Lots of bubbly will be poured in the next 48 hours – what will you drink to ring-in the New Year?

Many people have the misconception that all sparkling wine is Champagne. However, the only sparkling wine legally labelled “Champagne” must be produced in Champagne region 90 miles northwest of Paris. The wine must follow strict laws such as Methode Champenoise, the traditional method of fermenting in the bottle, and the varietals must be Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier grown in the Champagne region.

Sparkling wines are made in many countries – Cava from Spain, Prosecco from Italy and Brut from California. Sparkling wines are often a blend of grapes, though Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are the most common. Blanc de Blancs (white of white French translation ) describes sparkling wines with 100% Chardonnay and Blanc de Noirs (white of dark) describes sparkling wines with 100% Pinot Noir. By removing the grape skins within 24 hours of crushing and before fermentation starts, Blanc de Noirs remain lightly colored despite their juice from red grapes.

I did a side-by-side tasting of two California sparkling wines from Gloria Ferrer – Sonoma Brut and Blanc de Noirs, both made with Methode Champenoise. Gloria Ferrer is owned by Freixenet of Spain, the world’s largest producer of sparkling wine. The winery in Carneros (Napa, CA) is one of the closest wineries to San Francisco which makes it an ideal start to a day of wine-tasting. What can be better than sipping bubbly and eating toasted almonds at 10 am on a sun-splashed deck in the vineyards!


Carneros, California $19.
100% Pinot Noir, this was my favorite. Wine Spectator 90 rating Fun and festive, with floral raspberry and graham cracker aromas leading to crisp and succulent lemon and strawberry flavors. A reliable value in California bubbly..”


Carneros, California $19.
Wine Spectator 90 rating A festive sparkler, featuring bright aromas of raspberry and baked apple, with balanced, zesty pear, cinnamon and yeast flavors.”


When used to describe the dryness of sparkling wine BRUT means more dry than EXTRA DRY.  In 19th century when champagne makers modified the recipe to make a drier wine, Brut was made after the sweeter Extra Dry existed.

Cheers, Bob the WineGuy

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