I am always humbled by the generosity, camaraderie and great relationships that are seeded and continue to blossom in this wine world. This story is one that really stands out because it’s one of those “random acts of kindness.” In this case, there is nothing random about it; only that a group of people who didn’t know each other were brought together because of kindness and a shared loved of sparkling wine.
One of my resolutions a few years back was to focus more on sparkling wines. I was fairly educated in the regions, types of sparkling wines and the various processes as part of wine certification studies but desired to taste more of them to understand the soul in the glass. I made this comment among friends in one of my social channels to garner interest in joining this quest. That’s when it happened. Alva, a local Atlanta socialite, large-scale event-coordinator extraordinaire and fizz lover, offered to help find some bubbly that I just might enjoy. Wow!
And so she did. We had a tasting at the house and invited other friends for a wonderful evening of sparkling wine paired with different dishes. Although Alva doesn’t claim to be an expert, she certainly knows her champagne, investing her knowledge into co-founding an organization called The Independent Champagne and Sparkling Wine Invitational.
SPARKLING WINE VS. CHAMPAGNE
Before getting into the menu for the night, let’s address this question: What’s the difference anyway?
You may just think anything bubbly is champagne, but this just isn’t the case.
First and foremost, champagne comes from France. In fact, it is European law that to have the name “champagne” on a label a wine must be bottled within 100 miles of Champagne, France. Furthermore, the truly unique taste of the grapes in champagne are grown only in this region.
THE SPARKLING WINES
SPARKLING RED WINES
H. Billiot Fils Brut Grand Cru Rose’: We started off with this Rose’ paired with ribs from Pig ‘n Chick, a local BBQ shack. This is a champagne from the 5-ha Billiot estate in the Grand Cru village of Ambonnay that is planted mostly with Pinot Noir. We all agreed that pink bubbly (made mostly from Pinot Noir with a little skin contact to extract the pink hue) seems to pair perfectly with pork in most cases. The color was like salmon and the nose bright with aromas of “sweet” yeast and strawberries. Flavors of citrus and pineapple were dominant on the palate and had a great finish. This was our favorite of the night.
Renardat-Fache Bugey du Cerdon Sparkling Gamay: This sparkling wine was paired with Popeye’s spicy chicken. I know you just re-read that sentence. This wine came in at only 7.5 percent alcohol. Although there was a good bit of residual sugar, I never felt it too sweet. It was balanced by a good level of acid and even less so when tasted with a piece of spicy chicken. The sweet and spice really complemented each other. This wine had a darker pink hue and was full of strawberry jolly rancher aromas. The flavor burst in your mouth much like Freshen Up gum—remember those?
SPARKLING WHITE WINES
2000 Pierre Gimonnet & Fils Brut Premier Cru (Blanc de Blancs): This wine is made from 100 percent chardonnay and is a blend of fruit from blocks with different soils in the area that best represents the vintage. The wine was paired with fresh raw oysters, popcorn and cheese. We tried both Gruyere and Ermitage Brie cheese. The wine had a light golden color and a yeasty nose, yet less than what we experienced in the H. Billiot. It exhibited citrus flavors on the palate with a velvety, or creamy, texture in the mouth, which was accentuated when paired with the oysters. There is more to tasting wine than just aromas, taste and flavors—you must pay attention to the texture in your mouth as well.
2003 Kreglinger Brut: Lastly, Alva brought on a sparkling wine from Tasmania. Everyone thought it was amazing. Much different from the others, this sparking wine was more “classic.” There was more crispness, and freshness and included green apple and honey notes. The finish exposed more lemon and mineral for a long finish.
We all learned that day we didn’t have to wait for special occasions to enjoy sparkling wine, especially champagne.
CREATE YOUR OWN TASTING
Why wait for a reason to celebrate for that signature “pop” of champagne or sparkling wine bottle? Plan your own night of bubbly fun with your friends or family just because it’s fun!
Need help with where to start? Our friends at Wine Folly have put some great tips together to help find great sparkling wine.
On a budget? That’s OK! When you shop sparkling wines instead of champagne, you’ll find options in a wide variety of prices. This also helps to find a good mix of flavors and styles from across the globe.
Looking for the best of the best to try out? You can check out Town and Country’s list of 10 best sparkling wine brands.
Here’s to celebrating life more often!