In the past couple of years, rosé has finally become a “thing” in our neck of the tundra. Now it’s time for bubble-icious versions of the pink stuff to follow suit.
And what better occasion than that benchmark of Hallmark romance, St. Valentine’s Day, since bubblies seem special and the color embodies passion, intrigue and ardor. It’s amore in a glass.
Fizzy salmon-colored wines emanate from all over, a far cry from the all-too-recent days when the only options were spendy stuff from Champagne or Cold Duck. Now, not only are more producers in Champagne thinking pink, but Spain, Italy and non-Champagne regions of France are producing high-value stuff. Domestically, vintners from New York to New Mexico — and of course California — are getting into the game.
Which means you don’t have to spring for Bollinger, Pol Roger, Charles Heidsieck or Billecart-Salmon. Although if you can, you should, for all of them are surpassingly sublime. Or, for a less expensive (under $50) and still swell version from Champagne, look for Nicolas Feuillatte.
Some other recommended options, by region:
Alsace: These wines tend toward the dry side but showcase the cherry/berry flavors that make non-bubbly rosés so popular. These, and the other French wines below, usually fall in the $20 to $25 range. The Lucien Albrecht Cremant d’Alsace Brut Rosé is smooth and sexy; Pierre Sparr Cremant D’Alsace Brut Rosé is fun but fascinatingly layered, and the Zinck Cremants d’Alsace Brut Rosé will inevitably make the Beatles classic “Strawberry Fields Forever” pop into your head.
France: The Baron de Seillac Brut Rosé is juicy with a sensuous finish; Louis Bouillot Cremant de Bourgogne Rosé is filled with vim, vigor and verve, with an especially nice late jolt, and the Buget Cerdon is racy and persistent.
Italy: The Prosecco craze has helped make bubbles a more acceptable everyday option, so maybe coral-colored renditions can do the same. The vibrant Astoria Lounge Rosé Prosecco and the clean and lively Clara C Fiori Rosé, made with pinot noir grapes and checking in at around $15, are great places to start. And finish. Elsewhere in the boot-shaped country, look for the tasty, tingly Cleto Chiarli Rosé Brut Spumante or the nimble Lamberti Vino Spumante Rosé, both of which should get you some change from a $20 bill. The same goes for another delight from Cleto Chiarli, the Vecchia Modena Premium Lambrusco.
Spain: Cava has been a little late to the blush game, but two thoroughly pleasant, affordable — and dissimilar in style — options are worth seeking out: the silky Mont-Marcal Cava Brut Rosé and the savory Juve’ y Camps Pinot Noir Cava Brut Rosé.
Austria: Yes, Austria. Coincidentally (or perhaps not), my tasting notes for a pair of pink sparklers from this emerging wine region each include the word “yum.” The Brundlmayer Brut Rosé is sturdy but pristine, while the Szigeti Pinot Noir Rosé Brut is laden with sumptuous red-fruit flavors and spot-on texture.
The USA: I dearly hope that before too very long we’ll see more salmon-hued sparklers from New York’s Finger Lakes region in these parts; I tasted several super ones while there last year. For now, we can happily “settle” for stellar stuff from New Mexico (zingy and zesty Gruet), Oregon (rich and rustic Argyle) and California (the expressive and near-endless 2012 Scharffenberger Brut Rosé).
One reason these wines are worth exploring is that they also can make great cocktails, working in any concoction that calls for bubbles, from mimosas and punch to kir royales and bellinis. Keep in mind that they tend to be a little fruitier than “white” sparklers.
They also can be blended, to superb effect, with other types of wine. An increasingly popular Italian red varietal, Brachetto, is sometimes given the spumante treatment, and a version I tried recently that is blended 50-50 with moscato, the Elio Perrone Bigaro, completely rocked my world. It’s lush but sturdy, and just sweet enough to play very well with that other Feb. 14 staple, chocolate.
And by the way, that pairing also works on 364 other days of the year.
Bill Ward writes atdecant-this.com. Follow him on Twitter: @billward4.