Bubbling over the holidays

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

– COCO CHANEL

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.

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