Sparkling wines come in many styles and flavors. Champagne or other wines made in the methode traditionelle (formerly known as methode champenoise) format might be the standard, but prosecco, Moscato d’Asti and others have carved out a niche.
What I am starting to see more of these days are wines that are slightly effervescent but do not have the full fizz of classic sparkling wines. Somewhere between still and sparkling, these wines use regular corks, as opposed to a typical Champagne enclosure with a metal cage, and come in a variety of bottle shapes.
Some of these half-bubblies are variations of traditionally made wines, and others are obscure and esoteric. On the whole, they tend to have less alcohol than Champagne but more than Moscato d’Asti. While not as layered as Champagne or high-quality sparkling wines made in California and elsewhere, they are lighter wines with a refreshing effervescence that’s perfect for the spring and summer.
My guess is that as these wines increase in popularity, more-complex examples may emerge, but there’s something to be said for simplicity — especially during hot weather. Not only do these wines make excellent aperitifs, they are a fine substitution for mimosas should you choose to imbibe during the early hours of the day.
As stated, there’s a pretty big range, and while I applaud experimentation, not everyone gets it right. Here are three crazy fizzes you can count on to enjoy during the next few months:
Castillo Perelada Cresta Rosa, NV (Penedes, Spain): Penedes is known for Cava, and Castillo Perelada makes a fare share, but it also produces three partially sparkling wines. Its Blanc Pescador, made from the main Cava grapes — macabeo, xarello and parellada — is the best-selling white wine in Spain. As refreshing and enjoyable as it is, the rosé, Cresta Rosa, is a bit more interesting. A blend of tempranillo, garnacha (grenache), carignan and monastrell (mourvedre), it has the fruit intensity of a red wine, but the effervescence lightens up the palate to provide a fresh berry and plum flavor. Suggested retail: $11.99
Huber Gruner Veltliner, Obere Steigen, 2005 (Burgenland, Austria): Burgenland is not known for gruner veltliner, let alone an esoteric gem like this, but Markus Huber — who has taken over the winemaking at his family’s estate — represents the new guard. Minerally with subtle peach, pear, tangerine and grapefruit flavors, and a hint of beeswax in the nose, this wine will enliven your palate. Suggested retail: $16.99
Il Bisserino St. Columban DOC Vin de Milan, 2007 (Lombardia, Italy): Rumor has it that sparkling red wine is now all the rage in Milan, hence the name. Composed of croatina, barbera and uva rara, this wine is a twist on a traditional blend from the area. With violets, black cherries, plums and tannin-infused bubbles, this wine is very versatile with food. Suggested retail: $20
Pamela S. Busch is the wine director and proprietor of CAV Wine Bar & Kitchen in San Francisco.