What’s the difference between sparkling wine and champagne? Well, for one thing, champagne is considered “the king of sparkling wine,” and is exclusively produced in Champagne, France.
But, there seems to be a buzz around sparkling wine these days. Unlike decades ago, today you don’t need a special occasion to enjoy a glass of it. What has caused this buzz?
A few months ago, I spoke with Maud Bentley, Wine Director of Cheesetique about this trend. Here’s what she had to say:
Question: You don’t need a reason anymore to enjoy a glass of sparkling wine, do you?
Maud: Not in my book! Sparkling wines are wonderful in the summer when it’s really hot outside, a true refresher! And who doesn’t like a mimosa during a casual Sunday brunch? Bubblies also pair beautifully with cheese, especially creamy brie-like ones. The bubbles serve to cleanse the palate between each bite of fromage.
Question: Why are we seeing this growth in popularity of sparkling wines?
Maud: Customers are starting to see that sparkling wines aren’t just for holidays or weddings anymore. They are wonderful during brunch, lunch or dinner. We are also seeing more inexpensive quality sparkling wines on the market, especially from Spain or Prosecco from Italy. Sparkling wines are crowd pleasers too, almost everyone likes them!
Question: What are some great red sparkling wines?
Maud: This is a fun and unique type of sparkling wine! Much richer and fruitier in flavor than traditional white sparkling wines. Loose End Sparkling MSM (Merlot, Shiraz, Mourvedre) is great. I also like Italian Lambrusco such as Chairli Cenenario. This light and lively red has low fizz and an abundance of floral and strawberry aromas, perfect with blue cheese!
Question: How should one go about choosing a sparkling wine?
Maud: When looking for an inexpensive sparkling wine I usually go for Cava over Prosecco as it’s made in the method champenoise. It is usually of higher quality. If you are looking for a dry sparkling wine don’t be fooled by the term sec on a wine label. Even though this means “dry” in French, sec sparkling wines actually have more residual sugar than brut sparkling wines.
Question: What about choosing a champagne?
Maud: I prefer “grower champagne” from small, independent producers who grow their own grapes rather than buying them from various suppliers. All of the famous names (Mum, Moet, Cristal) are made in large quantities and taste pretty much the same year over year (and charge a lot for the brand name of their wines).
Grower Champagnes can be a great value and are made in small batches which truly reflect terrior and vintage variations. It’s like comparing Cracker Barrel Cheddar from the grocery store to a farmstead American cheddar from Vermont. Both might be good, but the smaller producer will always create a more unique product with higher level of care.
Question: Have to ask this, what cheeses pair well with sparkling wine pairings?
Maud: Brillat-Savarin is a wonderful triple-crème from France. It’s so ooey gooey and decadent and pairs beautifully with any sparkling wine. Another fun pairing is a stinky cheese such as Epoisses with a demi-sec sparkling wine. That hint of residual sugar will help to soften the pungent bite of the cheese. Of course, there’s Langres, a renowned cheese made in the Champagne region. It has a depression at the top called a fontaine which is actually meant for pouring Champagne into! Grab a piece of crusty baguette and scoop out the runny cheese and champagne together, delish!
Cheesetique reminds you of one of those small French cheese shops that you may find while meandering the streets of Paris. With locations in Shirlington and Del Ray, the restaurant/store offers a selection of cheeses, wines and a fabulous menu perfect for any mood or time of day. And, if you are waiting for a table, you can always check out a wine tasting or taste some cheese.