Valentine’s Day is nearly upon us, and if you’re looking for the perfect wine to celebrate the one(s) you love, you can’t go wrong with the classics. For us, Valentine’s Day is all about the bubbles.
When it comes to sparkling wine, you must start with Champagne. No other wine region has put as much effort into marketing its wine as a product of luxury, used to celebrate, and representing love and achievement. And, arguably no place on earth is more suited for growing the traditional grape varieties for sparkling wine. It also happens to be the locale that makes the world’s best sparkling wines. But Champagne can be expensive. The higher cost isn’t without reason, as the traditional production method is more labor-intensive than any other wine style. Plus climate change is making it more challenging for growers to harvest the volume of grapes needed to meet global demand as the cost of everything is just going up in today’s economy. Regardless, these are often some of the best wines money can buy… and well worth the price.
Our Champagne recommendation: Moët & Chandon Grand Vintage Rosé 2013
As the 2013 Vintage Champagne is widely lauded as outstanding expressions of Chardonnay-based wines, it may come as a surprise that this mostly pinot noir cuvée is our recommendation. Made by one of the world’s most renowned Champagne houses, this very bright, light pink and medium bodied wine offers aromas of strawberry with hints of plum and cherry and finishing flavors of ripe grapefruit. SRP: $125, available at Binny’s.
While Champagne is amazing, there are many other regions that produce sparkling wines worthy of celebrating your love for one another.
Surprise Bubbles from Italy
Most people think sparkling wines from Italy begin and end with Prosecco. A sparkling wine made in the far north, almost to the Swiss border, is gaining prominence. In fact, Franciacorta was the sparkling wine served to guests at the 2024 Emmy Awards. Sparkling wine production in Franciacorta began in 1961 when winemaker Franco Ziliani was approached by his boss Guido Berlucchi about finding a way to improve the quality in their often-unstable white wine. Without hesitation, Ziliani replied “We’ll make sparkling wine in the Champagne Method.” This bold experiment was such a massive success it moved the winemaking of the entire Franciacorta region to produce almost nothing but sparkling wine.
Our Franciacorta recommendation: Ca’ del Bosco – Cuvee Prestige Rosé 2006
This bright pink wine has a great balance between fruit, minerality and acidity. Aromas and flavors of mixed berries, redcurrant and blood orange lead the way. Mineral notes of clay and flint give the wine a nice backbone. A zippy linear finish follows the fleshy fruit, creating an intriguing texture. SRP: $66, available at Eataly.
Domestic Sparklers Are for More Than Just the Fourth of July
Sparkling wine has been made in the good ol’ USA for some time. Most of these were fair at best. But over the past decade, there’s been a renaissance of the domestic sparkling wine segment. Innovative, cool and for the most part driven by young winemakers like Michael Cruse (Cruse wines/Ultramarine), Morgan Twain-Peterson (Under the Wire) and Kelsey Phelps Finch (SEPPI), are turning out brilliant bottles of bubbles. These wines are small production and often hard to find. But before this group of young guns, there was Jack and Jamie Davies who restored the Schramsberg estate on Napa Valley’s Diamond Mountain in 1965. They set out to create America’s most prestigious sparkling wine, and many would say they were successful: Schramsberg is served at state dinners at the White House.
Our domestic sparkling wine recommendation: Schramsberg Blanc de Noirs 2020
This luscious sparkling wine speaks to the drinker about California sunshine. Flavors lead with red delicious apple and fleshy ripe pear. Gorgeous balanced acidity clears the way to a finish of pink grapefruit and tropical fruits. SRP: $34, available at Binny’s.
While sharing a bottle of bubbles from fine winemakers is a beautiful way to celebrate sharing the love of someone special, don’t let it become a wine that’s only for celebration. In fact, sparkling wine is an amazing pairing with just about any food. Blanc de Blanc and fried chicken comes to mind or a bottle of Krug Grande Cuvée and hot buttered popcorn. The rule I like to keep in mind is that if beer goes with a dish, so will sparkling wine.
Celebrate Valentine’s Day with your special person and a bottle of bubbles, but don’t forget to pop those corks even on days when there’s nothing in particular to celebrate. Champagne turns any occasion into a celebration. Cheers!