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Beyond Champagne

Delightful bubbly wines that are off the beaten path

Fine Cooking Issue 76
Photo: Scott Phillips
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The holidays are here, peak season for sparkling wine and the perfect time to discover the world of bubblies beyond Champagne. (By law, only the sparkling wines made in the Champagne region of France can be called Champagne.) It’s a bigger world than you might have thought. From New Mexico to Australia, sparkling wine is made all over the globe, in a range of appealing styles and from numerous different grape varieties. Many of these non-Champagne sparklers are outstanding values and easy to find. And, more to the point, they’re deliciously versatile, as good for apéritifs as they are with hors d’oeuvres or a sit-down meal. Here’s a guide to some of the more delightful — and unusual — sparkling wines.

There’s a lot to choose from when it comes to dry sparkling wines, and all of them cost less than a bottle of Champagne. The following wines are dry in style and excellent served as an apéritif or paired with lighter seafood and shellfish appetizers.

Not all sparkling wines are dry. In fact, quite a few have a pleasing touch of sweetness, and the combination of residual sugar and crisp balancing acidity makes these off-dry wines incredibly food-friendly.

Believe it or not, there are actually sparkling red wines, and they’re worth seeking out. Australians have been making sparkling Shiraz (Syrah) for decades, and the combination of ripe black fruits, crisp acidity, and bubbles is irresistible. Try the nonvintage Seaview or the nonvintage Hardys. Both make delightful apéritifs and also do well served with homey meat dishes like burgers and meatloaf. Be sure to serve this wine — and all sparkling wines — chilled in Champagne flutes, which have a shape that helps preserve the bubbles longer.


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