This week let’s start getting ready for the holidays with some of the choices that we’ll face when we’re buying wines for groups of family and friends. For some this can be a stressful time, but with a little advance planning, wine shopping for groups can be a fun and exciting experience.
If you’re in Little Rock on Nov. 28, you can taste my fine northern Italian wines at the Starving Artist wine dinner hosted by my coworker James Cripps (he’s the one with the initials after his name). I like the food there and I think this will be a great dinner. Go to brucecochran.com to find out more.
And finally, a special announcement about a special guest.– Hans Nef, owner of Vina Robles Estate Wines in Paso Robles, Calif., will visit Little Rock in early December. We’re planning something at Cajun’s Ponchartrain Room to give everyone a chance to meet him, and of course taste the great wines from his three estate vineyards. The likely date is Dec. 4. I’ll confirm that soon and post it on brucecochran.com.
Try a new wine this week—the holidays are almost here!
Italian Sparkling Wines
Sparkling wines can make just about any occasion festive, and during the holidays many of us will be looking for something with bubbles. For some, it’s something we think about only once a year, and that can make the many available options a little daunting.
French Champagnes are really expensive these days, and good California sparkling wines are higher than they used to be. One country whose sparkling wines are sometimes overlooked is Italy.
Long-time wine lovers may suffer from the disadvantage of remembering Asti Spumante, a once good wine whose reputation has deservedly suffered from too many substandard, mass-produced bottlings. Spumante is the Italian word for sparkling wine, and Asti is the city in northwestern Italy that made it famous. The grape used is muscat, called moscato in Italy.
For many of us, Asti Spumante is yesterday’s news, maybe even the day before yesterday. Prosecco is what’s happening now. Prosecco is a dry sparkling wine, and name of the grape they use for it, from the hills of northeastern Italy between Venice and Verona. It’s become very popular in this country, so many brands are available. And best of all, they bargains. A bottle of good prosecco usually costs between $15 and $20.
Rarely seen here, but of excellent quality, are sparkling wines made in north central Italy, named Franciacorta. They’re made primarily from the pinot noir grape, same as use for French Champagne (along with chardonnay).
And just south of there, made in small quantities from the hills south of Milan, is something I found on my twice annual visits to northern Italy. Sparkling chardonnay from a winery named Four Valleys (Quattro Valli). Crisp, bubbly, light and dry, with a very clean finish. I liked it enough that I imported several cases to the U.S., along with a similar wine, Quattro Valli Sparkling Malvasia. Each retails in the $12-$15 range.