We’re Toasting: Sensational Sparklers

Originally published in “West Hawaii Today” June 19, 2018

This week I celebrate a big birthday, one of those hallmark kind, requiring a look back at the life you’ve led, and forward to the what the future holds. To toast the day, a sparkling wine. From every corner of the world, produced in classic or more modern methods, and ranging in price from very inexpensive to extraordinarily expensive, sparkling wines and Champagne are the go-to options for celebrations. Here are a few to consider.

This week is also National Prosecco week, celebrating the fun, flirty, frothy sparkling wine produced from Glera fruit in the Prosecco region of Northwestern Italy. The wine is made in the Charmant method, allowing production and bottling within months of harvest, capturing the youthfulness of the wine. From hand-harvested fruit grown in the steeply terraced, rocky vineyards of Prosecco Superiore’s Conegliano-Valdobbiadene region, Ruggeri Prosecco Superiore DOCG Extra Dry ($25) melds white flower and honeysuckle with green apple and lemon-lime citrus, with a steely note of salty minerality on the finish.

Southern France’s Languedoc region is home to what is thought to be the oldest sparkling wine region in the world, Limoux. Sparkling wine was first produced in Limoux by the Benedictine monks of Saint-Hilaire in 1531, (with locals telling the story going that Dom Perignon tasted the sparkling wine here and took it back to Champagne.) In the foothills of the Pyrenees Mountains, with high elevations and brisk winds keeping grapes cool, freshness is locked into growing fruit, ideal for quality sparkling wine. Thomas Jefferson was a great fan of Limoux wines, with their sparklers being the only bubbles found in his cellar at Monticello. Gerard Bertrand Winery honors this with his Thomas Jefferson Crémant de Limoux Brut Rosé ($25) layering red apple, raspberry, and toasted brioche.

First crafted in 2006 to celebrate the 20th anniversary of J Winery and Vineyards in Sonoma, J Vineyards “Cuvée 20” Russian River Valley Brut ($37) has become the signature wine for a celebration, balancing bright acidity with ripe fruit and white flowers. Made in the traditional method, as they do in Champagne, adding a creamy, yeasty, nuttiness to the Meyer lemon, golden apple and orange blossom filled sparkler.

Made from 100% Chardonnay fruit in the heart of Champagne, Ruinart Blanc de Blancs ($125) defines refinement and grace, delicately layering wisteria and jasmine with white peach, apple, and citrus fruits. Clean, focused and textured, with subtle smokey earthiness and wet stone minerality.

For the grandest of birthdays, vintage Champagne is a bonus, and Veuve Clicquot Le Grand Dame 2006 Brut ($235) is icing on the cake. Only made in exceptional years, when growing conditions are ideal for crafting a vintage product, Le Grand Dame is a vibrant and beautifully structured sparkler with distinction, balancing lively acidity with fresh fruit. The palate layers creamy lemon curd with toasted brioche, baked apple, and spice.