There is really no greater pleasure than opening a bottle of fine French Champagne. The 'ppffut' sound made from twisting out the cork. Watching the bubbles rise in the glass to form a perfect mousse. The only real problem, is the complaint I get from my wallet. Fortunately, there is good news for us cost conscious drinkers, we have an abundance of delicious sparkling wines made right here in the good old USA.
The sparkling wines I'm talking about are produced in California’s gorgeous climate. Makers in the region have been producing sparkling wine since way back in the 1880s and continue to dominate the American sparkling wine industry in terms of volume. It is estimated that California shipped a whopping 11 million cases of sparkling wine to US markets in 2016. Eleven million! That's a lot of delicious bubbles for us thirsty folks.
The truth is though, California is not the only name in the game. States like Washington, New York, and even New Mexico all produce some great quality sparkling wines that are readily available.
A few quick terms and traits you should know to help you make sense of sparkling wine varieties:
- Champagne is a place in France. Not all sparkling wine is Champagne. California producers established after 2006 cannot use Champagne on their labels.
- Prosecco is Italian
- Cava is Spanish
- Crémant is French sparkling wine not made in Champagne
- Brut means dry
- Extra Dry means not as dry as Brut (confusing, I know)
- Methode Champenoise/Methode Traditionelle means the wine had its second fermentation in the bottle (the process that makes the wine bubbly)
- Blanc de Blancs is a white sparkling wine made from only white grapes
- Blanc de Noirs is a white sparkling wine made from only red grapes
- Rosé is the pink one (not always sweet)
Ok, now for the good stuff..
Gruet Brut is a $17.99 sparkler from New Mexico made from 75 percent Chardonnay and 25 percent Pinot Noir. Green apple and citrus aromas leap from the glass, while crisp mineral acidy and bready yeast notes dance on the palate. Great as an aperitif or served with dinner. This is a cost-effective way to ensure a lovely evening will be had by all.
Treveri Blanc de Blancs $14.99 from Yakima Valley Washington State. This 100 percent Chardonnay is a light and fruity wine made for all occasions. Vibrant, acidity and zesty notes will spice up any afternoon. Treveri's wines have been served at both White House and State Department receptions. And if that doesn’t impress you, they are also poured by the James Beard Foundation in New York. Don't you just want to drink this now?
Mumm Napa Brut Prestige is $16.98 from Napa Valley California and shows red apple, stone fruits, and vanilla aromas. Made from 45 percent Chardonnay, 45 percent Pinot Noir and 10 percent Pinot Gris, this versatile and balanced wine is a true value from California. Pair with hors d'oeuvres, light seafood, and poultry. Now I am hungry and thirsty!
French Champagne is wonderful, but it is expensive. Luckily for our pocketbooks and our palates there are plenty of domestic sparkling wines to suit every occasion. USA! USA! USA!
*Prices mentioned may vary by location