An at-a-glance guide to bubbles worth hunting down


• Certified Sustainable and part of L.I.V.E.
• Vintage-dated Brut
• Highest rated Sparkling Wine outside of Champagne
• 2011 Brut WS 90 pts / 2010 Brut WA 91pts / 2009 Brut WS 90pts / 2008 Brut WA 90pts
• All hand harvested.
• Disgorged on demand

• Independent, family owned, 3rd generation
• Methode Champenoise
• Estate Bottled from the Green Valley – coldest corner of Russian River
• Served at the White House twice this year so far and has been served in the White House for every President since Ronald Regan

• From Provence, France
• The Brebans are one of the last families still providing artisan quality sparkling wine from the South of France
• 3rd generation handling operations
• Great value Blanc de Blanc and Rose’

• Estate produced, 35 year old vines and low yields
• Cremant de Loire, strict Methode Champenoise regula-tions
• Top producer in the Loire Valley
• Extensive lees aging
• Biodynamic farming and production

• Follador family estate
• Follador family has been growing in the Valdobbiadene region for centuries
• Located on the famous foothill of Cartizze

• Started in 1920, now 3rd generation
• Greatest Spumante, Vignato Geradino recognized as Prosecco’s first “cru” in 1933. Still recognized as the benchmark for great Prosecco today
• Wide selection of styles available
• Second fermentation occurs over 100 times a year so each batch is a fresh as possible

• One of the oldest wine producing companies in Emilia-Romagna was started by Cleto Chiarli the great grand-father of the current family running the winery
• New state-of-the-art winery
• Bottled upon request ensuring the freshest product available
• Perfect pairing for Charcuterie!

• Methode Champenoise production, making this the Champagne of Italy
• Saten is 100% Chardonnay – Blanc de Blancs
• 3 years aging before release
• Single cru within the DOCG
• Organically farmed

• Harvested from their highest elevation vineyards.
• Only free run and soft first press juice is used.
• Sustainable Framing practices used.
• Methode Champenoise.
• 2 to 5 years on the lees.

• Methode Champenoise
• 12 months on the lees
• 5th generation, family owned.
• Some of the vineyards used were planted over 100 years ago.

• Made in Tasmania!
• Perfect cool climate region
• Methode Champenoise
• Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier
• Most acclaimed sparkling wines in Australia

• 100% Chardonnay
• Cremant de Bourgogne, strict methode Champenoise Regulations
• Estate grown wine from the heart of Burgundy
• 6th generation family grower

• Methode Champenoise
• 15 months on the lees
• Direct Import
• Only available in Minnesota

• Cline (Jacuzzi) project
• Very small production
• White blend of Glera & Muscat
• Goes great in the hot tub!

• Tommasi Family project
• Top vineyard sourcing in Valdobiadene
• Fantastic style & packaging

Vive le bon goût!

Sparkling Wine: the top 5 things you need to know

As we enter the home stretch of the holiday season more and more sparkling wine will be purchased and consumed. To get the most out of your bottles, we present the top 5 things you need to know (to enjoy your sparkling wine more than everybody else).

1. Don’t open a bottle when it’s at room or cellar temperature. Some people, in a hurry, pop the cork on a bottle of bubbly before it is chilled, expecting to simply drop it into a bucket of ice to chill it down quickly. Unfortunately, when you open a bottle of bubbly at room temperature, you often lose a significant amount of the wine through it foaming wildly upon popping. Chill it down, and open it slowly and carefully (see below), in order to keep the bottle from foaming over. If you need to chill a bottle relatively quickly, put it in a bucket of ice with water, and move it around every few minutes — it will be at serving temperature in fifteen minutes. Or, this being Minnesota, just stick it in a snowbank for a bit.

2. Know your sweetness designations. As confusing as it may seem, “Extra Dry” actually means “A bit sweet.” From drier to sweeter the designations go from Extra Brut, to Brut, to Extra Dry. Often people are surprised at just how sweet an Extra Dry can be. If you’re a fan of dry wines, stick with Brut or, if you can find it, Extra Brut.

3. Serve sparkling wine with a bit of cheese or meat. Sparkling wine is by its nature high in acidity, and many people who shy away from it do so because the acidity builds up on their palate too much. To help temper the acidity, be sure to have some nibbles nearby. Triple cream brie works exceptionally well, and more robust Champagnes can handle cured meats like there’s no tomorrow. At the office, Champagne is often brought out for pairing with oysters.

*** update 12/12/12 *** Ann just chastised me for forgetting to include her and Terry Theise’s favorite Champagne pairing: popcorn! However, there is disagreement in the office on this, for my personal favorite pairing is french fries. Regardless, when it comes to Champagne and Sparkling Wine, salty = good.

4. Keep in mind that “Champagne” only comes from Champagne, France. If you go to a wine shop run by knowledgeable people, and ask for a Champagne, they will lead you to the ‘real deal’ which also means you’ll be spending more money. Granted, there is nothing that compares with a great Champagne (especially from a grower-producer), but there are other styles available from other parts of the world. See our post on Champagne vs. Sparkling Wine for a primer on other key regions and styles of bubbly.

5. Learn how to open a bottle correctly. This will save you from becoming part of the statistics of cork injuries (and ensuing lawsuits). As said by ABC News, “It’s all fun and games — until somebody loses an eye.” Check out our video below.

Sparkling Wine vs. Champagne

As we roll into the holiday season, we are preparing to hear more of the **pop-pop-pop** of sparkling wine bottles being opened. A question that comes up often is this: what is the difference between “Sparkling Wine” and “Champagne”? We have the easy and short answer for you, but also a longer education on the winemaking process and different styles of sparkling wine.

The easy and short answer: A sparkling wine should only be called Champagne if it comes from the region of Champagne, France. Period.

Some California producers still attach the word Champagne to their products, but when you think about this it’s odd: if somebody in France produced a wine called “Napa Valley Merlot” it wouldn’t make any sense, would it? Well, a “Champagne” produced just north of San Francisco is just as guilty.

In other words, all Champagne is sparkling wine, but not all sparkling wine is Champagne. (And not all producers are created equally … we have a love affair with our Grower-Producers in particular.)

A deeper Sparkling Wine education:  Sparkling wine is made by taking the simple formula for fermentation (sugar + yeast = alcohol and CO2), and not allowing the resulting gas to escape. When you ferment wine in a closed or sealed environment, the CO2 returns into the wine, only to be released in the form of tiny bubbles after opening.

A fine example of the term “Champagne” NOT being used correctly.

The story of how this all started is attributed to the monk Dom Perignon (1638-1715), but in reality it was probably discovered slowly over time by many monks in the Champagne region. Why Champagne? Because it’s cold there … not Minnesota cold, but definitely chilly. These cold temperatures, coupled with deep cellars and lack of insulation, made for a problem: fermentations would begin but would soon shut down due to the cold. Without knowing exactly what was happening, the wines would be bottled.

The following Spring, as the tulips were blooming and the temperature in the cellar was rising, fermentation would kick back into gear. With nowhere for the CO2 to escape, it returned to the wine, eventually building up and proceeding to blow the corks out from the bottles. It was here, as the legend goes, that brother Perignon caught the wine in his glass and proclaimed “Come quick! I am tasting stars!”

Today’s methods of making Sparkling Wine are more controlled, but the chemistry is the same. Because this winemaking method was developed in Champagne, and the original rules surrounding the making of this wine belong to that region, we should think of Champagne in terms of a geographical place as opposed to a winemaking style.

“Sparkling Wine” is made throughout the world. We’ve had incredible examples recently from Tasmania, Austria, and Oregon. There are also many bubblies produced in France but outside of the Champagne zone, including gems made under the “Cremant” designation. But there is only one true Champagne, from the beautiful region near Paris, France, that brings us producers such as Pierre Gimonnet and Gaston Chiquet.

Soon we will be posting details on other bubbly designations, including Prosecco, Cava, Cremant, and more to help you with your holiday shopping and meal planning. Keep following our blog for updates and more sparkling education.

Photo by Justin Fincher