Valentine’s Day Fizz: 6 wines to make your night sparkle

Bucket of BubblyNot that I need an excuse to open a bottle of fizz, but helping you find the best one for a memorable night on Valentine’s Day (be it romancing your sweetie, drowning your single sorrows, or celebrating your return to singledom) was the only arm twisting I needed to pop a few corks.

For any special occasion Champagne is an obvious choice, but it’s not your only one. Let’s break it down and make it easy for you to find one that ticks all your boxes. Here are 6 sparkling options:

Champagne

The echelon of elegant efflorescence!  These wines are special because they come from the small region of Champagne in the heart of France and are produced, usually, in quite small quantities, a lot of times by family owned ‘houses’. The grapes, usually a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, are grown in vineyards on the hills slopes and valley floors with the soils best suited to each one. These wines are made by a sparkling wine method (known unsurprisingly as the ‘Champagne method‘) which involves a second fermentation that creates the bubbles in the same bottle you’ll find on the shop shelf. Champagne is made in varying levels of sweetness, the most common style is ‘brut‘ which is on the dry end of the spectrum so if you’d like something a bit sweeter, look for confusingly, ‘extra dry‘ or ‘sec‘. Champagne can be quite complex (especially if you’re having a vintage) with citrus and apples notes combine with nutty toastiness. Charles Freminet Champagne

Charles Freminet NV

Fresh and citrusy, this is a light zesty style that doesn’t take itself seriously, but has all the hallmarks of classic Champagne. Serve as a welcome drink with canapés.

Prosecco

The cheap and cheerful choice! Prosecco has never been more popular than right now and that’s due largely to how easily quaffable it is – light and fruity!  Prosecco is the name of both the region in Veneto, Italy where the wine comes from and the grape variety from which it’s made.  The wines are made using the Charmat (or tank) method which imbues this fizz (for which this is a spot on moniker) with a light-hearted frothiness perfect for a picnic or party.  Expect foamy bubbles packed with pears.
Colle de Principe Prosecco

Colle del Principe Prosecco

Bright, invigorating and fun! A touch of sweetness is balanced by a refreshing zing. Don’t think twice about popping the cork any day of the week to bring some celebration to your day.

Cava

The poor man’s Champagne!  Cava seems to have taken a back seat to its fashionable Italian rival above, but I think it’s time to bring Cava back! These wines are made in the traditional method (as in Champagne) and therefore will have similar nutty, creamy characteristics – not to mention they’re a fabulous, less expensive alternative.  Several regions in Spain produce Cava, you’ll find them from Valencia and even Rioja, but the majority are born in Penedes, just south of Barcelona. Three indigenous Spanish grapes make up the blend – Macabeo, Parellada and Xarel.lo (zhar-el-lo).
Cava Prestige Brut NV

Brut Cava Prestige NV

This M&S own brand is an excellent example of how good Cava can be. Crisp juicy apples meet soft brioche on a palate of pure flavour. Try this as an aperitif before Sunday lunch or add it to your favourite sparkling cocktail.

Sparkling wine from the rest of the world

The world is your oyster! France, Italy and Spain don’t have the market cornered, there are lots of delicious and different sparklers coming from all over the place! You’ll find great ones from England, South Africa, the U.S., New Zealand, Argentina, Australia…the list goes on! If you’re curious about where some of the best English wines come from, this is a fabulous interactive map showing many award winning wineries around the UK.  Some of my favourite sparklers from unexpected regions are Misal from Croatia, the Millésime from Miolo in Brazil and my latest discovery, Pepik, a German-style sparkling Riesling from Josef Chromy in Tasmania.  Many of these are made with the traditional grapes of Champagne – Chardonnay and Pinot Noir – but depending on the country, local grapes may be used as well. For example Misal makes their non-vintage Brut with 100% Malvazija Istarska.
Mount Bluff Sparkling Sauvignon Blanc

Mount Bluff Sparkling Sauvignon Blanc

Bursting with life and the unmistakable aromas of stimulating Sauvignon, this is an effortless guzzler from New Zealand. Tropical fruit and a squeeze of lime revitalize you and your palate after slaving over a hot grill or just because.

Blanc de Blancs

Pure panache! Blanc de Blancs in its very simplest translation means ‘white of whites’ or a white wine made from white grapes – in sparkling wine terms this is usually 100% Chardonnay.  The term is commonly associated with Champagne, but many sparkling wines are also made in this style and since it’s not a protected term (the word ‘Champagne’ can only be listed on bottles from that region), the phrase ‘Blanc de Blancs’ is permitted on the labels from any region. The character of these wines will vary widely depending on where the grapes are grown and if the winemaker has aged the wine in oak barrels (and for how long), but speaking very generally, you can expect an extra layer of complexity of a Blanc de Blancs. They’re a great option when  you’re looking for something a bit special.
Villiera Brut Natural Chardonnay

Villiera Brut Natural Chardonnay

From South Africa, this 100% Chardonnay is round and rich.  Petite bubbles spring up through flavours of stone fruits and creamy nuttiness. The perfect wine for brunch – hold the OJ.

Rosé

 It’s good to Drink Pink! There’s no denying – I love a glass of sparkling rosé.  A warm summer evening with a cool glass of pink bubbles and life is good.  What makes it pink?  There are two approaches – most are made by adding a small amount of red wine to traditional blend, while others use the ‘saignée method’, allowing the wine to stay in contact with the skins of the black grapes for a short time during fermentation to soak up the colour. Neither of these is ‘better’ than the other and unless you know the method used, you’d be hard pressed to guess. A rosé can vary in flavour from very delicate and floral to intensely fruity and full depending on the ‘house style’ of the wine. Experimenting with several from various regions to find a few that match your personal preferences sounds like a great way to spend an evening with friends!

Reserve de Sours Sparkling RoseRéserve de Sours Sparkling Rosé

A beautiful vibrant salmon colour, this wine is easy to like from first glance.  Soft dainty bubbles dance under flavours of ripe raspberries and strawberries topped with a dollop of cream. A touch of tannin adds body before a crisp, clean finish.

Whatever you choose to enjoy for your Valentine’s evening, I hope you have a fabulous one and don’t forget, you don’t have to wait for a special occasion to open a bottle of bubbles, these just like any wine, should be enjoyed whenever you’re in the mood.

Incidentally, the wines above are offered as a mixed case from UK retailer Marks & Spencer (M&S), and come with a handy DVD packed with information on the wine regions as well as videos of the M&S hosts tasting the wines and giving their impressions.

Curious to see more about Champagne & sparkling wine? Watch this video to get clued in!

Here’s to trying something new, learning something new and enjoying every glass a whole lot more!

Tara – the Wine Passionista

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