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Wine Review: Ring in new year with sparkling wines

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The New Year's holiday seems to have been made to be celebrated with sparkling wines.

The problem, however, is determining which sparkling wines to select. As with anything, it is the choices that make the difference, and the wrong sparkling wine could wreck what should be a festive evening.

Every winemaking nation has its own and specific sparkling wines that have become synonymous with their nation. In France, it is Champagne and the more affordable Vin Mousseau. Spain has Cava, Germany has Seckt and Italy has Spumante, while in the United States we are stuck with plain old, noncommittal sparkling wine.

Whatever the name, it indicates an effervescent wine carbonated with carbon dioxide gas that is derived from the fermentation of the grapes used to make the wine.

Vilarnau Brut Reserva ($15)
Among the well-made and affordable sparkling wines are the Cavas from Spain, most of which come from the area around Barcelona. There, the warm breezes from the Mediterranean keep an almost constant temperature in the vineyards, making for better wine grapes and thus good wines. This wine has been made in the classical sparkling wine method of fermentation in the bottle it will be sold in. A blend of the very Spanish 50% Macabeo, 35% Parellada and 15% Xarello grapes, this wine can easily compete with wines selling for three or four times its price in its quality and enjoyment. This wine presents the aromas and flavors of apple and pear in a citrus background that continues to the finish, but they do not die off as the wine sits in the glass.

Vilarnau Brut Reserva Rose ($16)
A delightful pink color greets the eyes as this wine is poured into a glass. Made with 85% Garnacha and 15% pinot noir, this fruity wine offers the aroma of red berries that merge with citrus and a noticeable strawberry and brioche element in the finish. I believe that this wine will help to make any New Year’s celebration a certain hit.

Argyle 2018 Willamette Valley Sparkling Wine ($30)
There are also American sparkling wines that are of excellent quality and are moderately priced, one among which is this beverage. This wine has been made of a classical blend of 52% chardonnay, 43% pinot noir and 5% pinot meunier. Taking classical one step further, this wine was made by a method called méthode traditionnelle or, in English, the traditional method that is used to make champagne. The wine displays the aromas of strawberries and a rhubarb tart that invites more than a few sniffs and definitely the first taste. The wine clearly displays the flavors of peaches, honeycomb, brioche and a slightly salty finish. I found this to be a very enjoyable and definitely interesting wine.

Mumm Cuvee Napa Brut Prestige ($18)
This is the wine that Mumm Cuvee Napa hangs its hat on and is the wine that sets the company's stylistic direction. Made of an almost 50-50 blend of pinot noir and chardonnay, it captures the true spirit of the fruit, while maintaining the structure and elegance required of a fine sparkling wine. It is a wine with a crisp acid bite and is in perfect balance with the fruit, an important feature of any decent sparkling wine. The cherry of the pinot noir is suppressed in favor of the melon flavors and aromas of the chardonnay. There is also the anticipated flavor of toast along with a hint of vanilla. This is a truly fine wine and the perfect accompaniment to holiday meals (yes, you can serve sparkling wines with meals, and it does add a touch of elegance) and for the upcoming New Year’s celebrations.

Wine columnist Bennet Bodenstein can be reached at frojhe1@att.net.

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