Beer & Wine

How to Choose Champagne and Sparkling Wine, With Andrew Lampasone of Wine Watch

Wine is a tough subject. Sparkling wine, even more so. Champagne, Cava, Prosecco, Dry, Sweet, Extra Brut, WTF... the options are endless. The possibility for a hangover: potentially catastrophic.

New Year's is around the corner and whether you like it or not, you and your friends will be celebrating with some sort of sparkling wine. If you are looking to avoid a headache disaster, there are options.

Clean Plate Charlie speaks to Andrew Lampasone of Wine Watch about your guide for buying and enjoying sparkling wine.

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Most people call all sparkling wine "champagne." Not the case. Champagne is only from Frane's Champagne region--the northernmost wine producing region in France. According to Lampasone, "The grapes are Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier; and this is where they developed this fermented-in-the-bottle style of sparkling wine. Almost all Champagne has an addition of sugar, except for the brut Natural (no dosage), most are Brut in style."

The most popular Champagnes are available in most large-scale wine shops and grocery stores: Veuve Cliquot, Moët, Perrier-Jouët. But Lampasone suggests trying small-scale production Champagnes.
  • NV Henriot Souverain Brut Champagne- $43.50
  • Louis Roederer Brut Premier NV--the makers of Cristal- $45.00

Tête De Cuvée - The best Champagne that the House makes and the highest quality wine--which means the most expensive. These are the wines for those who want to impress and, well, fork out a ton of cash. Dom Pérignon and Cristal are the most well-known examples of such.
  • 2005 Louis Roederer Cristal Brut Champagne- $225.00
  • Laurent Perrier Grand Siecle Champagne Brut- $127.50

Cava is sparkling wine from Spain, usually from the Penedès region, south of Barcelona. It's made with the same method as Champagne: method Champenoise.  The traditional grape varietals used are Macabeo, Parellada and Xarel-lo. In general, these are great value sparkling wines.
  • NV Villafranca Casteller Cava Brut- $12.75
  • NV Mercat Cava Brut Nature- $16.00
  • Gramona Gran Cuvee Cava- $22.50
If you're looking to spend some cash, Lampasone suggests 2006 Agusti Torello Mata Cava Brut Nature Gran Reserva KRIPTA: a tête de cuvée Cava. It goes for $90.00.

American Sparkling Wines
Most often made in the traditional method, American sparkling wines are generally well received and are a great value. Lampasone suggests some wines that are actually produced by Champagne houses that have set up shop in California.
  • Schramsberg Blanc de Noirs Napa- $35.25
  • Roederer Estate Sparkling Wine Anderson Valley NV- $21.75
  • Roederer Estate L'Ermitage Anderson Valley- the tête de cuvée- $45.00

Prosecco is Italian sparkling wine: generally not produced with the method Champenoise. The secondary fermentation takes place in huge tanks rather than in individual bottles, which is a main component of the traditional method. These wines hail from the Veneto region and are made with the glera grape. While Lampasone is not a huge fan of the results of the method used to produce large-scale production Proseccos he does assert, "They do have very high quality sparkling from Italy mostly from the Piedmont and Franciacorta, these are made with the method champenoise."
  • Soligo Prosecco Italy--not produced in the method Champenoise- $16.00
  • Contratto Spumante Brut Italy- $36.00
  • NV Ca del Bosco Franciacorta Cuvee Prestige Brut- $37.50

Moscato and Brachetto
For lovers of all things sweet, Lampasone suggests Moscato and Brachetto. These wines, which come from the Piedmont region of Italy, are not as bubbly as Champagne or most other sparkling wines and have a significantly lower alcohol content--five percent.
  • Malvira Birbet Brachetto Roero NV- $23.00
  • La Spinetta Moscato Bianco Spino- $21.00
  • La Battagliola Lambrusco Grasparossa- $20.75

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