February. It’s the month to love, right? Well people love to hate Valentine’s Day. Did you know the day after is officially National Singles Day? As if in revolt! I don’t mind it. I don’t really care actually. What’s wrong with a day (or a month) to think about how much you love the special people in your life? I don’t see any reason to get bitter about it. All the marketing doesn’t bother me either. Marketing people will always find a reason to try to sell stuff. It doesn’t matter if it’s Valentine’s Day, Singles Day, or any other day with a label.
Personally I love to hate pink. Except I love pink wine. In fact, the only pink thing that I love, is wine.
So this month I thought I’d thought I’d focus on promoting some of my favorite pink bubbly—from Italy of course! They come from practically every region!
Sicily’s most respected red grape is Nerello Mascalese, comprising the bulk of the red Etna DOC. Its vines can grow successfully at elevations beyond 3,500 feet! The resulting wines are often age-worthy, serious reds, and in my opinion, contenders with some of Italy’s other finest (Barolo, Brunello, Sagrantino Montefalco, Taurasi). But what’s even cooler is that the grape can make a delicious sparkling wine too!
Murgo Brut Rose 2011. Nerello Mascalese 100%. This Sicilian estate is located 1,700 feet above sea level on the southeast portion of Mount Etna (an active volcano) & has been producing wines from these volcanic soils since 1850. This wine is made in the same way Champagne is made. In this amber-pink hued sparkler, the bubbles are racy and red fruit flavors of watermelon, cherry and cranberry lead the way to a vibrant and delightful finish.
Lambrusco is a beautiful thing; most people do not understand it. There are over 60 varieties of the Lambrusco grape growing mainly in Emilia Romagna but also scattered into other regions (Piemonte, Veneto, Basilicata, Sicilia). While it can be made into a dry red wine, it rarely is. Most commonly it’s made into a frothy, frizzante off-dry style but sometimes (the better ones come) dry. Very occasionally it is made into a “champagne” style rose like this one.
Cleto Chiarli Lambrusco Brut NV. Lambrusco Grasparossa 100%. Founded in 1860, Chiarli is one of the oldest producers in Emilia-Romagna. A soft pressing of berries (some whole-cluster) at a controlled temperature with selected yeasts & a secondary fermentation “in cuve close” (tank method) produces a lively wine. Light pink color with a fine and abundant perlage. After intense rose and watermelon scents, it arrives on the palate bright & pleasant.
Montefalco Sagrantino is the king among Umbrian red wines. The grape (Sagrantino) makes a bold, earthy, and concentrated age-worthy wine but it can be made into a lovely sparkling wine as well!
Scacciadiavoli Brut Rose NV. Sagrantino 100%. The winery uses their youngest vines to make this sparkler. Harvest occurs in early Spetember while the grapes still have an appropriate acid level to make a sparkling wine. Pressing lasts about six hours and a temperature-controlled, first fermentation preserves the delicate aromas and flavors in the grapes. Second fermentation in the bottle lasts for 24 months. This friendly little rosé is a charmer. It has floral and citrus aromas, and is bright on the palate.
I highly recommend consulting the Prosecco Consortium website if you are looking to understand Prosecco. The website is spectacular about explaining, for example, the confusing differences among Conegliano Valdobbiadene Superiore di Cartizze DOCG, Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore Rive DOCG, regular Prosecco DOCG, etc. Conegliano Valdobbiadene is a hilly area in northeast Italy, 30 miles from Venice and 50 from the Dolomites. There they have been producing Prosecco wines for over three centuries (according to the website).
Bisol Desiderio Jeio Brut Rose NV. Pinot noir & Merlot. A brief maceration gives the wine its pink color while a long, slow fermentation with yeast contact contributes a few secondary qualities. Fun aromas of strawberry Starburst, salt water taffy, pastry, and mint fill the glass. On the palate the wine is fruity and tart with bright tangerine peel and peppery finish.
Now with all of these options, you have no real excuse not to pop some bubbly this month. Invite your favorite person over and surprise him or her!
A quick little background on sparkling wine, just fyi:
Three main methods exist for making sparkling wines: Méthode Champenoise, where the second fermentation (CO2 generated by yeast dissolves into the wine, creating the sparkle) happens in the bottle; the tank method, where it happens in a tank; and an in-between method called the transfer method. The oldest recorded sparkling wine is Blanquette de Limoux, which was apparently invented by Benedictine Monks in the Abbey of Saint-Hilaire, near Carcassonne in 1531. Champagne was invented in 1693.