Monthly Archives: November 2021

Bubbling over the holidays

“I only drink Champagne on two occasions, when I am in love and when I am not.” 


Fascinating facts about bubbles add to the allure of the pop. Did you know that to label a bottle as Champagne, the grapes must grow in the Champagne region of France? This, according to its Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC) regulation, is non-negotiable… well, unless you’ve been grandfathered in before the AOC occurred on June 29, 1936.

If you’ve ever seen bottles of bubbly labeled California Champagne, such as Korbel, what you’ve seen is perfectly legal because Korbel was established in 1882, before the 1936 regulation. There’s always a loophole. Korbel, like, Champagne, is made in the traditional Méthode Champenoise (secondary fermentation in bottle), and it is perfectly elegant in taste and presentation. A bottle of Korbel is a great option at an affordable price – under $20 a bottle – an economical choice for large group celebrations.

A California sparkling wine can rival any Champagne, and if you prefer a sparkling California wine with a bit of pink, try a bottle of Windsor Vineyards Brut Rosé Sparkling ($32) – and order online for your next gift to offer a holiday party host – and create a custom label. This non-vintage Brut Rosé Sparkling is made in Méthode Champenoise with grapes grown on the North Coast. Aromas of honeysuckle and pear lead to a palate of crisp watermelon and a finish of grapefruit. Refreshing and ready for you to grab your favorite brie cheese and bake it with fruit.

If you’re searching for authentic Champagne, France is where it all begins in the soil composition: chalk, oyster shells, and limestone. These elements attribute to a grape structure that produces the best sparkling wine in France, if not the world. Three grapes are utilized in Champagne: Chardonnay for its elegance; Meunier for its offer of roundness on the palate; and Pinot Noir for its strength. More factors include the weather, cultural practices, and time-honored experience.

The newest Korbel bottle on the shelves isn’t Champagne, though. Korbel Prosecco is a sparkling wine made with glera grapes of the Veneto region. Like Champagne, the Veneto region has regulations of its own. Korbel didn’t make the loophole for this one, though. As of 2009, strict regulations were in place in that the glera grapes must be grown in Prosecco to be called Prosecco. And Prosecco is a place about an hour from Venice; it’s no longer the name of a grape.

The glera grape is a white varietal which is said, but not confirmed, to hail from Slovenian in its origins. One sip of this sparkling and I was transported back to my one and only stop in Prosecco, Italy, where our tour group stopped to pick a few leftover green-skinned glera grapes from the recent harvest. From my first sip, the slight aromas of honeysuckle, lemon, pear, and peach led to a palate of the same, with a crisp acidity.

Another Prosecco worthy of a mention is a bottle of Guinigi Prosecco Rosé ($17), produced in Treviso and Fruili Venezia Guilia, Italy. This wine is a blend of Prosecco (glera grape) and Pinot Noir, the latter grape to produce the pink color. This is considered a Spumante Brut and it pairs perfectly with a creamy vegetable risotto – or platter of sushi. It’s also a great palate cleanser due to its robust acidity.

La Gioiosa Prosecco is floral forward with fruits on the palate that suggest a ripened apple. It’s considered “off-dry,” meaning a bit sweeter than most dry sparkling wines. This is a great sparkling to serve with shellfish.

Another “sort of” sparkling something is a fun Lambrusco, which hails from one of the best places in the world to get cheese… Reggio Emilia. American negociant Cameron Hughes has introduced Lot 841, which is more of a frizzante, meaning semi-sparkling. Most Americans recall the one brand, Reunite, available in a jug, and it tasted like Welch’s grape juice. This Lambrusco is delicious with any red-sauce dish or pizza and is a fun conversation wine priced around $15 a bottle.

Tastes that transport to Tuscany

The sensory trigger of tasting wine serves as time travel for many aficionados. Why? Consider this: if you’ve ever visited Chianti’s wine region and then, years later, opened a bottle you selected as interesting (was it the artsy label that caught your eye?), that first sip is sure to send you back in time to your last visit.

Art is also in the mix of wine tasting; the association of the two are no surprise to wine afficionados who understand the artisanal aspects of winemaking. Beyond winemaking, to create a label, and variations that include adding the logo and brand name, lead to cleverly naming of wine blends. And sometimes there are labels that are actual works of art.

il Molino di Grace Toscana Gratius 2017 is one such bottle with a label that almost overshadows the Super Tuscan wine-tasting experience. Yes, the Sangiovese, Canaiolo, and Colorino grapes were blended to perfection, but that label, titled “Bouquet of Grace,” created by famed artist and sommelier of Harry’s Bar in London, the late Valentino Monticello, is, well… ammazza!

Opening a bottle of il Molino di Grace Chianti Classico Riserva 2016 ($33) during a food and wine pairing dinner… with fettuccine and mushrooms drizzled in truffle oil, was a transport to my 2015 stay at Castelfalfi in the heart of Tuscany. The hills of Panzano, where the Molino di Grace winery is located, is a mere hour drive from Castelfalfi.

Wine and art fueled the vision of winery founder of il Molino di Grace, Frank Grace. A visit would be awe-inspiring with sculptures adorning the vineyards and art canvassing the cellar. In fact, 23 unique pieces created by Monticello are on display at this winery, including the “Wine as Art” collection and the series “The Life of Bacchus.”

Since the 1980s, the Grace Family has adored Monticello’s art, as well as his idea to name “Gratius” on the signature Super Tuscan label.

Daniel Grace, son of Frank and Director of the winery, said, “My family is proud to honor Valentino Monticello’s timeless legacy and truly unique art-form with the commemorative 2017 Gratius label – the 20th vintage of this authentic wine he originally named.”

During yet another Italian-themed wine pairing dinner, the Gratius proved to be a fan favorite. However, the 2015 Gran Selezione Il Margone ($40) stole the show on this oenophile’s palate.

Anyone who sips this wine will feel ‘gratus,’ a.k.a. gratitude. For more information, please visit