'Tis the season of overindulgence, and I say, why wait to pop open that bottle of bubbly taking up room in your refrigerator? The week of Christmas is as good as any to start the celebratory drinking and a perfect time to test out samples of sparkling wine in preparation for New Year's Eve.
Just in case you're new to Champagne/sparkling wines, here are a few terms that you might find helpful when buying your selection for this holiday season. In regards to sweetness, the terms used to describe the sugar content start at doux - the sweetest of them all, and move down to demi-sec, sec, brut and, lastly, the zero-sugar brut zero.
Also, if you're wondering why all sparkling wines don't go by the term Champagne, it's because those pretentious French winemakers rallied to have regulations put into place that forbid any sparkling wines made outside of the Champagne region in France to carry the title. So, in this case, as far as the name goes, location is everything, but that has nothing to do with the quality or the taste.
The Biltmore Estate Brut-style sparkling wine is made in the traditional méthode Champenoise, which is a fancy way of saying it shares the same process used to make classic Champagne from France. It's also 100 percent Chardonnay from the Russian River Valley in California - which is a bit confusing, considering the Biltmore Estate is in Asheville, North Carolina. Apparently their vineyards aren't quite equipped with enough grapes for the entirety of their portfolio just yet.
No matter the location of the wine or the grapes used in its production, this sparkling wine would have been well-suited for the Vanderbilts themselves. I envision it as the bubbly passed around the parties in The Great Gatsby, in those old-fashioned Champagne glasses, with a ragtime band playing in the background. It's fresh and floral with hints of citrus and green apple. Like a good brut sparkling wine, it delivers a swift kick to the palate and wakes everything up with a burst of fizzy acidity.
The winery recommends a pairing with spicy crawfish étouffée or a nut-crusted Brie, but it would go well with just about anything, as a good, dry sparkling wine should. If I can find a bottle this week (prices range between $23 - $26), I'll be pairing it with my traditional Christmas Eve pizza this Friday.
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