Those of us who appreciate sparkling wine have never had it so good. Prices, for the most part, are wonderfully low, and quality has never been better. There are many reasons for both, but one is that more of us appreciate sparkling than ever before. It’s one of the big changes in the wine business, that bubbly is not just for holidays and special occasions.
Still, this time of year is sparkling’s busiest season. You can splurge with Champagne, from the Champagne region of France, but there is also well-priced wine from California, Spain (called cava), Italy, and even other parts of France.
Consider these wines for the holiday:
• Sarao Cava Brut ($11): This Spanish bubbly demonstrates how much well made cava is available. Look for a little apple fruit, though this is a softer wine, without the citrusy tang of some other cavas. But it’s well made and worth at least what it costs.
• Borgo Sanleo Prosecco ($13): Not as sweet as some Proseccos, the sparkling wine of Italy, but fruity (practically tropical) and very refreshing. Not as bubbly as its Spanish, French and California counterparts, but it’s not supposed to be.
• J Brut Rosé ($38): Top-flight California sparkling with wine cranberry and raspberry fruit that is still young and will get better the longer it ages. It’s hard to go wrong with any of J’s wine, even at this price.
Finally, a personal note: This is the final wine column I’ll be writing for the Advocate. It has been a joy and a pleasure to do it, and to see how much you appreciated it. But I have other writing that needs to be done, including a couple of books; you can keep up with my wine writing at winecurmudgeon.com.
With your wine
(Adapted from Patricia Wells, “Bistro Cooking”)
Gougere are French-style cheesepuffs, and it seems as if they were invented for sparkling wine. Wonderful as a first course or as something to pass around for holiday guests.
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 stick butter
1 cup water
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup grated Swiss-style cheese
1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Combine salt, butter and water in saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring to mix.
2. Remove the pan from the heat and mix in the flour, stirring vigorously. It will make a smooth, soft dough. Put the pan back on the heat, stirring the dough all the time. The goal is to dry it a little; when it starts to stick to the pan, it’s dry enough.
3. Transfer the warm dough to a food processor with a metal blade. Add the eggs and half the cheese, and mix until everything is incorporated. The dough should still be warm.
4. Place the dough in 2-inch rounds on a non-stick baking sheet (or use parchment paper) using a spoon, pastry bag or even a melon baller. Sprinkle the tops with the remaining cheese. Bake in the preheated oven until golden brown, 15 to 25 minutes.
About 45 minutes, Serves four
Ask the wine guy
What does “brut” mean for sparkling wines?
Brut means the wine is dry, although dry in sparkling isn’t quite as dry as it is in wine without bubbles. Also, Italian brut sparklers are less dry than French, American or Spanish bubblies.
Ask The Wine Guy