It’s that bubbly time of the year when wine merchants and restaurateurs fill their shelves and menus with festive drinks.
Domestic or French, Italian or Spanish – sparkling wines are the one-size-fits-all drink for New Year’s with today’s trends veering toward sweeter wines and casual but stylish cocktails.
The old fear about selecting a French Champagne has faded with all the less intimidating domestic choices, including Michigan’s M. Lawrence line under $20 and the growing popularity of Italy’s most popular sparkler, Prosecco, and Spain’s Cava, which are stylish and so affordable.
“Prosecco and Cava are popular with younger customers,” says Rod Johnson, wine and beer team leader at Plum Market in Ann Arbor. “They aren’t expensive. They are not too heavy and are not the kind of wine you have to dwell on.”
Today, we find bubblies creating new niches with diverse uses.
First, many are fruity and sweet. The breakout bubblies break all the rules. Moscato Spumantes are flavored with tropical fruits – such as Santero’s Moscato & Passion Fruit and other flavors like Peach, Strawberry and Pineapple.
In Michigan, St. Julian’s hot seller is Passionate Peach Spumante, while Forty-Five North in Leelanau offers a Peach Crémant and Sparkling Cherry.
“Younger people are buying sweet sparkling wine as a beverage, not to drink at the table with food,” says John Lossia of Merchant’s Fine Wine in Dearborn.
“Korbel Sweet Cuvee did not exist five years ago and is outselling Korbel Brut in my store today,” he says. “Putting sweet on the label used to be the kiss of death, but not now.”
The other change is the rising popularity of wine cocktails. Madeline Triffon, noted sommelier and events planner at Plum Market, says the cocktail culture has impacted sparklers, as home bartenders incorporate Prosecco and other inexpensive bubblies.
Lisa Ribaudo, director of wine operations for Joe Vicari’s Andiamo Steakhouse, says the classic cocktail has made a huge comeback and for many, the mixer or “splash” of choice is not club soda but Prosecco.
“I tell customers Prosecco is country, not city; impromptu, not rehearsed. People take bubblies way too seriously.”
Kroger’s local division beverage steward Karen Bloomer keeps her eye on all the trends: “We have seen a resurgence in sparkling wine sales over the last two years and we have decided not to focus on any one type but to focus on all types.”
Bloomer says that means stocking the popular (and sweet) Pink and Red sparkling Moscatos but also more prestigious sparkling rosés such as Mumm Napa Rosé, Veuve Clicquot Rosé and Domaine Chandon’s Étoile Rosé. Everything, of course, is on sale for New Year’s.
It’s refreshing that the new wine world has quit being so stuffy and embraces all styles and usage. The only thing that really matters is what pops for you.
TEN GO-TO BUBBLIES UNDER $30
These wines are widely available. Prices quoted are full markup – you will probably find them for less.
>> La Marca Prosecco, $17: This handsome bottle from Italy is seductively off-dry with a storm of tiny bubbles and a noseful of white flowers, orange peel and herbs. It’s one of the top selling Proseccos in the U.S.
>> Segura Viudas Brut Reserva, $10: This Cava from Spain is a favorite of wine retailers across Metro Detroit. It’s tart-crisp and dry, with nice minerality and fine streams of bubbles. It’s produced by the traditional French method – fermented a second time in the bottle. It’s ideal for entertaining and making good first impressions.
>> M. Lawrence “Detroit” Demi Sec, $15: Of all Larry Mawby’s M. Lawrence line, this one stands out for its tangy flavors — tangerine, lime, apricot. It’s slightly sweet but balanced by firm acidity. It’s a blend of Vidal and Muscat. Last week I observed a woman purchase nine bottles. Mawby is Michigan’s premier sparkling wine producer.
>> Gloria Ferrer Sonoma Brut, $22: This cuvee of mostly Pinot Noir is a classic in Sonoma, where the Ferrer family touts itself as not only the first sparkling house in Sonoma’s Carneros district but also the first to plant Champagne clones there. It’s a stylish, complex, dry bubbly made from a blend of 20 different base wines.
>> Piper Sonoma Brut, $14.99: This dry, smart, affordable cuvee of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier has been the bubbly of choice at the Detroit International Auto Show Charity Preview. The longtime winemaker was Frenchman Raphael Brisbois who died in August. British Champagne authority Tom Stevenson says Brisbois was “physically incapable of making ordinary wine.”
>> Mionetto Prosecco Brut $11: The wine in the dark green Champagne-style bottle with the orange ribbon label is dry, crisp, refreshing, lighter bodied and so food friendly. Key word in that sentence: “dry.” This Italian bubbly sees no oak and is low in alcohol at 11 percent.
>> Ruffino Moscato D’Asti 2011, $12: Look for the blue label. This light-bodied sweetheart is redolent of tangerine, peach and grated orange zest. It’s lightly effervescent and only 6 percent alcohol. Lisa Ribaudo, wine director for Joe Vicari’s Andiamo chain, recommends splashing Moscato on a bowl of Italian ice or sorbet for a refreshing float. Catch it on sale at Meijer.
>> Barefoot Bubbly Extra Dry, $10: This sparkler is semi-sweet leaning to dry. It’s zesty, fruit-forward and palate-cleansing with crisp tangerine, orange and yellow apple flavors. It would be ideal for cocktails.
>> J Vineyards Brut Cuvee 20, $28: J Vineyards wines by Sonoma’s Judy Jordan are respected by people in the wine trade, though a hidden gem on store shelves. This nonvintage blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier is the most affordable of the line. Fruit is crisp and dry but not austere. Winemaker Melissa Stackhouse grew up in rural Michigan near Ann Arbor.
>> Lelle Prosecco Spumante, $13: This crisp, fruity bubbly by Savini is a hot number around Metro Detroit, especially the Ann Arbor area where on Twitter it was cited as “flying” out of the Produce Station, plus wine team leader Rod Johnson loves it at Plum Market.
Lisa Ribaudo, director of wine operations at Joe Vicari’s Andiamo Steakhouse, offers these aperitif drinks, which are hot-sellers at her restaurants.
Aperol Spritz: 4 ounces Prosecco, 2 ounces Aperol aperitif, splash of soda. Serve on the rocks in a wine glass with an orange slice
St. Germain Kir Blanc: 3 ounces Sauvignon Blanc, 1 ounce St. Germain Liqueur, splash Prosecco. Serve on the rocks in a wine glass with a large peel of lemon.
Blood Orange Bellini: 3 ounces Prosecco, 2 ounces organic blood orange juice, splash Solerno Orange Liqueur. Serve in a Champagne flute.
You can contact Sandra Silfven at email@example.com.