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Quirky Bubbles
By Marguerite Thomas
Nov 8, 2016
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With the holidays upon us it’s time to think of all things sparkling:  Festive lights, glittery gift wrap, some shiny bling, perhaps, and definitely lots of sparkling wine.  I certainly would never turn down traditional Champagne, and there’s no doubt that crémant, Prosecco, Cava and the like can add an effervescent sense of celebration to just about any occasion.  But since there is an entire world of less well-known bubbly just waiting to be discovered, I recently went on a voyage of vinous exploration in hopes of uncovering some odder, more idiosyncratic sparkling wines.  Here is the result of that tasting expedition:

Biltmore Estate, North Carolina, 2011 Chateau Reserve, Méthode Champenoise Blanc de Blancs Brut Chardonnay, $30:  You may be surprised to learn that North Carolina now boasts more than 150 commercial wineries, many of them producing increasingly sophisticated wine.  The Biltmore Estate, an 8000-acre property nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains, launched its first wine in 1971, from a harvest of French-American hybrids.  The results were less than satisfying (it was dubbed “the crush of horror”), but Biltmore has come a long way since then as this dry and refreshing sparkling wine proves.  Today Biltmore has 150 acres under vine, focusing on Chardonnay, Riesling, Merlot and Cabernet. 

Paringa, South Australia, 2013 Sparkling Shiraz, $18:  Medium bodied, with lively and deeply flavorful dark berry and plum fruity flavors, this sparkler is fun to serve and delicious to drink.  It’s surprisingly good with certain spicy-sweet foods such as barbecue.  

Rosa Regale, Piedmont, Italy, 2013 Brachetto d’Acqui, $20:  Tasting Rosa Regale was less an exploration of new territory and more like rediscovering an old friend.  It’s been a few years since I last tasted this unique and likable wine that had somehow slipped under my radar, but one whiff of the enchanting rosy aromas reminded me of what a distinctive wine this is.  Gently sweet, with nuanced red fruit flavors and a soft and fine perlage, Rosa is indeed unusual and festive.  This semi-dry Italian sparkling red wine is said to have been a favorite of European aristocracy some two centuries ago. 

Salton, Serra Gaúcha, Brazil “Intenso” Chardonnay/Riesling Sparkling Brut, $15:  An affordable and appetizingly dry and crisp bottle of fizz from one of Brazil’s leading wineries, this would be a good choice for a holiday party.

Toad Hollow, Limoux, France “Risqué,” Mauzac Blanc, $16:  A medium-sweet wine made from Mauzac Blanc, a white grape whose home is the Limoux and Gaillac regions of southwestern France, this is an appealingly fragrant and fruity fizz.