Coming on the heels of the holidays, the new year and Valentine's Day, when most sparkling wine is consumed, I have found myself continuing to consume bubbly happily as a regular table wine.
Yes, sparkling wine - whether it's called Champagne, Cremant, Sekt, Prosecco, Cava, Spumante or something else - is the first choice of most people for celebrations of all types. But the stuff is so enjoyable I simply have decided to continue the celebrations throughout the year. Why restrict effervescent wines to special occasions when they can make an ordinary day seem special?
Champagne still sets the standard and an NV Brut is the most widely enjoyed style, partly because it is the most affordable. It also represents the signature style of a Champagne house. A really good choice is the Laurent-Perrier NV Brut ($40). From an influential, 100-year-old property, its high proportion of chardonnay (50 percent) makes for a lively, fresh and elegant sparkler.
From Italy, Prosecco has achieved significant popularity in recent years and the Mionetto NV Brut Treviso ($14) is a solid example - fresh, pure and fruity. Another good choice is the Piccini NV Extra Dry ($16), which, despite its designation, actually reveals a bit of residual sugar. But it is hard for me to pass up the "Metodo Classico" of Ferrari, which grows its grapes on hillside vineyards in the foothills of the Alps not far from Lake Garda and makes its bubbles using the traditional Champagne Method. Their 2006 Ferrari Perl?($35) - 100 percent chardonnay and aged five years - is elegant and refined.
Cava is Spain's contribution that has long been a go-to sparkler for parties and a wallet- and food-friendly accompaniment for meals. Most Cava is produced by the traditional Champagne method in the Penedes valley in Cataluna not far from Barcelona. Most Cava features indigenous grapes, but Codorn?, which has been a premier sparkling wine producer since 1872 when the family introduced the traditional method to Spain, also produces an interesting line using the traditional Champagne grapes.
Anna de Codorn? NV Brut ($15), 70 percent chardonnay and 30 percent parellada, celebrates the life of Codorn?'s last heiress and the family she guided. It shows some richness and a little sweetness, with a solid structure and a creamy texture and more fruit than expected - apple, citrus and strawberry aromas and flavors. The NV Brut Ros?($15) is 70 percent pinot noir and 30 percent chardonnay. It focuses more on light cherry and strawberry but also a hint of green apple.
And how about a "Methode Traditionelle" Sekt from Germany? I heartily recommend the 2008 Raumland Blanc de Noirs Vintage Brut Cuvee Marie-Louise ($45). A great surprise, this wine shows a lot of verve and esteemed character of 100 percent chardonnay.
Of course, there also are several excellent sparkling options from California. One of my favorite producers these days is Laetitia in the Arroyo Grande Valley. The Laetitia NV Brut Cuvee ($25) is an enticing blend of pinot noir, chardonnay and pinot blanc, while the 2009 Laetitia Brut Ros?($30) shows the enticing fruit and lush body of its pinot noir/chardonnay blend.
If price is a major consideration, the Barefoot Bubbly line of sparklers always presents good values. At $10 a bottle, Barefoot is equally ideal for a weeknight meal or for a large party.