck (Champagne, France $48.00), a Freixnet Cava (Penedes, Spain $12.47), Mirabelle sparkling wine (Modesto, California $21.99), Carpene Malvolti Prosecco (Veneto, Italy $16.99), Gancia Moscato d’Asti (Asti, Italy $16.99) and a Cinzan Brachetto (Asti, Italy $17.79).
We started our tasting with the Piper-Heidsieck. The color was a a pale yellow-gold, it smelled light-bodied and a bit yeasty, it had tiny, tiny bubbles, seemed sweeter before having any food then seemed to cleanse the palette. The finish was crisp and clean, maybe a tiny bit tart.
Next up was the Cava. It was a light straw/pale green color, smelled lighter and a bit fruitier than the Piper H, was a bit more bubbly, had a pleasant taste with a tart finish which was less tart after eating something.
Third up was the California sparkler. It was very pale, smelled yeasty, and seemed quite drying.
The Prosecco was a pale straw gold and felt quite fizzy in the mouth.
Both Italian wines smelled of honey to me.The Moscato d’Asti was an interesting light orangy-gold color and the Brachetto was rose. They finished sweet and smooth.
Overall, the evening was top-notch fun, gourmet potluck, great people and sparkling drinks. Cheers!