Monday, December 31, 2007

Uncorked: It's not too late to buy your bubbly

If you have not acquired your bubbly for New Year’s Eve celebrating, it is not too late. Local wine outlets have an amazing array of the bubbly stuff in all price ranges.
Sparkling wine is made all over the world from about every grape imaginable. The epitome of bubbly is Champagne. True Champagne comes only from the clearly defined region in France also known as Champagne.
The thing setting Champagne apart other than its region of origin is the labor-intensive production methods used in making this sparkling wine. It is one of the world’s most complex wines and involves multiple steps in the production process.
Sparkling wines from other regions of the world are sometimes made using the same labor-intensive methods. These wines carry the phrase Méthode Champenoise meaning the wine was made using the same labor-intensive methods used in making champagne. Less expensive sparkling wines are generally less labor-intensive. Where Champagne always goes through a secondary fermentation in the individual bottle, less expensive sparkling wines go through their secondary fermentation in huge vats and the cheapest of the cheap go through no secondary fermentation at all but are made to sparkle by pumping carbon dioxide into industrial size vats containing still wine.
Sparkling wines run the entire gamut of pricing. You don’t have to opt for $3.00 Andre this year. There are great sparklers to be had without breaking the bank. Try these:
Champagne Drappier (drap-pee-yay) Rose Brut. $44 from The Wine Closet at Tyson Art and Frame in Golden Springs. A dry, brut, intensely fruit flavored pink Champagne from a small reliable French Champagne house. Great as an aperitif. Bold enough to hold up to an array of holiday foods especially ham.
Schramsberg Blanc de Blanc Brut Vintage 2004 Sparkling Wine. $35.25 at Tyson’s. Schramsberg is American’s equivalent to a French Champagne house. Schramsberg uses Méthode Champenoise in the production of their sparking wines.
A white wine from white grapes, blanc de blancs, this stunning wine has a yeasty nose with citrus characteristics on the palate and a vibrant finish. Dry and crisp.
Veuve du Vernay Brut NV (non vintage) sparkling wine from the Loire Valley in France. $10.75 from Tyson’s. A great value wine for weddings. Drinks and behaves like true Champagne. Dry with a slight sweetness. Great for making Champagne type cocktails.
Dom Pérignon 1999. $165 at the
Wine Cellar in the 300 block of Quintard Ave. Sealed in a presentation box, this wine is arguably the world’s most famous Champagne named for the monk who is erroneously credited with inventing Champagne.
A 1999 vintage. Vintages in Champagne are declared only when there is an outstanding harvest year otherwise wines are non-vintage and blends of several years. It should be tried at least once.
Brut Gruet Méthode Champenoise NV Sparkling Wine from New Mexico. $16.99 at the Wine Cellar. Made by the French family who in addition to owning Gruet in New Mexico also owns Gruet et Fils and Champagne Paul Laurent in France. This stunner should be a good conversation starter at any New Year’s Eve party.
Jacob’s Creek Chardonnay Pinot Noir Brut Cuvee from Australia. $9.99 at the Wine Cellar. This inexpensive blend of chardonnay and pinot noir goes through secondary fermentation in the bottle like true Champagne. Refreshing and pleasant.
Mumm Napa Blanc de Noirs. $21.89 at Midtown Chevron on 13th and Wilmer in Anniston. From French Champagne house Mumm’s Napa operation. A white wine from a dark red grape, pinot noir. This sparkling white wine exhibits red berry fruit aromas and has a smooth creamy finish.
Perrier Jouet Grand Brut. (pair-ree-yah zhoo-way). $37.79 at Midtown. True Champagne. Yeasty nose with crisp, clean fruit flavors on the palate.
Veuve Clicquot Brut. (vurv klee-koh). In the $53 range at both Midtown and the Wine Cellar. One of the most popular Champagnes in America. A traditional blend of chardonnay, pinot noir, and pinot meunier.
Moet &Chandon White Star. $40.99 at Greenbrier Winn Dixie. Excellent entry-level champagne from the house whose prestige cuvee is Dom Pérignon.
Champagne Pommery Brut Royal. $46.99 at Winn Dixie. A great mid priced Champagne from an old Champagne house known for light, elegant easily drinkable wines.

-- Pat Kettles