Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Avoiding White Before Memorial Day: Exploring Sparkling Reds

With the warm weather upon us, there's a lot to celebrate. And when it comes to celebration, minds naturally turn to Champagne and other sparkling whites. For value and a taste of true distinctiveness, we urge you to explore the world of sparkling reds. Like their white counterparts, they range in style from very dry to almost dessert-like in sweetness. They are also produced in all manner of ways from the traditional method (the same way that Champagne is crafted with the second fermentation occurring in the bottle) to the Charmat method (the way Prosecco is made with the second fermentation and bottling occurring under pressure). Sparkling reds tend to be comparatively fruity and less tannic than their non-sparkling versions.

The spiritual home of sparkling red wine is the region of Emilia-Romagna in North-central Italy; this is because the original sparkling red, Lambrusco, hails from this area. Lambrusco is both the name of a family of grapes as well as a red wine.  Lambrusco’s popularity is in great part due to Riunite, a brand that dually brought the appellation public recognition and pigeon-holed its style in the minds of consumers as being overly sweet. Not all Lambrusco is created equal though, and one brand, in particular, has caught my eye and captured my palate.  I am referring to Lini, a producer that is equally concerned with quality and image (their "Bacchus" label remains a perennial favorite with customers). Their entry-level Lini "Labrusca" Lambrusco Rosso NV is the perfect introduction to quality Lambrusco - dry, yet fruity, crisp and refreshing. Lini also produces a wine they call Scuro which includes a healthy splash of a grape called Ancellotta for structure, richness and a deeper color. Last, but not least, Lini produces a sparkling red made in the same way Champagne is, that is via Metodo Classico; it is truly something unique.

If it's something sweeter you prefer, you might want to try a Brachetto d'Acqui.  From the Northeastern area of Italy known as Piedmont, this sparkling red is very aromatic (in smells like perfume and roses) and has a bit of residual sugar making it the perfect complement for dessert. Brachetto is the grape and Acqui is the name of the commune where the vast majority of it is grown. DrinkUpNY carries Giacomo Bologna "Braida" Brachetto d'Acqui which one might describe as frizzante meaning that its slightly sparkling as opposed to spumante, or fully sparkling (which is what most Proseccos and Champagnes are).

    Of course, not all sparkling reds come from Italy (or Europe, for that matter). Sparkling Malbec from Argentina has become quite popular, though is sometimes vinifed pink as in the case Reginato "Celestina" Sparkling Rosé of Malbec. The non-European sparkling red that has enjoyed the most acclaim as of recent has been sparkling Shiraz. Often softer and easier-drinking than its high alcohol, high octane, still counterpart, sparkling Shiraz offers an immediacy of fruit and flavor similar to that of Lambrusco. Bleasdale's "The Red Brute" is the perfect accompaniment to a range of dishes from spicy Asian cuisine to backyard BBQ. So get out there and get to tasting because once Memorial Day comes it'll be socially acceptable to get your whites out.

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

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