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Issue Date: July 2004 Issue


Summer Sparklers

Like fireworks in July, summer (wine) sparklers bring a festive flair to your patio table. While Champagne may be the perfect accompaniment for an elegant outdoor affair, casual summer celebrations are sometimes better served by offering a glass of bubbly from outside the Champagne region of France. With many options on the market, introducing your guests to an undiscovered sparkler can bring zing to any occasion. Fizzy wine made outside of the Champagne region, however, must take on regional names: Americans sip sparkling wine, Italians serve spumante, Germans quaff Sketand Spaniards savor Cava.

Like Champagne, many American sparkling wines and Spanish Cavas are crafted using traditional methods that impart complex flavors and very small bubbles. These wines tend to cost a bit more as they require extra labor and additional time in the bottle before they go to market.

Other sparklers, such as Italy's Prosecco from the Veneto region, are made using modern methods that do not require long bottle aging. Unlike their traditional-method counterparts, these wines are sold quickly to maintain their fruity varietal character. Although their bubbles are larger and typically do not last as long in the glass, many bring a refreshing flavor and lower price tag that are just right for summer backyard entertaining.

Whether served as a patio apéritif or paired with entrees, the refreshing acidity and palate-pleasing bubbles of sparkling wines always offer a welcome reprise from the "brut" days of summer.

Marianne Frantz, founder of the Cleveland Wine School, is joined by Jerry Stupka of Jerry's Wine Center in Broadview Heights in selecting wines for this month's Cellar Notes.

Prosecco di Congegliano, Piedmont, Italy ($14): Crisp acidity and hint of sweetness, fun bubbles and peachy flavors. This is an afternoon specialty of the Veneto region due to its lower alcohol content.

Ceuve Clicquot Ponsardin, Brut Champagne, France ($50): tight tart-apple flavors and plenty of persistent zing. Medium body with lots of very fine bubbles makes it an upscale crowd pleaser.

Montsarra Cava, Penedès, Spain ($13): This Cava's fine bubbles, toasty notes and tangy fruit can to stand up to most grilled meats — and even a bit of spice. This is a great value for the price.

Achloss Biebrich, Trocken Sket, Germany ($9): Made from the Riesling grape, the green-apple tartness and white-flower flavors support lots of fun little bubbles. This is a quaffing wine that beats the summer heat at a sweet price.

2002 BelColle Moscato d'Asti, Italy ($15): Delicately sweet with intense orange-blossom flavors. Try it with a picnic lunch or any seasonal dessert. Serve chilled in a regular wine glass, not a flute.

Cuvée "M" Mumm Napa, California ($24): This is a modern twist on traditional sparkling wine. Ample acidity and a flavor profile of ripe peaches with soft toastiness offer a perfect escape for patio season.


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