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Bring on the Sparkling Wines!

Bring on the Sparkling Wines! Photo

Photo by hillypill

Posted on June 3, 2011 in Food and Drink

The start of summer in New York City! For those of us who choose to stay in town, summer means outdoor festivals, picnics at Central Park and the possibility of getting reservations at a hot restaurant even on a Saturday night. Summer in the city also means the start of wine drinking season, particularly sparkling wine. Sparkling wines range from inexpensive Cavas to fancy, vintage Champagnes; they're both refreshing and versatile.

If you're new to sparkling wines, it's important to note their classification is based on sugar levels:

  • Extra Brut - Is "extra" dry
  • Brut - Dry. This is the most popular style and is very food-friendly
  • Extra Dry - Somewhat dry, not as dry as Brut
  • Demi-sec - Pretty sweet and best paired with fruit and/or dessert

Champagne and sparkling wines are also categorized as "vintage" or "non-vintage" (NV on the label), meaning they either come from a single year or are a blend of several different years. The "vintage" Champagnes are typically pricier. Snooth is a great, free resource for recommendations for Champagne or any other type of wine.

I wish I could take credit for the following quote, but "Come quickly ! I'm tasting stars!" is attributed to Dom Pierre Perignon, French Benedictine Monk, when he first tasted his newly created champagne. Champagne is of course the gold standard of sparkling wines and a wine can only "technically" be called Champagne if it is from the Champagne region of France. If you're interested in Champagne, here are three commonly available non-vintage selections typically in the $25-$40 range:

  • Pommery Brut Royal - Lean, elegant, crisp with a light acidity. My personal favorite and always on hand for celebrations large and small.
  • Heidsieck Monopole Blue Top - Lower price point that the others, but pleasant and drinkable. A bit softer than the Pommery Brut Royal. This wine brings back fond memories of the legendary "all-you-can drink Champagne nights complete with sabre service from a little person" at the now defunct East Village bar Superdive. (I do love this town!)
  • Veuve Clicquot Brut Yellow Label - Not my favorite now, but this was my entry point into Champagne as a young pup. This wine is still quite popular in the US and it has heavier style and more golden color than the Pommery Brut Royal.

Photo by Truly Malin

On the best of the rest: a nice, everyday sort of sparkler is Cava and nothing more affordable than Jaume Serra Cristalino Brut. For brunch, try a Prosecco. Fine versions of this light Venetian sparkler usually retail for $15-$20. Protip: if you like a drier wine, look for Valdobbiadene on the label. Pleasant on its own but a dry Proseccos also makes a great cocktail including my new love -- the St. Germain Cocktail. If you're not familiar with St. Germain, it's an Elderflower liquer and the sweet, floral taste is magical with Champagne/dry sparking wine. The cocktail consists of 2 parts Brut Champagne/dry sparkling wine, 1.5 parts St. Germain and 2 parts club soda. Fill a tall Collins glass with ice, add the Champagne first, then the liquer and top with the club soda. Stir gently and make sure to garnish with a lemon twist -- squeezing the essential oils into the glass. I made a pitcher for my friend's backyard party last summer and they were a hug hit.

Rose wines -- both still and sparkling -- are summer essentials so pack them in your picnic basket. These fruit-forward, crisp wines marry well with cold cuts, hard cheeses and other picnic essentials.

Photo by aboutthatplace

So what are you waiting for? Cheers!

More Great Places for Summer Eating
Where to Eat in Miami
Where to Eat in Madrid
Where to Eat in Athens

Posted by hillypill (Gwynn Turner)


Comment by eyesoftheworldStaff on June 7, 2011

If this post made you mouth water a bit, and you happen to be passing through NYC this summer, check out Brooklyn Based's list of great outdoor wine bars I plan to try out at least a few of them!

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