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Bubbling Over

With a myriad of local wines to choose from, wine with bubbles is often overlooked as a beverage to pair with food, but our cool climate is perfect for sparkling wines, offering vibrant Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and other grapes crafted with bubbles to enjoy by the glass or with dinner.
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By Ray Pompilio. Image by Jan Regan.

With a myriad of local wines to choose from, wine with bubbles is often overlooked as a beverage to pair with food, but our cool climate is perfect for sparkling wines, offering vibrant Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and other grapes crafted with bubbles to enjoy by the glass or with dinner.

The best dry sparklers are made with the traditional method, known as methode champenoise, where the wine undergoes a second fermentation in the individual bottle. Very time-consuming, the wines will rest on the yeast for months or even years. These wines are the most expensive to make and buy. Also bottle-fermented is the transfer method, where the finished wine is emptied into a tank, filtered and bottled under pressure into clean bottles.

Another way to make bubbly wine is to carbonate it with CO2, like a soda. Locally this is becoming popular for fruity and sweeter wines, both in bottles and recently, small cans. Also gaining popularity is the péttilant-naturel (pét-nat) or ancestral method, where the wine is bottled before fermentation finishes, leaving a small residue of finished yeast and a wine with gentle bubbles. The dry ones work well as aperitifs and the sweet as dessert wine with fruit.

Pair bubblies with food depending on sweetness—very dry or brut wines go best with shellfish, poultry, pork and vegetables, and the sweeter, fruitier ones can work well with spicy and Asian dishes such as curries. Sparklers also can match many cheeses and desserts—thus, offering choices from your meal’s beginning to end. Cheers to that!

Finger Lakes Bubblies to Try

Traditional Method

Dr. Konstantin Frank Célèbre (Riesling) $18.99

Hermann J. Wiemer 2013 Cuvee Brut $29.99

Dr. Konstantin Frank 2013 Brut $23.99

Glenora Wine Cellars 2014 Blanc de Blanc $29.99

Transfer Method

Wagner Vineyards 2016 Sparkling Riesling $19.99

Glenora Wine Cellars Brut $15.99

Damiani Wine Cellars Bollicine $15.99

Pleasant Valley Wine Company Sparkling Burgundy $12.99

Carbonated Method

Hazlitt Vineyards Red Cat Fizz $  9.99

Boundary Breaks Bubbly Dry Riesling $19.99

Lakewood Vineyards 2016 Bubbly Catawba $14.00 (4-Pack of 225ml cans)

Bet the Farm Winery 2017 Cayuga White $17.99

Péttilant-Naturel

Red Tail Ridge Winery 2016 Péttilant Naturel Riesling $26.99

Ray Pompilio is a veteran of more than 25 years in the wine industry. Currently he is a member of the wine team at Northside Wines & Spirits, in Ithaca, NY, and a regular contributing writer to wine trade magazines in California.

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