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Pop a Cork

Celebration season has officially begun, and what better way to say “Yay” than with a glass of something sparkling.

For centuries, French Champagne was the gold standard of celebratory pours, not to mention thoughtful fine dining pairings, and its status has not diminished. However, sparkling wines are produced in regions throughout the world, using a variety of different methods to impart those nose-tickling bubbles, and at a wide variety of price points. We asked four local experts for their recommendations.

Ivars Spons, Sovereignty Wines

“Schramsberg is always something from the States that I think is wonderful. For a brut rosé, I like their Mirabelle [approx. $31]. From France, Pierre Péters Cuvée de Réserve Blanc de Blancs [approx. $62]. And, of course, something that’s classic but always hard to find is the Brut Blanc de Blancs Le Mesnil [approx. $600]. That’s one of those rarities that will cost you, but it’s always lovely.”

Michaela Hightower,Wine Events by Michaela

One of my favorite sparkling wines to present is a Franciacorta from Italy. Most folks are familiar with Prosecco, which is also delightful, but I like presenting things that may be a little unexpected.

Franciacorta is a DOCG territory in the Lombardy region near the city of Brescia. The laws that govern the creation of this sparkling wine and the grapes selected are specific to this region. Permitted varieties are Chardonnay, Pinot Nero, and Pinot Bianco, and they use the traditional Champagne method for fermentation. For comparison’s sake, Prosecco is from the Glera grape and uses the Charmat-Martinotti fermentation method.  

While Prosecco and Champagne have been made for hundreds of years, Franciacorta has only been in existence since 1961. Generally, the grapes used aren’t as high in acid, and the taste profiles aren’t as minerally as Champagne or as acidic as Prosecco.”

Duane Johnson, Coaltrain Wine and Spirits

“Graham Beck from South Africa. This wine was served at Nelson Mandela’s inauguration, and they make a beautiful brut and a brut rosé [approx. $20]. They’re made in the traditional champagne method where the fermentation’s in the bottle, leading to a great value. Another cool thing is Franciacorta. I have one from Bellavista [approx. $37].

And I’ve got one more: It’s from a region called Bugey Cerdon in the foothills of the Alps in France. Pét-Nat is short for pétillant naturel. It’s the really old-school way that sparkling wine was made before the Champagne method was discovered. You ferment the wine, and it creates bubbles and carbon dioxide and alcohol. In Pét-Nat, they stop the fermentation at a certain level and then immediately bottle it, so the bubbles that are in there are not regenerated later, like in Champagne, and it’s got this old, traditional style.

In Bugey Cerdon, they make it with a Gamay, which is a red grape used in Beaujolais. It’s a really cool, fun wine. It’s a little bit of fruity sweetness on the palate, but the finish is kind of dry, so you think initially it’s sweet; it’s not. And it really does a great job, in my opinion, of being right at that border between sweet and dry. The producer we have is Daniel Boccard, who used to be a race-car driver [approx. $20].”

Sophie Yoneoka, Lead sommelier, Summit at the Broadmoor

“The Hattingley Valley Classic Reserve (NV) from Hampshire, England, is made with the Champagne method. It’s a roasty/toasty, voluptuous, elegant alternative to a classic Champagne style [approx. $45–$49].

The Matthias Hild Elbling Sekt (NV) from Mosel, Germany, offers quirky bubbles from Germany that are not made from Riesling, but Elbling! Flavors are apple and pear blossom; it’s fresh, linear, seamless [approx. $20].”