Oh, so you also forgot what's going on tomorrow. . . .
Well, we have to move fast, because it's Valentine's Day, and if we don't have sparkling wine, or Bubbly, or Champagne for the holiday and for our wife-husband-boy friend-girl friend-lover-mistress-whoever, we're in big trouble.
Sparkling wine is a great drink. The bubbles add a touch of fascination as they rise through the glass. Look for small, busy ones as you prepare to drink. Bring your nose close as you inhale the aroma, feel the exploding bubbles tickle your nose. A delightful feeling. There should be fruit, or toastiness, as you sniff. The fruit aromas may vary, since sparkling wine can be made from so many different grapes. Classic French Champagne is usually a blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, sometimes just Chardonnay. Champagne labeled "Blanc de Blancs" means it's all from white grapes. Moscato, the current hot grape, will sparkle. So will Sauvignon Blanc, even Catawba.
Dave Johnson, the excellent Stone Hill winemaker, has made superb sparklers from Catawba grapes, something I didn't think possible until I tasted his.
Several of the first-class French Champagne makers, like Taittinger, Moet et Chandon and Roederer, have built wineries in California, using the names Domaine Carneros, Domaine Chandon and Roederer Estates, respectively, and calling them Sparkling Wine. French law is that Champagne can be made only in the district that bears the name, with Reims and Ay the principal cities.
Blanquette de Limoux, from the area around Limoux, is the oldest of the sparklers, with the wine made several centuries before Dom Perignon "invented" it, as some claim. The 2006 vintage from Sainte Hilaire is a delightful drink, light and crisp and very fruity.
Taittinger's Domaine Carneros label has a splendid 2005 La Reve, and "Nocturne," from France. The label writer for the Nocturne may have sampled a bit too freely, with the wine described as "the refined Champagne for a successful evening," which covers a multitude of situations. Both are tasty drinks. The fact that the Nocturne does not have a vintage date is typical of many French bubblies, whose winemakers blend wines from several vintages to create the final product.
Billecart-Salmon is another producer of fine Sparklers, and its Brut Rose, a lovely pink color, has a hint of its red component in the finish. Delicious.
Sparklers range in price from the low single-digits ($5 of $6 in some stores) to the several hundreds of dollars per bottle. American producers like Schramsberg bring superior sparklers from the Napa Valley and Domaine Roederer, from the Anderson Valley of Mendocino County long has been a personal favorite. Freixenet, from Spain, also has a California presence.
And while French Champagne has a certain cachet, good sparklers come from every country. Australia makes a delicious sparkling Syrah, and while the Italians call it Prosecco, the Spanish call it Cava and the Germans call it Sekt, it's all sparkles, with upwards of 40 million bubbles to a bottle.