Meet the Sparklings: Cava



Have you heard of cava? It is, essentially, Spain’s answer to Champagne. More often than not it is made in the Champagne Method but since that, too, is limited to a particular region of France, a bottle of cava will usually denote “Método Tradicional” or Traditional Method.

In the case of the bottle I tasted for this post, it actually says none of these things, going for the more explanatory:

Sparkling wine fermented in this bottle.

Straightforward, yes?

As it was once in the glass.

This week’s wine guy pointed me in the direction of Kila Cava, stating that while it was still a Brut it was slightly sweeter than his favorite cava and he thought I would prefer it better. (I’m guessing he inferred this from my recent order of a case each of sweet red and sparkling moscato for my wedding next month.) It was not nearly as sharp as some brut-style sparklers I’ve tried, yet still very dry but not unpleasantly so.

The crisp, fruity nose gives way to matching flavors on the palate along with a slightly yeasty flavor. An apple tart or pear croissant. Very delicious, either way you slice it. Kila is a blend of the three most popular grapes for cava: macabeo, parellada, and xarel-lo. It has a very pale yellow color and a very delicate effervescence.

Cava offers a definite bonus in that it’s usually much lower-priced than a French Champagne and even some Italian Proseccos. The Kila was less than $10 and would make a wonderful celebration tipple if you’re looking for a lot of bubbly bang on a budget.

Meet the Sparklings: Moscato Spumante



Hold up, wait a minute, what’s a California wine doing with the name Champagne on it’s label?!

Because, yes, the Barefoot brand is most definitely a California-produced wine, but they’ve been using the Champagne name since before it was “outlawed” in 2006 so they have special dispensation, as long as it clearly says its home state on the label so as not to confuse the consumer. Not only that, but this is obviously not the Pinot Noir/Chardonnay blend a Champagne by any name would rightfully be.

Moscato is still pretty popular as far as it’s preponderance on store shelves attest to, so it’s no surprise that there are plenty of sparkling versions on the market as well. The bottle I had on hand, Barefoot Bubbly Moscato Spumante, is a low-alcohol, fairly sweet one that is fun for a girl’s night out sort of feel or, my reason for having it on hand, mixing into cocktails. (We’re actually using this as part of our signature drink for our wedding next month.)

And what about the name Spumante? I remember feeling very grown up when we were given a bottle of Asti Spumante by a client and I was allowed to have some (I was slightly under the legal drinking age, I admit). I remember it was fizzy and sort of sweet but the memory is tinged more with affectation than actual experience.

Apparently spumante and frizzante are two different classifications of Italian sparkling wines usually made by the Chamat method (double fermentation in vats, the frizzante having fewer bubbles than it’s cousin; though it should be noted that not ALL spumantes are made in that style, some only use single fermentation) in the Piedmont region. It is usually made from Moscato grapes, so barefoot’s appropriate of 2 different countries wine names is sort of understandable.

Described as peachy, I get more of a rosey-floral nose and even though it is definitely sweeter than Brut Champagne, it’s not as sweet as some others I’ve had. It pairs well with either very spicy foods (creating a complementary balance of flavors) or pair it with desserts–I tried it with a lemon shortbread cookie and was surprised at how the citrus toned down the floral notes.


Meet the Sparklings: Prosecco



Have you ever idly wondered what the difference is between Champagne and Prosecco? It’s not an uncommon questions but I’ll bet it’s one seldom followed-up on because by the time you’ve popped the cork and had a few sips you’ve probably moved on to other great questions of the day.

Like where you put the strawberries.

Prosecco is very much like Champagne in that they are both regionally distinct names–the Prosecco region in Italy (Veneto–which, if you were/are a “Real Housewives of New York” viewer you may giggle at the remembrance of when that name came up*) would be akin to the Champagne region in France. They each use a particular grape (for Prosecco it is the Glena grape, whereas Champagne is usually a blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay), and double ferment the wine to produce the lovely, bubbly finish. The fermentation, though, is where the biggest difference comes into play.

Whereas Champagne undergoes first a barrel fermentation followed by a bottle fermentation, Prosecco uses the Charmat style of double fermentation, both cycles of which take place in stainless steel vats. As I understand it, this is a faster process and perhaps one of the reasons Prosecco remains more readily available and priced lower than it’s French contemporary.

Prosecco can be either dry or sweet and my research shows that the label should tell you what level of sweetness the bottle contains. The bottle I happened to have on hand, the above-pictured Cupcake Vineyards variety, does not make this distinction that I can find, but by taste I can tell that it is of the more widely-available Brut or Extra Brut (extra dry) variety.

This particular Prosecco (and, yes, for the curious, the California brand does import this from the proper region in Italy, so it really is Prosecco, is very pale in color and, according to their tasting notes, smells of peach and melon with flavor influences of lemon and brioche. Actually, I get more toast from the nose (though if I really inhale I can get the peach, too, still not so much the melon) but can definitely taste the citrus notes. They suggest serving it with prosciutto-wrapped melon (I could go for that), a rich cheese like Gorgonzola (again, no complaints here), or a fettucine alfredo (okay, this one I’m not as thrilled by for some reason). At around or under, depending on your store, $10 a bottle you could drink far worse.


*Romona’s fondness for Pinot Grigio got her into creating her own brand produced in Veneto which she pronounced ve-NET-toh. Countess Luann corrected her by explaining it was pronounced VEH-ne-toh or some such and then roasted her in the interview voice-over about how stupid a person must be not to know how to pronounce the name of the region your wine was being produced in. Oh, Countess… As a child I remember reading words and understanding their meaning clearly enough (context clues!) but having only read them, didn’t know I was saying them wrong in my head. The word annihilation comes to mind, in particular. (What? I had found a copy of Alas, Babylon at the used bookstore and I was maybe 10 or so. You can imagine that annihilate hadn’t come up on the spelling tests, yet.) Also, I stopped watching after Alex left the show so I have no idea what hijinks the women are getting up to these days.

Meet the Sparklings: Brut



Today begins another Meet the Wines series here at Sips & Shots (and shared with our friends at Circle of Food)! We’ve done the whites, reds, and roses, so that means the celebratory sparklings are the only logical next step!


Yesterday may have been Talk Like a Pirate Day but I was not drinking rum. Nay! I was sipping some Champagne–or should I say Crémant. What is Crémant and what does it have to do with this, our first installment of sparkling wine?

I’m so glad you asked.

You know how sparkling wines not produced in Champagne, France, cannot be called Champagne? (They used to be allowed to use the little-c champagne under certain circumstances, but now that’s not even the case.) It’s not just in other countries, but even in France this rule holds true. So what about the sparkling wines made in the Champagne style from other regions–those are called Crémant. And according to the wine guy who filled me in on this the other evening, Crémant affords (pun intended) the buyer an excellent wine without the name-brand price-hike.

Such is the case with the Brut Prince Alexandre Crémant de Loire. While the vast majority of the sparkling wines you’ll encounter at your local wine shop or larger retailer will be brut, it’s never been a huge favorite of mine due to their burly, rough characteristics. The Prince Alexandre Crémant, on the other hand, has that necessary dryness but it isn’t as harsh or “edgy” as many brut champagnes I’ve tried in the past. The primary reason for this, according to the aforementioned wine guy, is that it is 70% Chenin Blanc, a grape known for producing “soft, light-bodied” whites, and the wine guy pointed me in it’s direction because I explained that I was not a great fan of brut-style sparklers.

The Prince Alexandre Crémant de Loire retains the crisp, fruity nose you’d expect of a brut champagne and a crisp flavor that tingles on the tip of your tongue. It is pale yellow in color and has very delicate bubbles and paired well with a vegetable risotto at dinner last night. This would be a prime candidate for pairing with fruit or cheese, I would think, and at $12.99 (current price as of this writing via ABC Fine Wine & Spirits) it’s not hard on the pocketbook for an impromptu celebration.

I still prefer a sweeter sparkling wine for my own pleasure, but if I were entertaining a mixed group, I could see myself picking up a few bottles of this one as a general crowd-pleaser.

Meet the Rosés | Gazela Rosé


Gazela Rosé wine from Portugal

Our last stop on the rosé-glasses tour is Portugal, with the surprising Gazela Rosé.

Surprising for a couple of reasons, in fact. First, when I opened the bottle there was a hint of effervescence, something I was (obviously) not expecting but not something I minded either. The next, immediate, thing I noticed was that the scent of the wine was very fruity and sweet–I hadn’t even poured it yet and I could tell.

Or could I?

The nose of this rosé is deceptive, though. In a spectacular bait-and-switch, as my nose was sending ‘get ready for something sweet’ signals to my mouth, my taste buds were going what the hell?! Because this is not a sweet wine. It’s a touch dry and very crisp. They weren’t kidding with this brief description on their bottle:

Gazela Rosé is a refreshing, young and floral light wine.

No kidding! If by refreshing you mean it’ll wake you up from any after-work stupor you may have been flumping your way through.

Please don’t misunderstand me, though–even though I was shocked by the flavor of the wine, once the initial confusion subsides what you have is on par with a pink Champagne. I see this going very well with fruit or at a cocktail party, it would mix wonderfully with purees for some sparkling cocktails, or refresh you in the waning heat of summer. (Like summer every really ends here in Florida. Well, for more than a couple of weeks.)

In fact, I just splashed some together with chilled cranberry juice and the two together are very nice.

Again, this was another Cost Plus/World Market find, so most likely at or under $10 a bottle and definitely party-stock worthy.

Next week we’re back to mixing and shaking, folks–are you ready?