ROMANCE IS IN THE AIR: SPARKLING WINE RECOMMENDATIONS

Romance is in the air. Champagne, chocolate and meal ideas for two are everywhere. Ahh love. It is a magical thing.

Now cue the stress of trying to plan a romantic evening.

Meal planning, wine shopping, and don’t forget the flowers there is a lot to think of! Hopefully you are not reading this the day of your special date, but if you are that’s okay too. I’ve got got you covered! I have put together three great sparkling wine recommendations, each with a profile so you sound like a wine connoisseur (oh la la) and food pairings for a romantic evening.

First up let’s talk wine.

Nothing says celebration like a glass of sparkling wine. But it is easy to get lost in the sea of sparking wines available. Prosecco, cava, champagne.. all sparkling wines and that is just a few of the many varieties out there on the shelves of your local wine shop. What to buy? What to buy?

There is always the default of picking a pretty label. Sort of joking, but it is always a method you can choose. However, if you’d like to make a more informed decision let’s first do a quick overview of Champagne verses Sparkling Wines.

The very basic of classification is that sparkling wine should only be called Champagne if it comes from the region of Champagne, France. but I still cringe when I think of pulled pork after eating the remains of a 2 kg pork shoulder.

Outside of the Champagne region all others produced are consider a sparkling wine. However, Champagne is also sparkling wine… wait did I confuse you again?

You may see some bottles of sparkling wine include the name ‘Champagne’ on their packaging. Generally this is a no-no but look carefully because it could be referencing that the wine is made in the traditional champagne method. And no I’m not going to completely bore you with the details of what that means.

Sparkling wines are now made all over the world – USA, Australia, Canada, Italy, Spain, regions in France outside of Champagne, and even Austria is producing some fantastic bubbles.

Top names (and their levels of dryness) you might see in your wine shops:

  • Cremant (dry, less bubbles compared to Champagne)- France, produced outside of Champagne
  • Cava (various levels) – Spain
  • Prosecco (dry/extra dry), Asti (sweeter), and Lambrusco (red sparkling) – Italy
  • Sekt (made in the Crement method) – Germany, Austria
  • US, Australia and South Africa producers generally use the term ‘sparkling wine’. These wines are also produced in varying levels of dryness.

Okay crash course over. There are lots of great resources on the web if you’d like some more details, but otherwise that should help you navigate the selves of a wine shop or menu at a restaurant easier.

I have picked three of my favorite sparkling wines to share with you, each at a different price point.  For each selection I have included a little history on the bottle, taste profile and a food pairing.

Enjoy!

FLOR NV PROSECCO ($)

If you are looking for a top value sparking wine, look no further. Flor is the house Prosecco served in Chef Mario Batali’s restaurants.  Batali partnered with Joe Bastianich (of Masterchef fame) and Lidia Bastianich to create this delicate and fruity Prosecco. Given these three are masters of Italian cuisine in America, it should be expected that when their palates got together to create a Prosecco to fill what they viewed as a gap in the market it would be nothing short of spectacular.

If their aim in creating this Prosecco was to transport you to a sidewalk cafe in Venice, then these three giants in the American-Italian food world were very successful.

This Prosecco is a great way to start the evening, very food friendly with enough acid to stand up to a cheesy first course.. Fondue anyone? Or it would be great to make sparkling wine cocktails

Eye: Fine bubbles and a creamy mousse, the color is similar to a light green tea.

Nose: Very fragrant with fresh citrus and peach notes.

Palate: It releases to fill the palate with a flavors of almonds and green apples.

Food Pairing: Serve with a cheese fondue or a fresh Winter tuna Nicoise salad.

CHAMPAGNE GREMILLET BRUT SELECTION NV ($$)

Champagne Gremillet is an independent family business from the Aube in the Champagne region, having 25 hectares of vines on steep, south-facing slopes in Balnot sur Laignes, near Troyes. After growing grapes for several generations, the family decided to begin producing their own Champagne. The first bottle was released in 1979, they now make a range of styles including the rounded Pinot Noir dominated Gremillet Brut Selection, the very popular Brut Rose and the very fine Cuvee des Dames, a Blanc de Blancs pure Chardonnay blend.

Champagne Gremillet Brut Seléction NV is my top pick for a mid-range Champagne and one of my personal favorite Champagne’s! Gremillet’s award winning standard cuvée is a blend of 70% Pinot Noir and 30% Chardonnay, and released after 24 months in bottle.

Eye: The prettiest of golden hues with lots of fine bubbles.

Nose: To my nose it is sheer happiness, a lovely marriage of floral and citrus notes.

Palate: Very well balanced level of acidity, you get the same citrus flavours that were on the nose but are balanced with rich biscuit flavours.

Food Pairing: Serve chilled with Buckwheat Blinis with Smoked Salmon and Dill Cream as light nibbles for a romantic evening or with a main course of Pan Seared Whitefish with Lemon Risotto

DOM PÉRIGNON BRUT CHAMPAGNE 2004 ($$$)

This is for life’s celebrations! And what could be more worthy of a celebration than the one you love and share your life with?? Dom Pérignon is the most famous Champagne in the world. Some things are a cliche for a reason, and Dom Pérignon is one of those things.

Dom Pérignon is named for the Benedictine monk fondly remembered in legend as the “Father of Champagne”. It is the premier cuvee for Moet & Chandon and was first released in 1937.  A rigorous selection process in both the vineyard and winery ensures that only the best grapes go into Dom Pérignon Champagne. Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are used in roughly equal proportions without one variety dominating the other. The 2004 vintage is 53% Pinot Nior and 47% Chardonnay.

Eye: Golden yellow with the finest bubbles if you blink you will miss them!

Nose: It is complex and deep, it reminds me of a hot buttery brioche bun from a French patisserie

Palate: Creamy and more full bodied than I imagined it would it. Fresh and bright citrus notes, with an underlining minerality.

Food Pairing:Serve with Pistachio-Crusted Scallops

If you would like a little easier pairing with any of these great bottles of bubbly, just pick up a bag of salt and vinegar chips. Yes salt and vinegar chips.  Sounds a little crazy but they go so well with sparkling wine. Especially when enjoyed with the one you love. Now put on a black and white movie and that’s my idea of perfection!

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