American Sparkling Wine

Wine Buzz by JoAnn Actis-Grande / July, 2015

Listen carefully - the sound at your next gathering may very well be a “pop” coming from a bottle of bubbly made right here.

The quality of American sparkling wine has vastly improved in the past decade and Americans are well aware of the change, drinking more sparkling wines than ever before. In fact, the largest increase of wine consumption in our country is sparkling wine.

For production, California leads the pack with many producers making great sparklers and some notable French Champagne houses have opened wineries there some time ago. The leading grape varieties used in California sparkling wines are Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Pinot Blanc, though producers are using just about any grape variety.

The Finger Lakes runs a close second for production also making world-class sparklers. Riesling is their original sparkling wine grape and still used today along with Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Cayuga White, and Gewurztraminer. Several producers are making delightful sparkling ice-wine.

Other notable States making sparklers are Massachusetts, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Virginia, and Washington State.

When selecting sparkling wine, look closely at the label. Sparklers produced in the United States are made in both the méthode champenoise - the authentic French method for making sparkling wines after double fermentation takes place in the bottle, and the charmat method - also referred to as “bulk process” using large glass and steel tanks for second fermentation, and then bottling the wine under pressure. This process is very cost effective.

Sparkling wine styles range from very dry (natural), dry (brut), to sweet (sec and demi-sec). Many are known as “Blanc de Blancs” - made from Chardonnay grapes, “Blanc de Noirs” - made from black grapes, and “Rose’ – from both white and red grapes. Vintage sparklers are harvested from only one vintage. Non-vintage (NV) sparklers are made from grapes harvested during multiple vintages.

With so many summer parties popping up, you may want to stock your home with American sparklers. They are the most versatile style of wine and priced right. Enjoy them as an aperitif or through your entire meal. Cheers!

The following are found at your favorite local wine retailer, or you can purchase direct from the winery’s website.

J Cuvee 20, California

Produced by Jordon Vineyards, this Russian River sparkler exudes aromas of citrus, vanilla, and butterscotch with subtle flavors of spicy apple pie. Perfect for any occasion.

Roederer Estate, California

A multi-vintage cuvee in the French style of Louis Roederer Champagne. This crisp, light bubbly carries a complex mix of pear, spice and hazelnut flavors. Marvelous with savory dishes and macaroons.

Schramsberg Brut Rosé, California

A super star sparkler that is very flavorful exuding an array of red berry flavors. Serve on its own or with caviar, salads and sushi.

Chateau Frank Blanc de Noirs, Finger Lakes

This is an intense full-bodied sparkling wine with great structure and length. A great choice with shrimp and bouillabaisse.

Westport Rivers RJR, Massachusetts

A highly acclaimed sparkling wine with aromas of toasty brioche, peach marmalade and lemon. Serve with hard cheeses and shellfish.

Gruet Brut Rose’, New Mexico

A fun and vibrant sparkler with cherry and vanilla aromas boasting with citrus, leading to a clean crisp finish.

Veritas Scintilla, Virginia

100% chardonnay grapes give aromas and flavors of lemon, green apple and pear, accented by a touch of yeast and toasted brioche with a long clean finish. Pairs well with mac & cheese, casseroles, and BBQ chicken.

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