It’s officially bubbly season.
You will begin to see advertisements from wineries around the world that, in a competitive market, are going to give you a good, subliminal reason why you should buy their wine. Some of these big companies — and, yes, anyone who has an advertising budget today is a big company — make great wines, but the amount of sparkling wine available today seems to have grown exponentially.
It has also become much more interesting. Instead of waxing and waning about the usual suspects — and I include Cava and Prosecco in this group — let’s take a trip to the land of the esoteric.
In Australia, dry, red sparkling wines have been relished for years. While Shiraz is the usual culprit, I’ve had sparkling cabernet sauvignon and chambourcin from Oz. North of our border, Inniskillin, in the Niagara Peninsula, makes a luscious sparkling riesling dessert wine. The Eastern Europeans with all their unprounceable grapes produce a range of sparkling wines that taste nothing like Champagne (some are very good).
All of this variety might be a bit overwhelming for some and, in this confusion, we often tend to go with what we already know. But no risk, no reward, so if you are looking for bubbles in the coming weeks, keep an open mind.
Here are three I have enjoyed immensely:
Avinyó Vi D’ Agulla, 2009 (Penedès, Spain): Avinyó makes superb Cava, but this stepsibling will might make you giddy. Unlike Cava, the secondary fermentation occurs in tank and is sold in a white-wine bottle. It is also entirely composed of Muscat à Petit Grains. Not meant to be age-worthy, this simple delight is refreshing and enjoyable with stone and citrus, and a long, tangy finish. Suggested retail: $14.99
Domaine Renardat-Fâche Red Vin du Bugey Cerdon, NV (Bugey, France): Cerdon du Bugey must be made from gamay or a blend of gamay and poulsard, red grapes. You can make white wine from red-skinned grapes, but Cerdon du Bugey is a red sparkling wine. It is also slightly sweet and can be consumed with savory dishes or dessert. Aromatic with a black-cherry almost kirsch-like aroma, spice and a hint of chocolate, this wine is, like Brian Wilson, strange and delicious. Suggested retail: $21.99
Champagne Moutard Cuvée 6 Cépages Millésime, 2004 (Champagne, France): If you were to ask wine aficionados to name the grapes permitted in Champagne, most would say chardonnay, pinot noir and maybe pinot meunier. Most of the time, this is correct, but three others — pinot blanc, arbane and petit meslier — are also grown and allowed in the AOC. I came across this superb bizarre creation several years ago in Spain and out of curiosity, plunked down a bunch of euros and bought a bottle. Delicate with zesty minerality, green apples, lemon and cream, my money was very well spent as the memory has lingered. Suggested retail: $69.99
Pamela S. Busch is the owner of Skrewcap.com, founder of CAV Wine Bar and a Bay Area wine consultant.