Sparkling wines for the New Year


 Wayne on Wine
By Wayne Crawford

  wayne crawford
  Wayne Crawford

With the New Year only days away, the Big Canoe Wine Group finished its December sparkling wine-tasting last week.

At this year’s delightful event, all the wines were keepers. We started with an acclamation sparkler from Italy, an engaging fruit-forward prosecco—Tesoro della Regina. Prosecco is a white, Italian grape used to make sparkling wine from Veneto, with floral and fruit aromas and a dry—not sweet—taste. This is a great, inexpensive wine that pairs well with just about any food. Think fun, friendly and easy on the pocketbook.

Another sweet sparkler from Italy is Asti Spumante. Made from the moscato grape, it is great with rich, sweet desserts but is not comparable to a good prosecco. Also consider Adami, Mionetto and Nino Franco proseccos. I recommend spending a little more on the prosecco to get better results.

Another Big Canoe Wine Group favorite is cava from Spain. This sparkler is made like traditional Champagne from France; it has more traditional Spanish grapes, although French-style grapes are being added increasingly to the blend. This dry sparkler is produced near Barcelona on the Spanish East Coast and ranges from light-to-creamy in flavor. This is a great go-to sparkler year-round, with excellent pricing. Cavas to try include: Avinyo; Freixenet; and Raventos I Blanc.  

The wine group also had several sparklers from the West Coast that were well-produced, including one from Argyle Winery, the famous pinot noir producer in Oregon. Additional sparkling wines to consider include: J Vineyards & Winery, Sonoma; Roederer Estate, North Coast, Calif.; and Schramsberg Vineyards and Domaine Carneros, Napa. An inexpensive choice can be found from Gruet Winery, N.M.

Wines tasted in December by the Big Canoe Wine Group. Photo by Wayne Crawford.

The three Champagnes in the tasting were worth the wait—priced in the $34-to-$50 range, these are good buys for quality Champagne —but shop for bargains. Each offered a medium-bodied fruit and fresh floral flavor with pleasant lingering finishes.

The grower Champagne included in the “Wines drinking well now” section is one of my favorites. It is a bit more difficult to locate in Georgia, but Sherlock’s in Atlanta offers several varieties. Recoltant-Manipulant (RM) on the label indicates growers who sell grapes to Champagne houses and buy wines from other growers, while also making their own wines. Recently, the growers are generating more excitement with their fresh Champagne offerings.

Champagnes to consider include: Duval Leroy from Gosset, one of the oldest (1584) Champagne houses in France; Billecart-Salmon (a great rose from a house founded in 1818); and Perrier-Jouet (producing since 1811).

Often the non-vintage (NV) wines will provide the best value; if it is for a special celebration, seek advice from your local wine shop or go online. is a good source for pricing, so check before you buy. Unfortunately, the laws of Georgia prevent sales to our state from this site, considered the best pricing site for wines in America … too bad!

Looking at food-pairings with Champagne, my favorite is popcorn, but other delightful choices include: caviar; lobster; oysters; smoked salmon; sushi; and a host of egg dishes. Blanc de noir Champagne complements cherries, lamb, raspberries and strawberries, which might garnish a delightful cheese plate; avoid red meat.

‘Wines drinking well now’
Tesoro della Regina—“Treasure of the Queen” extra-dry prosecco—Fossalta di Piave, Italy, $17. This prosecco has small bubbles and a light, refreshing finish. With hints of citrus and peaches on the nose, it pairs with just about anything.

NV Philippe Prie Champagne Brut Tradition, $34. This delightful French bubbly is made of 80 percent pinot noir and 20 percent chardonnay, all from 30-plus-year-old vines. Clean and crisp, with aromas of green apples, flowers, white peaches and minerals, it is medium-bodied with plenty of length at the finish.

Nicolas Maillart Champagne Premier Cru Platine, France, $50. The Maillart family's vine-growing practices can be traced back to 1753. This wine—80 percent pinot noir and 20 percent chardonnay—is golden in color, with a fine, lingering bead. Aroma exhibits notes of fruit and hazelnuts. On the palate, this wine is wonderfully fresh—a vinous, well-structured Champagne.

Claude Genet Brut Champagne Blanc de Blancs, $47. Light, bright gold in color, with orange, melon and yellow apple on the nose and palate, this fruity wine offers a touch of sweetness on a lingering creamy finish. This one is well-balanced for a blanc de blancs.

In my next article, the focus is on aged wine and wine-collecting.

Wayne Crawford is a certified specialist of Wine CSW and a member of the Society of Wine Educators and the American Wine Society.


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