By Larry Sterner
The holiday period is, for many, a time of celebration, special moments and toasts to mark them. More often than not, toasts call for sparkling wine.
I use the broader term here because, in fact, in the U.S. we drink far more sparkling wine than Champagne. True Champagne is only made in the Champagne region of France. No other sparkling wine, even those from other parts of France, can be called Champagne. There’s no reason to feel bad about our fondness for other types of bubbly. Yes, Champagne has a justly deserved reputation of excellence but these days, we can get sparklers from other parts of the world that are equally good or even better. (However, we advise that you don’t bring up this debate with a Frenchman.)
There are thousands of fantastic, highest quality sparkling wines from California, Spain, Australia, and beyond. For now, I want to focus on two interesting and delicious products that deserve more recognition.
The first is a sparkling Riesling from Germany made from the Riesling grape and the second is a sparkling Brut Rosé from Italy made from—get ready for this—the Nebbiolo grape. Yes, the same grape used to make those famous sturdy long-lived red wines from Piemonte, Barolo and Barbaresco.
These two wines are beautiful, not just for toasting, but for pairing with food. Consider adding them to your holiday feast to complement the exquisite cuisine on your plate and keep the celebration going.
Ratzenberger Bachracher Riesling Sekt 2009, $33
A very crisp dry wine with a healthy level of acidity that’s an ideal counterpoint to rich foods and subtle flavors. The effect is a pleasant combination of floral delicacy and minerality with a refined lingering finish. This wine is fantastic with crab, smoked fish, pork or veal with cream and mushroom sauces and poultry. It’s also an incredible match for raw fish, and a great alternative to beer or sake with your sushi.
Germano Alta Langa Brut Rose, $30
This wine, also dry, is a stunner with a pretty pale salmon color and plenty of zesty bubbles. The aromas suggest Nebbiolo—cherries, strawberries, red flowers. In the mouth bright berry fruit is framed by notes of basil and mint. The ripe fruit builds towards a clean, crisp, and dry finish with lingering fruit and mouthwatering acidity. This wine pairs beautifully with grilled seafood, whole roasted fish, veal, pork, and pastas with tomato and herb sauces. It’s also wonderful with cheese.
These wines can be found at Moore Brothers Wine Company with stores in Pennsauken, NJ; Wilmington, DE; and New York City.
One last note: Unless you are absolutely smitten by the sight of sparkling wine bubbles in flute glasses, I would recommend serving these wines in a traditional wine glass. The more open shape allows you to better experience the wonderful aromas of these two wines, and you’ll still get the beautiful bubbles.