After January’s “Spark” Wine Blogging Wednesday #73 comes a “sparkling” wine prompt just in time for Valentine’s Day write-ups. Hosted by Wine Cast aka Tim Elliot, he instructs participants to “pick a sparkling wine from any appellation, made from any grape but make sure it sells for $25 or less a bottle (€20, £16). This should open up a lot of interesting selections, from Crémant de Bourgogne, to Cava, to California & New Mexico sparkling, sparkling Shiraz, to even well chosen grower Champagne. Just post your notes by February 15th and ping me @winecast on Twitter or email me with your link at winecast (at) gmail (dot) com.”
I’ll toast to that! But there is so much more to sparkling wine than a wedding toast or Valentine’s ritual. I’d love to see the day where sparkling wines are as common a beverage with a party as beer!
These days, you can find a wide range of prices for sparkling wines just about anywhere, but it does seem like there’s been an explosion of quality sparklers for under $25–especially if you shop the sales, you can find some super wonderful wines that fit into any budget.
This has been a great few months for me for discovering and tasting sparkling wines: I hosted Champagne Day event in October, attended a big sparkling wine tasting at the Cave in Ventura, then had a big birthday celebration in January with more bubbly! Some of the highlights were beyond the price point of this prompt, however, (Sigh…can you say Bollinger?) so I will save that conversation for another time, AND I want to focus not so much on sparklers to toast with or for special occasions but those to enjoy with a meal.
One of our favorite easy quick satisfying dinners is clams sauteed in white wine, butter, and garlic. We can get fresh clams easily from the Jolly Oyster’s stand at the Ventura State Beach–so we do! But there are a number of frozen clam dinners out there or you can buy tinned clams. These options don’t compare with the fresh one but are still yummy and delightfully simple. We usually serve them over pasta but rice is good too.
I’ve paired this meal with a number of different wines but for Wine Blogging Wednesday #74, I tried two sparkling pinot grigios, Barefoot Bubbly from California and Voga’s from Italy, both a typically light straw color. Two of my friends and I tasted them with me as we fixed dinner for our three families and then again during dinner. We used some of each of the wines in the clam sauce.
Barefoot Pinot Grigio Bubbly and clams. Barefoot Bubbly is easy to find for under $10 and comes in several different varietals. I think I’ve tasted all of them as samples and my favorite beyond a doubt is the pinot grigio. Off-dry, we thought it would be a fun summertime alternative beverage to beer at a picnic or barbeque and that it would work well as a mixer for one fo the various sparkling wine cocktails currently in vogue or maybe with some sherbet (lime?) for an adult style float. We found the bubbles a bit too bubbly, more like carbonation than the foam I like in a fine Champagne. We found rose in the nose, and some not quite yellow pear and mild citrus on the palate. The finish was quick and a bit bitter.
Voga Italia Pinot Grigio Extra Dry Sparkling Wine and clams:
The Voga Italia Pinot Grigio Extra Dry is more complex and richer than the Barefoot, and it will probably be twice the price as well and harder to find. It comes in an elegant, distinctive, and eye catching bottle. It’s very fresh and clean with bright pear and grapefruit and a grassy finish. While both wines played well with the clams, the Voga complimented the clams better, bringing more to the meal. This made me curious enough about the Voga brand that I’d like to try some of their other wines.
Blason du Bourgogne Brut Rose Cremant and turkey burgers:
On another night, friends came over for turkey burgers with blue cheese and arugala so I opened the Blason du Bourgogne Brut Rose Cremant de Bourgogne from France which I picked up at Trader Joe’s for around $12. I am sure this would be wonderfully amazing with ham and I’d certainly pick one of these up for Easter; it really worked well with the turkey burgers and was a fun pairing. It has a beautiful pink color, and nice and dry. Out of the four here, this one was definitely my favorite and I think it would pair well with a number of different foods from pork to chicken and from brunch to lunch to dinner. It has enough acid to work with various salads, too.
Napa Valley Trader Joe’s Grand Reserve Sparkling Wine Demi-Sec and lobster:
For a final dinner for this prompt, we grilled lobster tails to pair with the Napa Valley Trader Joe’s Grand Reserve Sparkling Wine Demi-Sec 2006. According to the guy at Trader Joe’s, this wine flies off the shelf and is similar in flavor profile to Moet & Chandon’s White Star or Chandon. When we tasted it, we thought it tastes like what we expect when we taste a sparkling wine, but to our palates, we were surprised by how sweet it seemed, a bit too sweet, actually. It was still good with the lobster! And I imagine it would be a crowd pleaser–a good quality sparkler that just about anyone would enjoy. We didn’t drink it all so I put a cap on it and I’m going to try it tonight with raw kumamato oysters.
As I’m already close to 1000 words here, I’d like to close with two other recommendations for two very memorable wines which I wish I could buy more of: 2005 Luxxe from Chateau Ste Michelle around $15 and Ayaya (Bollinger) which I found for $25. I really liked the minerally character in both of these which I had with oysters and clams. Finally, I can’t end this post with out a shout out to my typical go to sparkler, J, which I have brought on many a picnic.
Have fun discovering which sparklers you enjoy with which meals! And please share your discoveries and see what other bloggers wrote about for this month’s Wine Blogging Wednesday!