Wine 101: Bubbles

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If you ask us, life is better with a glass of wine. Rosé all day, popping the cork on a bottle of champagne or relaxing with with some red – we are wine aficionados. But do we possess extensive wine knowledge? Know how to choose a bottle beyond its label? Understand our own flavor palates? Not necessarily. So, we turned to a skilled sommelier for some much needed advice. Introducing Wine 101, a series of four posts {bubbles, whites, rosés, reds} showcasing five wines per category that are delicious, made by passionate and sustainable farmers, and $20 or less per bottle.

We realized that we had two main dilemmas: finding quality, affordable wines and understanding wine jargon. While every grocery and liquor store has plenty of two buck chuck options, those bottles tend to be filled with chemicals and additives and few of them actually taste good. Our sommelier told us that wines should always be clean and healthy. Yes, you read that correctly – wine should be nutritious! With that in mind, we set out to find wines from organic and bio-diverse vineyards within a reasonable budget.

The second problem is understanding the buzzwords surrounding the wine industry. We love to ask for recommendations on wine, yet descriptions such as oaky, medium-bodied, or polished tannins may not aid in the decision making process. With each wine included in this series, we have listed keywords that describe each wine and that you can also use to define your own palate.

We hope that this series is fun {or tipsy!} and that you find a new favorite wine to try. Consider it like having your own personal sommelier!


Sparkling – These selections start with the driest and crispest style featuring more tart fruit flavors and a linear mouthfeel (very fresh and clean, not lingering flavors, quick flavor blast and then a refreshing finish). As the list progresses, we move to fuller bodied sparklers with riper fruit flavors, more body and more persistence of flavor on the palate.


NV Laurens Crémant de Limoux “Blanc de Blancs” Brut (Chardonnay-Chenin Blanc-Mauzac), Languedoc, France – $12.99

Pale gold with tiny persistent bubbles and a distinctive nose with hints of pear, orange, dried fruits and rose petals. Round on the palate with delicate flavors of white flowers and light citrus.

Cremant de Limoux is an appellation for the modern-styled sparkling wines from vineyards around the town of Limoux, in the Pyrenean foothills of southern France. They are made from Mauzac, Chenin Blanc and Chardonnay, with an emphasis on the latter two more fashionable varieties. Historically, the local wines were made predominantly, or even exclusively, from Mauzac, known here as Blanquette. This more traditional variety survives today in Blanquette de Limoux and Blanquette de Limoux Methode Ancestrale wines. The creation of the Cremant de Limoux appellation in 1990 was an attempt to allow modernization in local winemaking while preserving the traditional wine styles of the area.

Keywords: dry, crisp, mineral driven, tart fruit flavors, nice mousse of bubbles


NV Sorelle Bronca Prosecco di Valdobbiadene Extra Dry (Prosecco-etc.), Veneto, Italy – $15.99

Distinctive aroma of fresh-cut pear, wisteria, pastry cream and lemon zest. The pear/apple fruit notes continue on the palate, with the Extra Dry level of sweetness very well balanced by fresh acidity.

Some grapes are versatile, making good wine in a range of styles, and some grapes seem to have just one thing they do well; the Prosecco grape is only at its best when it is made into sparkling wine, and only when grown around the villages of Conegliano and Valdobbiadene, in the hills north-west of Venice. When it is grown and made correctly it has a pear-like aroma and flavor that is delightful, the perfect start to a meal.

Unfortunately most Prosecco is made by large, industrial-scale producers who buy base wine and then perform only the secondary (sparkling) fermentation themselves, often with mediocre results. By contrast, the Bronca sisters grow their own fruit in steep hillside vineyards, controlling the entire process themselves. Low yields and hillside-grown fruit ensure that the wine has good concentration and acidity. This acidity is necessary to balance the traditional ‘ Extra-Dry’ level of sweetness. (Extra-Dry is slightly less dry than Brut; both terms are used to describe the amount of sweetness in sparkling wines. The Prosecco drunk in Italy is almost always Extra-Dry; the pear notes only emerge when the wine is not bone-dry, which is why Brut Prosecco isn’t as good and is mostly exported. This small estate is managed by Antonella and Ersiliana,the sisters (‘Sorelle’) Bronca, and their families.

Keywords: dry, fresh, fruit driven, balanced mineral/fruit flavors, more rapid burst of bubbles


NV Gruet “Blanc de Noirs” Brut (Pinot Noir-Chardonnay), New Mexico – $15.99

Complex aromas and flavors of raspberry, baked pear and cherry are complemented by a hint of toasted vanilla. The balance of fruit, minerals and crisp acidity lead to a round mouthfeel and lasting finish.

In 1984, the well-established Gruet family of Champagne decided to follow the way of so many other European pioneers before them, moving westward to the high desert of New Mexico. While the New Mexican desert gets its fair share of heat, their vineyards of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are planted at over 4,000 feet altitude—the highest in the country. Bringing their incredible savoir faire from the motherland of all bubblies, the Gruets manage to produce some of the most exciting sparkling wines this side of the Atlantic.

Keywords: full, rich, brioche notes, ripe fruit flavors, nice mousse of bubbles


NV Bailly-Lapierre Crémant de Bourgogne Brut Rosé (Pinot Noir-Gamay), Burgundy, France – $17.99

Aromas of juicy red berries, rose petal and short cake. Filled with finesse on the palate with frothy bubbles, plush fruit and wonderful creaminess. This is very easy drinking and not sugary or sweet.

Nestled in the hills of northern Burgundy, the village of Bailly is the birthplace of the Crémant de Bourgogne appellation. Bubblies from these cool, chalky soils around Chablis are an affordable and brilliant alternative to their pricier cousins from just 100 miles north. This is where Burgundy rubs shoulders with Champagne; Geographically and stylistically, there’s no better comparison.

Producing wine since 1972, Bailly Lapierre’s cellars are housed in nearly 10 acres of ancient subterranean galleries; rock quarries carved out in the late Middle Ages. Before release, the finished sparkling wines rest for up to 18 months in ideal conditions of 54 degrees and 80% humidity, gaining weight and complexity.  A significant producer with  a 300,000 annual case production, Bailly Lapierre exports only one-third of their wine, with the majority remaining in France.

This Pinot Noir-based Crémant de Bourgogne is a delicious example of what limestone-laden soils have to offer. As in Champagne, the sparkle is created in the bottle by adding a mixture of wine, sugar and yeast. The carbon dioxide produced by this secondary fermentation is trapped in the bottle. And voilà!

Keywords: juicy, aromatic, balanced mineral/fruit flavors, nice mousse of bubbles


NV Barbolini Lambrusco di Castelvetro (Lambrusco Grasparossa), Modena, Italy – $12.99

Attractive purplish red with vigorous purple foam when poured; aroma of plums and black fruit. Medium weight on the palate, dry and plummy, with a faint bitterness at the finish that makes it an excellent match for certain foods. (Pizza, or fresh pasta with ragù, salumi.)

There is an English book about Italian wine called ‘Life After Lambrusco.’ We think life is more interesting while drinking Lambrusco, because good Lambrusco is a wonderful thing; dry, grapey, aromatic, and it foams purple when you pour it into the glass. You haven’t lived until you’ve seen purple foam in your glass, particularly if you are about to eat some pizza, a sandwich, or pasta with Ragu’ Bolognese. Our sommelier has even had the pleasure of eating Ragu’ Bolognese with this wine in the company of Signor Buffagni, the winemaker of this particular Lambrusco, and calls it one of the greatest food and wine combinations in all of Italy. If that doesn’t entice you, the LA Times conducted a tasting to find out which Italian wine went best with cured meats, and this wine was their favorite.

Lambrusco is a family of grape varieties, Lambrusco Grasparossa is the particular variety of Lambrusco, and Castelvetro is where it’s from (near Modena). The grapes are estate grown and fermented into a dry red base wine, then batches of the base wine are re-fermented in special reinforced tanks to add bubbles. The wine is bottled in a champagne bottle with a champagne cork. This wine bears no resemblance to the mass-produced Lambrusco that was popular here some years ago, and if you haven’t had a good estate-bottled example you should try it.

Keywords: Lambrusco is one of a kind! It is lightly sparkling, full of bitter fruit flavors and bright acidity for food pairings.


Which wine is your favorite from the list?

xoxo NPJ

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