Sparkling wine is fun and festive and more sparkling wine is consumed during the holidays than at any other time of year. California sparkling wines are hearty Champagne competitors because of their quality and affordable price.
Sparkling wine’s brut (dry) category comes in four different styles. And as Sunset Magazine’s Wine Editor, Sara Schneider explains, knowing the difference can enhance your food-pairing knowledge.
Sara describes the four different styles, and even provides food-pairing examples:
1. Blanc de blancs
Made mostly out of Chardonnay, this is the most delicate style. It carries the apple, pear, and lemon that still Chards do, but because the fruit is on the light side, the toast and yeastiness from a sparkler’s time on the lees (spent yeast) tend to pop. And the bubbles are ethereal.
Pair with: creamy cheeses; sushi, sashimi, crudo, and cooked seafood of all kinds (from shrimp poppers to fish tacos); dishes that involve pastry, like chicken pot pie.
2. Brut blends
The most common style, these are blends of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, for the most part (the two main grapes in Champagne). As in blanc de blancs, the Chardonnay brings its apple, pear, and citrus to the mix, but the Pinot adds some red berry and cherry. This range of flavors makes a brut incredibly food-friendly.
Pair with: spicy cured meats (from fancy charcuterie to a good Polish dog), chile-rubbed roast turkey, salads and other dishes that include tart winter fruit like pomegranates and cranberries, North African flavors (charmoula), and Caribbean preparations (jerk chicken).
3. Blanc de noirs
As the name implies, this is white wine made mostly (or completely) from red grapes–Pinot Noir. No matter how light, though, the robust, spicy red fruit flavors that lurk in a blanc de noirs make it a delicious match for hearty meat.
Pair with: tangy, spicy beef (think empanadas), duck with a fruit-based sauce, leg of lamb, Asian dishes spiced with ginger, Indian curries.
4. Brut rosé
Heavy on Pinot Noir, with a little time on the skins to pick up color, a bottle of pink bubbles is the most festive form of all. The berry/cherry flavors seem more obvious, if only because of the wine’s color. And that fruit-forward character partners well with spicy foods.
Pair sparkling rosés with: Mexican food, Cajun and Creole flavors, salmon caviar, garlicky dishes (chicken with 40 cloves!), and holiday ham.
To learn more about red, white and sparkling wines, join Sara on Curious.com to watch Sunset’s Essentials of Wine, a new in-depth video-based guide to wine appreciation.