Ray Isle (@islewine on Twitter) is Food & Wine's executive wine editor. We trust his every cork pop and decant – and the man can sniff out a bargain to boot. Take it away, Ray.
Ostensibly, it was on today’s date back in 1693 that Dom Pérignon, a Benedictine monk, invented Champagne, popping the cork on his newly effervescent liquid, slugging it back and dancing around saying things like, “Come quickly, I am drinking the stars!”
One hates to be the rain on the Champagne-party parade, but unfortunately, the Dom P story is just that - a story. The fellow did exist, and he did make wine, but he very likely spent a lot more time worrying about how not to have bubbles in his wine rather than the other way around. (Especially since bottles back then were weaker and would often blow up if a wine started to re-ferment inside them; cellar workers often wore iron masks, somewhat like catcher’s masks, to protect their faces from exploding bottles.)
To add insult to injury (if you’re French), the truth is that the process of inducing a secondary fermentation in wine to add bubbles was actually first documented by an Englishman, Dr. Christopher Merret, in 1662. Admittedly, it’s a little hard to imagine blinged-out nightclub goers popping corks on super-pricey bottles of something called “Christopher Merret” - Dom Pérignon is probably safe there - but in honor of the estimable Dr. Merret and his invention, here are a few terrific (and affordable) sparkling wines for the late summer. August 4 may not really have been the birthdate of Champagne, but it’s still a perfectly good day for drinking anything involving bubbles.
2012 Medici Ermete Quercioli Reggiano Secco Lambrusco ($12)
Yes, that’s right: Lambrusco. When made well - as this one is - the dry, sparkling red wine of Italy’s Emilia-Romagna region is (a) delicious and (b) a great partner for grilled foods like burgers or ribs.
2012 Vietti Moscato D’Asti ($15)
Vietti makes great Barolos that run $150 a bottle or so; they also make one of the best Moscato D’Astis around, at a tenth of that price. Real Moscato - i.e., the Italian kind, from Piedmont - is gently effervescent, lightly sweet and bright with flavors that recall ripe peaches and tangerines.
NV Adami Garbel Brut Prosecco ($15)
A light melon note and delicate bubbles characterize this graceful Prosecco, one of the best out there at the price.
NV Juve y Camps Reserva de la Familia Cava ($15)
Cava, the sparkling wine of Spain, is made from a blend of the local Macabeo, Parellada and Xarel-lo varieties. Juve y Camps throws in a touch of Chardonnay, but the wine is still classic Cava: crisp and citrusy, with an earthy note and fine bubbles.
NV Zardetto Spumante Rosé ($17)
Though it doesn’t say Prosecco on the label (and can’t, since legally Prosecco must be made from the Glera grape, which is white), this currant-scented, lively rosé sparkler comes from one of the top Prosecco producers, Zardetto. Instead of Glera, it’s made using the little-known Raboso Veronese grape.
More from Food & Wine:
Expert Guide to Champagne
Beautiful Sparkling Wine Cocktails
Sparkling Wines and Fried Foods
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Nat king Cole is correct! Head ache in a bottle.
I love the introduction in the website NV Juve Y camps Reserva de familia cave! Where is there an order form for this effervescent wine in this Eatocracy thing?
Glad to see my favorite cava – Juve y Camps. Segura Viudas, Cordoniu, hell even Freixenet are excellent cavas as well. Having a glass of cava at breakfast is one of my best memories of my years in Catalunya.
I just popped something into my wife last night. Woah!
Oh Sniffler, that is a hilarious "Pop" comment. though "Dicey" Woah!!!!!
I have found that a bottle of Dom fits nicely inside my anal cavity, and that it feels much better than other bottles on the market. I just wish that it didn't cost so much.
So, this is a story about the origins of champagne, and not a single one of the recommendations is for a champagne?
I find that popping open a fabulous bottle of the bubbly makes women (and even some men) more amenable to spending some quality time with a bald, middle-aged handicapped man like myself. I once got myself a "date" with two women just by buying a couple bottle of Dom. That is much cheaper than what I usually have to fork out for a "date."
headache in a bottle, baby!
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