Sure, sparkling reds are festive by association, but they shouldn’t all be synonymous with party drink hangovers, cherry soda sized bubbles, or Valentine’s Day. Producers are showing delicious wines that are complex and great with food, notably in Australia, Italy, the U.S., and France. Red bubbles once thought of as “fun wine” are making a serious comeback – and they take great effort to make.
Sparkling reds are made with the same approach to champagne, except the white grapes are subbed for a red grape of the winemaker’s choice. These wines can be dry and weightier than expected, with the bubbles being a tad less effervescent than those seen in a white sparkling wine. The key to a good sparkling red is the balance between the wine’s tannins and the amount of carbon dioxide (the bubbles). These sparklies are super versatile when it comes to food; pair them up with heavier dishes like saucy barbecues and flavor-packed charcuterie plates. Match these with foods that complement the still wine version of the grape – the bubbles really just make it easier on the palate.
In Australia, juicy shiraz is being recognized as the go-to grape for bubbling. Sparkling merlot, malbec and cabernet are also being bottled. Look for sparkling pinot noirs produced in France’s Loire or Burgundy regions, and both shiraz (or syrah) and pinot noirs in California. Lambrusco has been a longtime staple in Italy’s Emilia Romagna region, where there are both lolly-licking sweet depictions mixed in with serious, long finishing, earth exploring, and often animalistic artisanal bottles.
Serve sparkling reds slightly chilled, as you would Beaujolais. If the bubbles are too warm they’ll seem flat; overly cold bubbles will wipe out characteristic flavors and the point of the wine will be missed.
Australia: “The Chook,” a non-vintage South Australian sparkling shiraz that’s aged in French oak.
Italian: Camillo Donati, Lambrusco dell’Emilia I.G.T., 2010. Fresh, earthy and spicy.