I love to hear the pop of a ‘champagne’ cork—my heart skips a beat and my mood instantly turns to festive anticipation. The holiday season is upon us in full swing, so I wanted to share some tasting and buying tips of that golden, glamorous glass of sparkling bubbles.
With so many choices available, how can one choose between a Champagne, Crèmant, Cava or Prosecco? Not to mention sparkling wines from California! I for one always get Cavas and Proseccos mixed up. I can’t remember the difference or which one I prefer without tasting them side by side, which doesn’t help much when I’m standing in the middle of the bubbly section at my local wine store. And, what is a Crèmant? Well fear no more, several of us contributors from The Last Best Plates were happy to meet up with Debbie Endres at her gorgeous and newest venture, Uncorked Wine Bar, along with Gigi Aelbers Kellett of Synergigi Interior Design, who created the luscious interior mood of Uncorked. We arrived, dressed in our holiday best, delighted to educate ourselves—all in the name of bubbly.
Debbie and Jessica Milton, one of her local wine distributors from Cardinal Distributing, walked us through our tasting class with a wealth of information and three wonderful varieties of sparkling wine and one Champagne; all from different countries or regions, each ranging in prices and distinguishable characteristics. Some of these bubblies, along with a large variety of others, can be purchased at the Gourmet Cellar, which adjoins Uncorked.
We started with a Prosecco Brut from Maschio ($13). Just like Champagne can only be made in the Champagne region of France, Prosecco can only be made in Italy, in the Veneto and Friuli Venezia Giulia regions, North of Venice. The first noticeable characteristic of Prosecco is that it has larger bubbles than Champagne and Cava because it undergoes a second fermentation called the Charmat Method. This takes place in stainless steel tanks rather than individual bottles such as the méthode champenoise or ‘traditional method’. It is then bottled under pressure, making it less expensive to produce. Because of the fermentation process, Prosecco doesn’t age in the bottle, thus it doesn’t have the complex yeasty or toasted bread tasting notes as méthode champenoise. Prosecco has a light, young, crisp and spritzy feel on the pallet with simple tasting notes of green apple, pear and white peach. Some Proseccos come across very peachy, which gives them their distinctive character and reminds me of summer. Because of its fruit forward characteristics, Prosecco tends to be more on the sweeter end of the spectrum, but is still quite dry compared to other sparkling wines.
Our second tasting was a Cava Brut from Poema ($11.50). Cava is produced throughout all of Spain from a variety of grape blends, in the same traditional method as Champagne. Because of this method of fermentation, Cava has smaller, longer lasting bubbles than Prosecco and a slight nutty and toasted bread element achieved from the aging and fermenting with the yeast and sugar in the bottle. It isn’t as creamy as Champagne, but has fresh, earthy subtleties and balanced fruit characteristics of citrus and Granny Smith apples, making it less sweet than Prosecco. Cava’s are my favorite every day or brunch crowd bubbly. It’s a great value and can be enjoyed alone or mixed with a splash of orange juice on Christmas morning. It’s also great for making Champagne Cocktails for any occasion.
Our third tasting is one of my new favorite alternatives to Champagne, Crèmant de Bourgogne Blanc de Noir Brut NV from Terres Secretes ($25). Crèmants are all the luxury of Champagne, but without the hefty price tag. They are produced from the same méthode champenoise in wine regions all over France, but the best tasting Crèmants hail from the northern cool-climate areas, which also happen to be where the Champagne region is. The grapes used in the northern regional Crèmants are also very similar to the same grapes used in Champagne. This particular Crèmant de Bourgogne has a beautiful complexity and creaminess one usually only finds in Champagne. The small and plentiful bubbles accompany the balanced yeasty bread and mixed berry taste, creating a dryer, richer bubbly.
Finally…the Champagne! Moet Imperial Brut by Moet & Chandon ($48) was everything I was hoping for, and more. I first noticed how many teeny, tiny bubbles were present in each and every sip, creating a velvety, creamy texture that is sumptuous on the pallet. The tasting notes were the perfect melding of yeasty, buttery brioche with vibrant green apple and citrus. Each sip was full-bodied and fluffy—intriguing. To our delight, Debbie offered a plate of Uncorked-house made blinis topped with crème fresh and whitefish caviar, to accompany our Moet Chandon tasting—wow, I felt like I had been transported to a different life, if only for a fleeting moment!
No matter your budget or taste preference, there is a bubbly out there. Uncorked also offers sparkling wine tasting flights and Champagne by the glass from their menu.
Sparkling Bubbly is truly an experience…an iconic luxury…best enjoyed in small, savoring sips in an exquisite setting of your choice.
*All prices mentioned are subject to change
Uncorked Wine and Cheese Bar
4:00-9:00 pm, Tuesday – Saturday
212 West Park Street (Historic Depot)
Livingston, Montana 59047
Two for One Tuesday
Order a cheese plate, buy one glass of wine or beer and get a second glass of same or lesser value free between 4:00-7:00pm.
Wine Club Wednesday
For Gourmet Cellar Wine Club members, $1 off any beverage all night.
Thursday Wine Tastings
From 6:00-7:00 pm, a time to taste new wines and learn a few things about them. Most will be with Ron, sommelier and great teacher or one of the knowledgable wine reps.