Wineries across the state offer a variety of sparkling wines that can help you close out 2020 in style.
As we wave an enthusiastic goodbye to 2020, it’s only natural to want a glass of something effervescent and fun. For some, that may mean champagne, which is certainly festive—but only made in France, northeast of Paris, to be exact.
Only wines made in the small Champagne region using a specific process called Methode Champenoise can be called champagne. There are some rare exceptions in the United States involving prior approval and disclosing the origin of the grapes used. But the general rule is that champagne is a product of France and a source of fierce pride.
If you can’t get French champagne at your local liquor store or can’t afford it, you might want to consider other sparkling wines made in Italy, Spain, Germany, and the United States.
And if you want to support a local business, try a sparkling wine from a Pennsylvania winery.
How to Serve Sparkling Wine
To serve sparkling wines, store the bottle in your refrigerator until you’re ready to pour.
As for glassware, flutes are known for keeping the bubbles alive and coupes are better for maintaining the proper chill.
But a white wine glass is best for fully enjoying the wine’s aromatics. For sparkling rosés, use a burgundy glass.
When you pour, hold the bottle at an angle and think about letting the bubbles slide into the glass. Finally, finish the bottle.
You may think of a sparkling rosé as a summertime sip to have with light brunches. But if you like more of a brut or dry wine, a blend made with pinot noir will give a big fruit taste but with more earthiness of a dry wine.
“Our winemaker prefers pinot noir as the primary grape for making sparkling wine,” said Carley Mack, co-owner of Penns Woods Winery in Delaware County, in an email.
“This grape allows wine to retain bubbles, has balanced tannins, and allows longevity in the wine. In production it has thin skin to allow for whole cluster press which enables us to collect the highest quality free-run juices.”
- Penns Woods Winery Blanc de Noir—Sunset Salmon in color, bursting bubbles give way to dried apricot and freshly baked biscuit. “I suggest pairing it with any hors d’oeuvres like oysters on a half shell, caviar on buttered toast, and all things charcuterie,” Mack said. “Fresh berries, cured meats, and any local cheeses work wonders with this wine.” $30.
- Stony Run Winery 2017 Brut Sparkling—Dry and complex, containing 60% pinot noir and 40% chardonnay. $19.99.
Sparkling Vidal Blanc
If you’re looking for something crisp that will complement dishes from plummy to spicy, look for one made with vidal blanc. Reminiscent of Germany’s riesling, the vidal blanc is a hybrid, versatile grape that can be made into either sweet or dry sparkling wines.
Its high acid level is well balanced with its sweetness. The candied, citrusy flavor will pair well with shellfish, fruit, and spicy curries.
Mario Mazza, general manager of Mazza Vineyards in Erie County, sees this grape’s appeal as a sparkling wine.
“We created The Perfect Bubbly to make an approachable, ready for any occasion bubbly,” he sent in a message. “We (in the US) tend to think of bubbly as a drink only for special occasions, but we believe it should be something that can (and should) be enjoyed anytime.”
- Mazza Vineyards The Perfect Bubbly—Residual sweetness brightens the fruit and is balanced by lively carbonation. $13.95
- Clover Hill Sparkling Vidal Blanc—Made using Méthode Champenoise and has crisp flavors of lemon and grapefruit with soft, yeasty undertones. $18.55
Another sparkling wine that will please Riesling drinkers is the varietal Cayuga. Cayuga grapes are a hardy white variety that grows across Pennsylvania. The wine has a divine bouquet and is known for being well balanced between high-acid and residual sweetness.
You’ll taste both crisp citrus and stone-fruit in this variety. If the grapes are allowed to continue to ripen on the vine, richer fruit flavors, like pineapple, and fragrant honey emerge making them similar to Niagara varieties.
It’s lovely paired with seafood but is also excellent with pork.
- Clover Hill Sparkling Cayuga—Has a soft, smooth finish. $18.55.
- Pinnacle Ridge Blanc de Blanc—Crisp, refreshing and slightly sweet. $15.99.
Niagara grapes came about as a result of crossbreeding Concord with white Cassady grapes. This grape thrives in Pennsylvania and is used to make white, medium-bodied table wine with a fresh fruity taste.
Sparkling Niagara is pale in color and has a lower acidic feel than champagne. The taste of the fruit will linger nicely, too.
You’ll find sweet or dry sparkling Niagara wines made throughout Pennsylvania. Serve with sweet or savory foods, shellfish, or fruit and cheese boards.
- Deer Creek Winery White Sizzle—A sweet sparkling wine suitable for any occasion. $18.
- Clover Hill Sparkling Niagara—Light and bursting with fresh flavor, this sparkling wine is made using Méthode Champenoise. $18.55
Moscato is made with muscat blanc grapes, which are some of the world’s oldest grapes originating from Italy. The grapes have the taste of citrus crossed with juicy pear crossed with florals.
In Italy, moscato is typically labeled as “asti spumante.”
It typically has about half the alcohol level of most wines, so you can nurse a glass or two throughout your afternoon or evening without risking a headache later.
It’s refreshing in the summer, but don’t let that stop you from popping a cork on a winter night. A Pennsylvania sparkling Moscato will provide a beautiful aroma, fun bubbles, and a clean taste.
- Narcisi Winery Alba Frizzante 2018—Combination of highly perfumed moscato and rich, aromatic riesling. Notes of Asian pear, honeysuckle from the moscato, and jasmine and green apple from the riesling. $25.
- SpringGate Vineyard Party Moscato—Brims with juicy flavors. $15.
You can’t go wrong with a grape as well-known and beloved as the chardonnay. A French import, chardonnay grapes are used to produce wines ranging from light and sparkly to oaky and creamy.
Look for sparkling chardonnay made in the Methode Champenoise or Methode Traditionelle for the highest quality. The grape is a major player in champagnes, so you’re getting close to the real thing when you select this variety.
You’ll taste tree fruit along with honey, and find it’s delightful served with creamy cheese or shellfish.
Virginia S. Mitchell, manager of Galer Estate Vineyard and Winery in Chester County, and said she prefers chardonnay grapes.
“Chardonnay is my number one choice for sparkling in Pennsylvania. Not only is it the traditional variety for sparkling wine production, but it grows consistently and very well across the state. I think it can be light, bright, and fruity as a young wine. If aged on lees for 12+ months, then it develops flavors of brioche or biscuits. Pennsylvania grows varieties that would be well suited for non-traditional sparkling wines like Seyval Blanc or Grüner Veltliner.”
Versatile, flavorful yet elegant, sparkling chardonnay is a stellar choice for any occasion.