’Tis the season for Champagne, Cava, Prosecco or sparkling wine by whatever name. Whether you’re planning a holiday meal or simply toasting the new year, bubbly lends a festive flair to any occasion.
But keep in mind that not all sparkling wines are created equal. As is the case with table wines, the quality spectrum can be quite wide. So it doesn’t hurt to have a little knowledge regarding label lingo, or a little help from your friends on the Vinesse tasting panel.
While vinous language, in general, can be challenging to master, there’s one sparkling wine term that causes more confusion than any other: “Extra Dry.” When you see those two words on a bottle, you’d think that the wine inside would be dry, right? Wrong. “Extra Dry” sparkling wine actually is slightly sweet.
The “driest” of sparkling wines carry the “Extra Brut” designation. Those labeled “Brut” are dry, but not mouth puckering.
In addition to “Extra Dry,” terms denoting sweetness include “Sec” (lightly sweet), “Demi-Sec” (sweet), and “Doux” (very sweet).
The sweeter sparklers make great companions to fruit-based desserts, or can be used as desserts in place of food.
Dry sparklers are ideal for appetizers and main courses.
Brut wines, generally cuvees of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, are great with fowl dishes. So if there’s another turkey, or perhaps a Cornish game hen, in your near future, think: “Brut.”
Blanc de Noirs, made primarily from Pinot Noir, can be paired with “challenging” meats, such as ham, or with similarly salty fare such as dates wrapped in bacon.
Blanc de Blancs, made entirely from Chardonnay grapes, is the go-to sparkler for sushi, shellfish and other delicacies from the sea.
Generally speaking, sparkling wines are among the most versatile of all food companions, so don’t be afraid to do some experimenting. Now that you know some of the lingo, don’t be surprised if you experience true bubbly bliss this holiday season.